Stories Matter

Puppetry captured me step by step. In a Masters program at Rhode Island School of Design, for some unknown reason, I took a class in Creative Dramatics. There, I was exposed to the voiceless art form of mime, which I loved and went on to study further – loving the art form for its ability to express story without words.

I was also building small models of soft sculptures which I envisioned as giant public pieces to bring people together in play. With the scraps, I made puppets to sell at craft fairs – very boring. Why I chose to make puppets I really don’t know.

Then, all this rolled together when I saw whole stories in the single image cartoons of Gahan Wilson and I built soft sculptured miming puppets to bring these to life.

My Mr. Grump made bad news phone calls until he received a happy mask!

But was I ready face an audience? Safely behind the scrim curtain, I did it, performing my original stories in small theaters and malls. Years later, when I began working in schools, to connect to curriculum areas, I drew on my copious reading background, and began to build folklore based shows.

I had no idea the puppets could actually support me, but the one thing I did have confidence in were my creative ideas, so I just kept building.

In college, I had received certification to teach art, but job openings were few. So I ended up building a life creatively, one step at a time.

I took a few year side track as a full time musician, then the puppets welcomed me back – and I could stay home at night with my musician husband’s and my two children.

When the world wide family of puppeteers opened to me through a chance encounter, one step led to another, slowly but surely building up to taller cliffs, including the progression from terror to almost comfortable performing in Spanish. Italian was another story… As was Arabic. But that’s the thing about jumping off cliffs – it gets less scary, and yes, even fun.

Public performance in small Mexican town.
Opening event in Caleta Olivia, Patagonia, Argentina
Performance for large but totally focused school audience in South Africa.

The thread of writing ran through all these adventures, as I wrote all my scripts – either original stories, or creative adaptations of traditional tales – and wrote songs for the band, yet I never thought of myself as a writer. I did know that the writing was my favorite part of building a show.

The performance was the true test of the writing. Would the audience respond in the spaces I left for them, would they voice thoughtful responses when invited? And when they did, the circle was complete. The story itself was connecting imagination to imagination.

My education work began as school arts residencies generally tied to a curriculum area selected by a teacher.

I love the challenge and access to the imagination of children and look forward to creating classroom worlds where I am inspired by and learn alongside them.

I wrote The Sophisticated Sock: Project Based Learning through Puppetry because I simply had to share with teachers the projects I found to be so successful in engaging children to learn across the curriculum through the medium of story. Through classroom work, another path opened teaching teachers as well as presenting as an arts integration specialist at conferences.

And the education work has also taken me around the world as it is valued for English language teachers by the U.S. Embassy. Students of all ages have stories that must be told in one language or another!

I also love the complex simplicity of the picture book – inspired by children’s imagination, by cultures world wide, by literature and art of all kinds, by juxtaposition of fantasy and reality, and just a true love of playing with words.

Drop me a line, tell me a story! I’ll get back to you!