Is it Art?

Huh?  Puppetry?  Why sure it is.  All of my puppets start out as doodles in my sketchbook, that are then brought into a meeting room full of grumpy old bears who wear turtlenecks…

puppet puppeteer sketchbook Wump Mucket Puppets Terrence Burke

A page from Terrence Burke's puppet ideas sketchbook

Just kidding about the bears.  In reality, I show my sketches to my wife Lara and our children Eleanor and Tiernan to get their feedback.  Lara has the amazing ability to refine my ideas into a practical, performable puppet.  Eleanor has sharp little eagle eyes, and knows a good puppet design when she sees one. In fact she has drawn a very cool robot puppet for me to use in the not too distant future.  Tiernan loves to laugh at his daddy’s silly voices, so I listen to how much he laughs when I am trying out new puppet characters or bits to include in the show.

puppets puppetry prop Wump Mucket Puppets Terrence Burke

Eleanor with the Super Sugar Crunchy Things cereal box prop.

In example, if you attended our last performance at the Cincinnati Art Museum, you heard Coleman go on about how he wanted his own cotton candy machine so he could eat it when ever he wanted to.  That little bit of Coleman comedy was first tried out last Spring when I was ad-libbing with Coleman in front of Tiernan and Eleanor, and got lots of laughs from them.  So I made a mental note (which I lost) and eventually added it into the show.  Judging from the laughter I heard at the two shows, I’d say it worked.  I just dread seeing the dry cleaning bill to get the cotton candy out of Coleman’s fur.  And speaking of our furry little friend, episode 2 of his “Out of the Woods with Coleman” has been shot, and is gradually being edited into what looks to be a very silly piece of video.  We’ll keep you posted on that project.

puppets puppetry sasquatch puppet Wump Mucket Puppets Terrence Burke

Terrence, Eleanor, Coleman, and Michael on location in Kentucky.

More about art…

When I was very young I loved to watch two things on television (well three if you count Batman).  The two BIG things were puppets (of course) and cartoons.  Saturday mornings were my favorite time of the week, even though there were many scuffles between me and my siblings on what cartoon to watch.  Somehow I got the idea I wanted to be a cartoon animator without really knowing much about it.  All I knew was they drew the characters, and magically those drawings came to life on my TV.  A “magic box” I guess.  My art skills were pretty raw back then, yet my parents helped me by paying for drawing lessons.  Sadly I never was patient enough to practice my drawing, and I am still a “doodler”.  Yet, I am happy with that since I can scratch out a puppet idea quickly, and have my art school educated wife to tweak the design a bit (thanks Lara!).  As my puppet projects have grown, I can’t help but notice that somehow, along the way, I sort of became  a character animator.  Instead of having my characters limited to a screen, they are three  dimensional objects that you can touch and interact with.   I have often described my puppet show as a live Saturday morning cartoon, and think that to be very cool.  Please pass the Cap’n Crunch.

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