About Terrence Burke

Puppeteer beneath the Wump Mucket Puppets.

The holidays are here!

As I rehearse our holiday show’s songs, I remember being a boy growing up in the late 60’s and watching the Christmas specials on TeeVee.  I love the Rankin/Bass produced shows the most, with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” being my favorite.  The puppets were great, the music catchy, and the show has a Bumble in it!

Giving this a bit of thought, it seems to me that watching “Rudolph” in the late 60’s may have been the foundation for my interest in strange creatures, oh and puppets too!

Here’s a clip of Bumble to enjoy:

After watching that, I noticed that Bumble’s roar sounds a bit like this creature that I enjoyed quite a bit in my youth:

Who would have guessed that 40+ years later, that my puppet show’s lead characters would be a Sasquatch (or Abominable Snowman) and a Sea Serpent?

Hmmmm…  Interesting.

Wump Mucket Puppets with young fans at Taft Museum of Art Cincinnati

 

What have they done to my Muppets, Ma?

I knew that the day would come.  I had an idea what to expect.  I wish it was better, but it wasn’t.  What am I talking about?  Disney’s “The Muppets” (2011) of course.

“I’m not crazy about it.” – Frank Oz on “The Muppets” (2011) source

Wait!  Stop press!  I am a puppeteer.  I consider Jim Henson and fellow puppeteers some of the people  who inspired me to become a puppeteer.  Sadly most of those people have either passed away, or choose not to perform the puppet characters that they helped create.  Of course the puppet people who may read this know where I am leading with this, but for those of you new to The Muppets I’ll bring you up to speed.  I am referring to Frank Oz, the original puppeteer of Miss Piggy, Animal, and Fozzie Bear.  When I read that he felt that the script  didn’t respect the characters I was worried.  I am okay with new puppeteers performing The Muppets, it’s the only way to keep them alive for new audiences, what worried me the most is that the scriptwriter would not understand what makes The Muppets, “The Muppets”.  Sadly I was right about this.

Jason Segal says he is a HUGE fan of The Muppets.  He loved watching them as a child.  Yet does being a high profile fan qualify him to relaunch a beloved group of characters that have been most often considered family entertainment?  No! No! No!  Sure he has marquee value, but little else when it comes to The Muppets.  Two examples in the film, that he wrote and starred in, are the scene where The Muppets find Animal trying  to control his anger.

This scene really disturbed me.  I nearly stopped the DVD that we borrowed from our public library (sorry Disney).  If Mr. Segal considers this to be family entertainment, I pity his children -if he ever becomes a parent.  Which makes me wonder, how can someone write a film (that is marketed to families and children) who is not a parent himself?  I have given up on Disney as a producer of quality family entertainment, they haven’t produced any in decades (that includes “Lion King” which they stole from Tezuka Productions).  The other scene that stood out as an example of Segal’s lowest common denominator humor is the scene that Fozzie Bear stoops to wearing farting shoes to get a laugh.  Really?  The Muppets were smarter than that.  Even my five and a half year old son can come up with a funnier bit with very little effort.

As the DVD played in our living room, with an audience ranging in age from five and a half to almost fourty-eight, we began to let our selves become distracted from the film that we had been looking forward to watching as a family.  Tiernan looked at his train magazine, Eleanor and Lara continued to watch the movie… I think.  I am not certain of this because I fell asleep.  The Muppets new movie failed to keep my attention.

Perhaps I will watch this film again many years from now and find gold nuggets of Muppet-fun hidden in the Disney-sludge.  My wife gave me her opinion of the film as we put away the popcorn bowls, she felt that they looked like Muppets but lacked the soul that made them so appealing years ago.  Maybe the next Muppets film will capture the style of humor that made the characters so memorable.  I suggest that Disney hire Roger Langridge to write the script.  His Muppets comic books are excellent.  He understands Muppet-style humor.

I rate this film a D for Disney.

Autumn is here

After a very busy (and hot!) Summer for Wump Mucket Puppets, we have finally made it to my favorite time of the year, Autumn.

I was born in New England, and have many fond memories of this season. Some of them are apple picking, delivering newspapers around the village I grew up in while leaves crunch beneath my feet, and of course Halloween!
I wish that I had photos to share from that time in my life, the costumes were remarkable. You’ll have to remember that I grew up in the 70’s, decade before digital cameras and the internet. Let’s see, some of my favorite costumes that I made were:
– A silver robot made out of cardboard boxes
– Making a witch nose & chin from liquid latex that my mother bravely allowed me to make   a plaster cast of her face. She has a great witch cackle!
– Although I didn’t make the Frankenstein monster mask, I had fun pretending to be what may be the world’s shortest Frankenstein as a warmed-up the people waiting in line to enter a community center haunted house.

These days, I enjoy watching my two children have fun as they trick-or-treat around our neighborhood in Cincinnati. Here is a cute video from 2007, when our family dressed up as the Mystery Inc. gang from Scooby-Doo:

Sesame Street season 43 is here!

I was not sure what to expect from the season premiere of Sesame Street this past Monday morning. I knew that it would be on at 10 AM as usual, yet had not read anything about the new season.

My wife was not feeling well and stayed home from work. It’s rare that all four members of our little family are together, so I was happy that we would spend an hour watching the new episode of Sesame on the couch. It brought back happy memories from when Eleanor and Tiernan were much smaller.

Without giving too much away, I will say that I have not laughed as hard as I did watching Cookie Monster try to join the Cookie Connoisseurs Club. I consider this
“Must See Sesame”!  What a great show to start a new season, and on Jim Henson’s birthday too.

Now me go get COOOKIE!

Good Morning Cincinnati TV appearance

The Wump Mucket Puppets return to the Cincinnati television airwaves Thursday September 13th around 7:15am to appear as guests on Good Morning Cincinnati on Local 12.2.

Local 12 Good Morning Cincinnati

Cyril and Coleman will be chatting about our big show on Fountain Square this coming Saturday, September 15th at 3pm and 5pm as part of the Live It Up Downtown event. The event is family friendly & FREE and open to the public.  We hope you can join the fun!

Live It Up Downtown logo

If you are one of our many out of town fans, we hope to have a recording of our television appearance available for your viewing pleasure.

What is a U.F. Oh Oh Oh!

Unidentified floating oatmeal?

Undocumented ferocious octopus?

How about a new tune for Coleman and G’Wazzl to sing while “flying” around in the groovy new spacecraft that is being built for the puppet show!  Yes, dear puppet pals, you will believe that a Sasquatch and a big Orange alien can fly!

G'Wazzl eyes a toy U.F.O. at Wump Mucket Puppets HQ

Why a U.F.O.?  Why not!  G’Wazzl has been visiting Earth, and the puppet stage, for too long.  I felt it was time to give our orange friend from the stars a bit more stage time, and launching a spacecraft seemed like the logical thing to do.  Logical.  Get it?

Back to U.F.O.s…   I have been a fan of science fact and fiction for almost as long as I have been puppet crazy.   I grew up with men landing on the moon, watching Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Far Out Space Nuts on television.  My father was very interested in the possibility of life on other planets, and shared that interest with me.

G'Wazzl reads a book about U.F.O.s at Wump Mucket Puppets HQ

 

One of the many wonderful things about puppetry, it that you can take the puppets anywhere your imagination can go.  We hope that you (and your imagination) will join us when we launch our U.F.O. on Fountain Square next month.  To the stars!

Big Bird needs YOUR help!

I am a huge fan of puppeteer Caroll Spinney.  Why this particular puppeteer?  Why not Jim Henson?  Why not Gus Alligretti?  Oh, believe me, I love Jim’s and Gus’s work quite a bit.  Yet for some reason, in 1969, my almost 5 year old eyes watched Caroll perform Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird on Sesame Street and loved them ever since.Oscar the Grouch autograph sent to Terrence Burke from Caroll Spinney

It was at that point in my life that I can say that I was bit by the “puppet bug”.  I do remember that one of the things that made the Oscar puppet so appealing to me was that he was originally orange, and guess what?  Orange is my favorite color!  I also enjoyed his sarcasm, yet probably didn’t quite understand what that was back then.  Not too long after seeing the premier of Sesame Street, my father took me to a puppetry convention in Boston to meet the orange Oscar and his puppeteer.  I did not know it then, but it was a life changing moment.  Meeting my puppeteer hero and his superstar puppet character would plant the seed in my very young head that one day I too would be a puppeteer.

Now let’s jump ahead a few decades to 2004.  I learn through the puppet grapevine that Caroll will be in the Cincinnati area to promote his book The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers.  Of course I was in the audience to hear him read from the book.  I remember being so happy that I almost began to cry.  The early part of that decade was an emotional time for me.  My father had suddenly passed away in 2001, I was having a difficult time finding a job that I wanted to be at, and my wife Lara and I were expecting our first child.  During those years I was slowly laying the foundation of what would eventually become the Wump Mucket Puppets.  Caroll Spinney, Oscar the Grouch, Terrence Burke and a peeking Cyril the Sea Serpent.

Caroll’s reading was lots of fun, especially when he brought out Oscar and sang “I Love Trash” to the audience.  After the reading I hung around the reception area to get up enough nerve to say hello.  I am glad that I did, for Caroll was very kind and appreciated the fact that another member of the puppetry community had come to see him.

A couple of years passed, we were busy raising Eleanor, and expecting our son Tiernan’s birth.  I was still getting things together for the puppet show during my “free” time.  I mailed Caroll a letter with a photo or two to share my progress with him.  A while later he replied with a very kind note that included this message:  Note from Caroll Spinney to Terrence BurkeI was thrilled!  The puppeteer who’s work captivated me as a child and inspired me to become a puppeteer as an adult had just suggested that I “keep puppeteering!”.  Wow!  Now I really had to get my puppet show together and get my puppets out where children could see them, after all, Caroll Spinney had told me to!

I am very pleased that a documentary is being made about Caroll, his life, and his work as a puppeteer.  If any of our readers or audience members have the means to contribute to what I consider a very important film, please follow this link:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/iambigbird/i-am-big-bird

I have made a contribution, and hope that some of you will too.  Thank you.

 

Bitter about Litter

Over on our Facebook page I recently shared with our fans where ideas from songs come from.  Sometimes the ideas pop into my head and I have to search for a pencil to scratch it down before it’s lost to time.  Other times ideas are more obvious and are inspired by daily life.

Coleman at our info table at the Taft Museum of Art

Here’s the first verse of a tune that Coleman sings in the show:

Oh it make’s be kinda bitter,

To see all this litter thrown all over the ground-ground-ground.

It makes me wanna scream, to see tires in a stream,

when they should be spinning round-round-round.

This song was inspired by the litter that I pick up nearly every morning while taking my daily walk around my neighborhood.  It makes me sad that the people who throw their trash on the ground do not care about the place where they live enough to keep it nice and clean.

When I was growing up I remember watching TV public service announcements that featured the costumed character Woodsy Owl (another way to say BIG puppet).  Back then children were encouraged to “Give a hoot, don’t pollute”.  Are today’s youth missing that message?

When Coleman introduces his song in the show, he expresses how sad it makes him feel when he finds litter strewn about the forest and picnic grove. I hope that a little bit of his song is lodged in the minds of the children watching my puppet show so they remember that “every litter bit helps”, and help keep our planet a cleaner place.

Here’s Woodsy Owl’s tune that found it’s way into my childhood memories:

Woodsy Owl PSA from Youtube

 

Sharing Joy

On Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of performing for the guests at the Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati.  I am honored that the staff invited me to entertain the children and their families and share my love of puppetry with them for an hour of their day.

Wump Mucket Puppets stage at Ronald McDonald House Cincinnati

When I was a young boy I made a few trips to the hospital.  I remember that they can be very scary place for children.   As an toddler I found the open cellar door and rode my walker straight down the cellar stairs.  Luckily I can’t remember this.  My parents told me that I was cut up pretty bad.  As I grew up I had my share of stitches and other common childhood bangs & scrapes, nothing serious enough to stay in the hospital.  Our community is very fortunate to have the Ronald McDonald House available to families who’s children need special care.

Bulletin Board at Ronald McDonald House Cincinnati

The Bulletin Board at Ronald McDonald House with Wump Mucket Puppets photo.

Meeting with the children in the audience after the show was a very heart warming experience.  One little girl told me that she was going to make a sister for Cyril when she went home.  Several of the children let their imaginations wander and pretended to swim around the theatre with Cyril and his tail.  It was a magical moment that I will never forget.

Wump Mucket Puppets at Ronald McDonald House Cincinnati

After the puppets were packed into the Wump Mucket mobile, I took a tour of the Ronald McDonald House with volunteers Rhiannon Jones and her grandmother (who’s been a RMHC volunteer for over 10 years!).  What an amazing place it is!  Not only do they have a children’s theatre that is perfect for a puppet show (and swimming with sea serpents), but there is a library, large lounges to relax or read in, a game room, and guest rooms for the families staying there.  Everyone who volunteers, donates, and helps in what ever way that they can are “fab-tastic” people!  Thanks again to the guests and staff for allowing me the opportunity to share my talents with you.

We ROCKED June 2012!

 

My goodness, what a month June has been for our little puppet troupe.  We performed seven shows to HUNDREDS of smiling faces, made our radio debut on WVXU, and even performed our first “Living Room” puppet show.  Wow!

Wump Mucket Puppets with some young fans at Taft Museum of ArtEver wonder what we use to bring our silliness to the puppet stage?  Let’s review some of our “supplies” in June:

  • 2 bags of Honey Lemon Ricola – the puppeteer “lives” on these things
  • 14 Constant Comment Green Tea bags
  • 327 Wump Mucket Puppets coloring sheets
  • 2 rolls of red duct tape
  • 1 tank of gas for the Wump Mucket Mobile
  • 7 Thank You cards with 7 postage stamps

G'Wazzl with his jar of Play-Doh  -  Wump Mucket PuppetsOh, how could we forget?  One (empty) jar of Play-Doh!

Thank you to everyone who came to see us in June, and to the kind folks who booked our show.  We had a wonderful time and hope to see you again.  Come see us in July!