Puppetry in Connecticut
Who doesn’t like a puppet show, even when we grow up and become boring adults. I saw in one of the travel books that I refer to about the areas where we camp that there was a Puppet Museum only 10 minutes drive from us in Storr, Connecticut. When we arrived at the museum my heart fell right to the bottom of my shoes. It was a little house that was surrounded by not so nice buildings with broken windows and peeling paint. Found out at the museum that the University of Connecticut acquired this old campus (about one mile from new campus) from an old school and is in the process of tearing down old buildings with asbestos walls. We were the only car in the parking lot but being brave and adventurous, we walked to the door that had an ‘open’ sign in the window. As we walked in and the young lady at the front desk welcomed us, my spirits started soaring as I looked around the rooms filled with colorful and magical puppets.
Turns out that this little museum was started by a gentleman named Dick Myers. Apparently he saw a puppet show when he was a child and decided that he wanted to learn how to do that. He learned how to do puppetry and then decided to make his own puppets in a new way. After many trials and errors he came up with a design that let him move the puppets in a way that he could move their heads up and down and sideways. Attached is a picture of the bare bones and insides of the puppets he designed out of molded plastic.
I found his puppets to be so cute and adorable and unique. He went on to do many performances including Cinderella (1968) Beauty and the Beast (1970) and Divertissement (1978). He also became a teacher at University of Connecticut teaching puppetry (only puppetry class in the USA) until he retired.
There were several rooms filled with examples of puppets, mannequins and even a room with artwork that had a ‘puppetry’ theme to them. One of the rooms had a video of a puppet show that was put on by a gentleman who I didn't write down his name...so can't tell you. I loved the video because it was of two puppets, one had polka dots on his head and the other had stripes on his head. The little play starts with them realizing that they are ‘different’. The as the play goes on they become enemies as they let their ‘differences’ separate them more and more. Finally at the end they both have built this wall of blocks and each feels that nobody loves them, the puppeteer shows himself and tells both of them that they were both created by him and he loves them equally. Then he shows them that they are both attached to him through his arms and body. They suddenly realize that each one of them is attached to the other and therefore the same. Of course, it has a happy ending with both of them being friends and embracing their differences. What a nice story to tell children growing up…or even some adults!
The young woman from the college who was manning the museum was delightful and told us that the 20 or so students that take the puppetry course each year at the University of Connecticut have gone on to work for Jim Henson Productions, video production, film, stage productions, started their own companies and greatly expanded the art form into the 21st century. My heart was leaping with joy at such a great form of creativity that has delighted children and adults since the beginning of time to the fact that it isn’t gone and is continuing with the next generation that is taking it beyond where it has ever been before.
Peter and the Wolf
These are puppets that were put up on other side of a white piece of fabric
so you only saw their shadow image
After visiting the museum we drove through the University of Connecticut campus and were so delighted to see what a wonderful, new, beautiful and HUGE campus it is. Both George and I commented that there is definitely money up in Connecticut for such an immense college. It is in the middle of nowhere, the closest big town being either Hartford, CT or Providence, RI an hour’s drive away. I was definitely impressed by the college.
Surprised, delighted, inspired, grateful, pleased and entertained by such a fun happening….life is good.
P.S. The Puppetry Museum is moving in Sept to the main campus of the college, so it will have a much bigger and nicer home for all those delightful puppets.