On Saturday, April and I took a free puppet manipulation class taught by one of one of Austin’s highly acclaimed improv-ers, Sara Farr, who is also the founder and artistic director of the Puppet Improv Project. I may need a lot of work, but I had a blast.
You’re how old? And you’re playing with puppets?
Look, Sesame Street premiered before I turned two; I was practically raised on it so you can blame them (and my mother who found that setting me in front of the TV was a great way to escape – this was before Parenting magazine shook a stern finger at parents for this). Then I grew up and went to work for PBS where I was reintroduced to Sesame Street and all the old familiar faces as well as some new ones. In fact, at one pledge drive while I was sitting in the studio watching Sesame Street on the monitor, listening for the phones to ring, I found myself suddenly giggling uncontrollably at Elmo. (I’m a simple, simple soul – bless my heart.)
I’ve even met Maria, who it turns out is not named Maria. Ok, some of you knew that, but I swear it never even occurred to me that Maria wasn’t named Maria or Luis wasn’t Luis or Gordon wasn’t Gordon – or Mr. Hooper… et tu Mr. Hooper?? Yes, I always knew
they were actors, but I guess I always thought they were a pack of really good friends who’d come to educate America’s children like good young urban social workers/educators do. Its taken years, but I’ve finally come to terms with Maria being Sonia. I don’t have to like it, though.
In fact, the only celebrity death that brought me to tears was Jim Henson’s. When he passed away, it was as if suddenly Kermit, Ernie, Rowlf the Dog and a piece of my childhood had died. I remember cutting out an editorial cartoon by Ben Sargent from our local paper that day which showed a little boy looking back at his toy box where a stuffed Kermit slumped against the side. A tear slid down Kermit’s cheek. (If I were better organized I’d share it.) That same weekend, I was at a garage sale and there sat this ragged, moth eaten Kermit puppet, which I snatched up and sat on a shelf in honor of that great puppeteer for years.
I can’t help it, I love puppets – from all of those lunch sack puppets I created to this great horse I made out of an egg carton, paint
and cloth in 5th grade. Our troupe (that’s right, that’s what I’m calling our gang of three) was even selected to perform at a children’s birthday party. (This would have been an even better story if Mom had let me attend. Instead, someone had to borrow my puppet and perform my part – the one I wrote. I’ve gotten over that, though. Let it go years ago, I did. Yessirree.)
Anyway, yesterday after the workshop I decided to go to Terra Toys, which I can easily get lost in – that and a place called Toy Joy are by far the coolest toy shops in town. And there she was, sitting on a rack. I tried to ignore her, but after surfing around the store, I realized I had to have her… to practice, of course. I’m not one of those crazy adults with toys and puppets just for fun. I’m just working on my improv tool belt which now includes puppets.