Friday, August 28, 2009

Puppet Masters!

Last week, we were thrilled to debut another vibrant new display, created by Camille Cordeiro and Liz Leahey – more of our talented AmeriCorps Museum Educators.

Over the past several weeks, Camille and Liz donned white gloves and delved into the Museum’s collection of Betty Huestis marionettes to design “At the Opera,” an eclectic gathering of puppets involved with a production of Hansel and Gretel.Providence resident Elizabeth "Betty" Huestis was a renowned puppeteer, teacher, story teller and artist who, from 1929 until her retirement in 1970, shared her love of puppetry with children and adults at programs and events up and down the East Coast – including war relief efforts during World War II. She handcrafted each of her marionettes, designed and created the sets and props for her performances, and wrote or adapted her own scripts. Her artful puppets portray a wide array of colorfully adorned and richly dressed characters, each with their own unique personality.

Huestis donated her collection of nearly 100 marionettes, props and memorabilia to the Children’s Museum shortly before her death in 1984. We display them on a rotating basis in Strings Attached, along with fellow Rhode Island puppeteer Dan Butterworth’s beautifully animated and hand-carved marionettes – which kids can actually manipulate to make them move and dance.

It was fun to see Camille and Liz sort through and select the puppets they wanted to be part of their display, as well as tackle the challenging task of stringing them up and positioning them in just the right way.

Here’s how Camille described the scene:

“It’s a night at the opera, and marionettes are both performing in and watching Hansel and Gretel. In the show, a Dutch boy and girl arrive at a candy cottage, only to be confronted by a scary witch. The sight of her terrifies many audience members; a mouse scurries behind a wooden sign and a monkey covers his eyes as the green man looks on, intrigued. The gypsy woman, who is rudely shaking her tambourine at a crucial point in the play, preoccupies Uncle Sam. In the back row, the Victorian woman peers at the sleeping spotted horse, who is snoring conspicuously. Behind the stage, a curious fairy watches over the entire scene.”
Visitors will certainly notice the expressive and playful finished product. Be sure to take a peek next time you stop by!

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