Dial M for Marionettes

Mr M castSince I was a child I have been fascinated with puppetry. Sure, I was raised on “Sesame Street“, and watched “The Muppet Show” every week, but my enthrallment with this art from extended beyond that of a nromal 5-year-old. I remember Mummenschanz, Howdy Doody, the almost scary hand puppets of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Lambchop, Wayland Flowers and Madame, Charlie McCarthy, Senor Wences, and Alvin and The Chipmunks. (Yes! They were orginally puppets.) Growing up I owned a couple of the Henson toy puppets, made countless puppets from socks or popsicle sticks.

As a young actor, I found myself working from time to time with puppets in the theatre: 2 productions of Little Shop of Horrors, first in High School then with the New Paltz Summer Rep. While the former was very traditional, the latter was extremely avant-garde, using humans as the plant, but shadow puppetry for a lot of the story telling. I operated a Bread-and-Puppet-style St. George during my tenure with the NY Ren Faire, and animatronic puppets while working at the Jekyll & Hyde Pub (still on of the greatest jobs ever if the bosses weren’t such scumbags.)

In my 20s my friend and I visited the Museum of Television and Radio during their big Jim Henson installation; there they gave demonstrations on building puppets and even had a work station to make one to take home; nothing fancy, just some pipe cleaners and googly eyes. We had a blast! Then in 2005 I was turned n to the Brooklyn Puppet Library – you could actually borrow a puppet and return it two weeks later. I borrowed a dragon marionette and was noticed by the librarian Theresa Linnihan. She invited me to participate in a production of “In the Matter of Moby Dick” at Lincoln Center. Puppets. Lincoln Center. Paid! She also recommended me to Vit Horejs, Executive Director of the Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre who was looking to cast another player in a show called “The Bass Saxophone“. Pan Horejs (pan is Czech for Master), as I have called him many times, has become somewhat of a puppetry mentor to me. It is not hyperbole to say that my first encounter with Theresa was a defining moment in my life.

CAMT has been in rehearsals for another new work by Vit called “Mr. M.” and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the cast. The show opens on April 14, 2011 and stars my good friend Ronny Wasserstrom as the title character with Theresa Linnihan, Vit Horejs, Michelle Beshaw, and Deborah Beshaw rounding out the ensemble.