New puppet in the workshop
Here are a few photos of the new puppet that is being built at Wump Mucket Puppets’ workshop. Can you guess what it will be?
Here are a few photos of the new puppet that is being built at Wump Mucket Puppets’ workshop. Can you guess what it will be?
Our newest puppet star has arrived! Gourdon has joined the cast of “The Kooky Spooky Halloween Show” that we perform throughout October. Here’s a look back on how this puppet went from a lump of clay, to a paper maché head, and almost making his public debut on live TV, yet to being interviewed for a weekly radio program.
Come see Gourdon this month in The Kooky Spooky Halloween Show. 🎃 #pumpkin #handpuppet #Halloween #puppetshow #touringpuppeteer #Cincinnati #childrensentertainment #familyentertainer #Dayton #Columbus #NKY #lexingtonky #Louisville #Boston #AndoverMA #asseenonTV #shareJOY #thisishalloween #makebelieveinyourself #puppetsROCK
The idea to create a pumpkin headed puppet popped into my head earlier this year when my daughter Eleanor asked me to watch the cartoon “Over The Garden Wall”. In one of the episodes, the two boys visit a village of pumpkin people. They reminded me of the character Jack Pumpkinhead from the Oz series of books written by L. Frank Baum.
So I began sculpting a new puppet…
The new puppet had to wait to be worked on as I toured our “Bee Happy” summer puppet show around Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and even a trip to Massachusetts in August.
Gradually the clay began to “magically” work it’s self into a friendly face that children would enjoy. I love Halloween, and find the vintage greeting cards that feature pumpkins, witches, and ghosts most visually appealing. I started looking at lots of great pictures, and added them to a Halloween themed Pinterest page.
Gourdon’s head is made of paper maché, and took me about a two days to build. I lost count of how many tiny bits of paper it took. I enjoy this part of the puppet building process, since I can listen to music while working. I remember listening to Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, They Might Be Giants, Gary Numan and Led Zeppelin while building this puppet. There is a reason why I always say, “Puppets ROCK!”.
Peek-A-Boo! Look who's getting a face. #pumpkin #handpuppet #Halloween #puppetshow #touringpuppeteer #puppets #Cincinnati #papermache #artist #libraryprogram #schoolprogram #childrensentertainment #shareJOY #familyentertainer #childrensperformer #makebelieveinyourself #asseenonTV #Boston #Dayton #Columbus #lexingtonky #andoverma #puppetsROCK
The build was moving along at a good pace. Things were looking great as I finished the head, and Gourdon started really looking like Gourdon. I was very happy with our new puppet star, and prepared to sew his body and costume together. I was booked to make a live TV guest appearance and wanted this to be his public debut.
Then a bit of a “hick-up” happened after I had finished sewing his inner sleeve and body. While quickly trying to get the puppet completed for the TV segment, I goofed up and used the wrong pattern on his costume. It was too small. I was rather upset, since this puppet has been my project. In the past, my wife Lara has been the principle puppet builder. She took a step back to allow me to be more comfortable with sewing, and give me room to learn. Ugh. Gordon would not be going on TV.
We always enjoy chatting with @frankmarzullo19 on @fox19nowcincy #witchpuppet #Halloween #puppetshow #touringpuppeteer #WXIX #FOX19 #CincinnatiTV #Cincinnati #puppets #childrensentertainment #familyfun #familyentertainer #childrensperformer #makebelieveinyourself #thisishalloween #shareJOY #puppetsROCK #Dayton #Columbus #NKY #lexingtonky #Louisville #Boston #AndoverMA #puppetsROCK
Fortunately we have a great cast of puppets to “step up” and take Gourdon’s place for the TV interview. Witch Willie was the best puppet to replace Gourdon. I have been performing her for over a year, and through the summer, so off to FOX19 she went to make her third live TV appearance:
With this scheduling problem solved, Lara whipped together a fantastic costume for Gourdon to wear for his puppet stage debut at the Behringer-Crawford Museum. I could hear the children in our audience react to Gourdon as he welcomed them to our show, they love him. After the show they were thrilled to meet him, with several of the kids requesting to have their photo taken with our new puppet star.
The day’s adventure in puppetry was not over. After I finished loading-out of the museum, I had to drive back to Wump Mucket Puppets headquarters to unload our gear, only to head back out to have Witch Willie, Gourdon, and myself record a radio interview on WVXU, Cincinnati’s NPR radio affiliate.
Gourdon will be a guest on @917wvxu radio program "Around Cincinnati" October 15th 7-8PM #Pumpkin #puppet #halloween #puppetshow #touringpuppeteer #WVXU #NPR #radio #Cincinnati #Dayton #Columbus #NKY LexingtonKY #Louisville #Indianapolis #Boston #AndoverMA #shareJOY #familyfun #asseenontv #libraryprogram #childrensperformer #childrensentertainer #familyentertainer #makebelieveinyourself #schoolprogram #puppetsROCK
Tune in to Around Cincinnati next week to listen. WVXU’s John Kieswetter had many great questions for the puppets and myself, making what I am sure will be the fun radio debut of a pumpkin head puppet named Gourdon.
The calendar says that today is the first day of Autumn, although in Cincinnati it feels like mid-August. Yuck. I am not a fan of hot and sticky weather.
Today will also be the final performance of my “Bee Happy” show for 2017. That is unless I receive a request to perform it again. Don’t worry if you missed it, we’ll be bringing it back next Spring. It has been a great show to perform, and marks the first show that I have sang along to music that I have created, through the puppets of course. I really enjoy singing, although sometimes it’s been a challenge to sing in the puppet’s voice.
Tonight’s performance will be at the Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati. I have been donating puppet shows there since the summer of 2012, and enjoy working with their staff. While my audience is often small, the children and families who I perform for are appreciative. I love providing them with a half hour of silliness, and help them with the healing process through laughter.
With October around the corner, our newest puppet “Gourdon” is nearing completion. I began sculpting his head out of clay in June. My daughter asked me to watch the TV show “Over The Garden Wall” with her. In one of the episodes there is a village of pumpkin people who I found most interesting. They reminded me of “Jack Pumpkinhead” from L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. I also enjoy vintage Halloween greeting cards and decorations featuring jack-o-lanterns. When I returned from our East Coast tour in mid-August I began working on “Gourdon”, using paper mache. I really enjoyed building our latest cast member. Please come see him at our October shows.
When “Gourdon” is finished, it’s time to build another traditional hand puppet for our “Frozen Follies” holiday show. This puppet will be included in our new skit “The Many Names of Santa Claus”. I will be posting photos to the Wump Mucket Puppets official Facebook page as the building progresses to give our friends and fans a chance to view the puppet building progress. Please give our page a “like”. Thanks for reading this. Puppets ROCK!
I know that it’s been MONTHS since I updated this little blog. I shall try harder to keep our friends and fans up to date on the wonderful and wacky world of Wump Mucket Puppets. I bet you are wondering what’s all this documentary talk? Well I hope you are. Let me explain…
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Wright State University film student Sean Mangan. He asked if I would be interested in being the subject of a portrait documentary that he was directing for his film making class. His film’s purpose is to explore a human being’s story and find a way to make it relatable to an audience. I called him soon after I read the email and arranged a meeting at Wump Mucket HQ (our living room).
Our first meeting went very well. As it turns out, Sean was referred to me by another puppeteer and friend. We talked about the time commitment and began to work out a shooting schedule. During the following week, I emailed several of my clients to obtain permission to allow a film crew to follow me around at their event. The replies were all very positive, and the clients expressed their support and interest in this film. Yahoo!
Finally it was time for our first day of shooting. On October 9th we shot my interview for the film. Sean and his crew member Eric Dickey arrived with a LOAD of film equipment. It was cool to see our living room gradually turn into a mini film studio, as Sean and Eric set up all the lights required to get the right look for the film.
I made certain that I had a cup of tea, and a bottle of water on hand, for what turned out to be what I feel was a great interview. Sean’s questions were very thoughtful. His film is allowing me to tell my story as a performing puppeteer and explain what life events and challenges I have encountered during this adventure in puppetry.
I invite you to follow Wump Mucket Puppets on Facebook. I have posted a few photos on that page, and will be adding more as this production continues next week with a camera following me behind the scenes at my puppet show. Puppets ROCK!
Friday, October 17 2014. Our television production was delayed over a week due to the heavy rain that was falling on Cincinnati. Eventually, the sun decided to come out again, and we were ready and waiting to make some more fun TV spots. Our entire team was tired of the rain.
Our first location for second full day of shooting was in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Cincinnati. Our special guest star was Ed Grant of AllGood Home Improvements. I must admit that I had no idea who our guest was, yet our crew was very excited that Ed was working with us. I learned that he is the owner and TV spokesman for AllGood, and appears in quite a few TV ads for his business. This was both his first time shooting on location, and performing with a caveman puppet!
In this spot, Unka Unka is trying to hold an overloaded trash can’s lid down, until it bursts and sends trash all over the sidewalk, and a banana peel onto his head. Ed plays Unka’s neighbor and informs him how to get a bigger trashcan to hold all his waste.
It was a very welcome relief not to have to puppeteer from inside a trash can again. All of my scenes with Unka were performed by hiding myself behind a row of trash cans lined up on the sidewalk. The “luxury” of climbing inside the can to launch the prop trash out of the can and onto the ground was given to Paul Grundy.
Puppeteering Unka is different from many of the other puppets in our cast, as he is a traditional hand puppet without a moving mouth. His head rests on my index finger while my thumb and pinky on my left hand operate his arms. Since I sculpted his head to fit my left hand, it is not too uncomfortable to perform him. Unka Unka is a caveman in the most cartoony way, and his vocabulary is not very large. The script used in this spot gave Unka more dialog than in our live puppet show. I delivered his lines in “cave speak” with the appropriate ughs and grunts. Since making this spot Unka has asked me to give him more stage time and lines. Next thing you know he’ll want his own dressing room and a oppurtunity to perform Shakespeare!
After Ed and Unka completed their scenes, it was time for Cyril and his co-star John Ervin to shoot their bits that will be edited in. Cyril was pleased to work with John again and got a thrill delivering his lines from inside a city garbage truck. When these scenes were completed we learned that the producers were treating the cast and crew to lunch at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub!
After lunch, we headed to our second location of the day to shoot in the neighborhood of Westwood. It was nice to learn that the father of our co-star Ann was friends with my departed, but never forgotten, friend Michael W. Riley. That’s the beauty of living in a smaller city, you eventually bump into nice people who know somebody that you know.
My second co-star for this spot was Marcus Potter. It turns out that he is a singer too! I enjoyed working with him, and chatting about how performers can use social media and websites to promote themselves. As you can see from the photo above Cyril (and his tail) had fun acting with Marcus too.
In this PSA (that’s TV talk for Public Service Announcement) Cyril and Marcus see that Ann is not using approved trash cans when putting them out for pick-up. Above is a photo of our crew setting up a shot.
About halfway through this scene I noticed that we had a few young visitors on location! Cyril urged me to bring him over and meet our young friends. As it turns out they are the grandchildren of my co-star John Ervin, and very excited that their grandfather was working with puppets.
After warming up to us, Dante and Olivia agreed to have their photo taken with Cyril. Dante told me that this was his sister’s first time meeting a puppet. As you can see from his wonderful smile he had a great time meeting us too. Thanks for visiting us on location Dante and Olivia, we hope you’ll come see our show!
With the visit from our new young pals over, it was time to get back to work and get the remaining shots finished. Luckily the wonderful weather stayed with us all afternoon. Cyril was fascinated by all the video equipment and enjoyed watching our talented crew work their magic. They make the hard work look so easy.
Then after a few takes with Cyril and Ann, we were finished with another very productive day of puppeteering for television. The great weather certainly helped everyone shine. I really enjoyed spending a few minutes Dante and Olivia and entertaining them with Cyril and Coleman. The nine hours of hard work seemed to fly by, that’s because we were all having fun.
Day 1 – Hillsides and Trashcans
As I attempted to sleep on Wednesday night, I remembered of all of the people that have helped me reach this new point in following my childhood dream to be a puppeteer. Certainly my parents were there from the start so long ago. Thoughts of my father were racing about my brain, and how I wished he was here to enjoy my growing success as a puppeteer. Then, I finally fell asleep.
Suddenly it was 5:45 on Thursday morning. I needed to prepare for my day as the solo puppeteer for the Cincinnati Department of Public Services television spot -that’s showbiz lingo! I zipped up my hoodie, plugged in my earbuds, and hit the sidewalk for my morning walk, Led Zeppelin was my soundtrack. With the “rock walk” and arm stretches complete, I had breakfast, kissed my family goodbye and drove to Cincinnati State College, who’s video department are providing the crew and equipment for this shoot.
Our little caravan of vehicles included the production van, a college shuttle bus (posing as a Green Room/prop department), and a city garbage truck driven by one of my co-stars John Ervin. In between scenes John and I chatted about the truck. I know my seven year old son Tiernan would have loved to see his daddy squished into the cab to perform Cyril the Sea Serpent. John told me that these rigs can get up to 65 mph, provided they are not hauling trash.
Our first location was on on Heekin Avenue, in the Mt. Lookout neighborhood of Cincinnati. In this PSA we are informing residents who live on steep hills that they can get an exemption form and leave their trash on the curb. This was the most difficult scene to shoot since we were working on a set of very steep, and cold, concrete steps. If that wasn’t hard enough, I had to puppeteer from inside a trash can, covered in make-believe trash! It was not easy, yet we got the shots needed. I won’t give any more away, yet I will promise you this, it’s VERY FUNNY! Our director Zo Wesson was very encouraging and praised me for my performance multiple times. I guess he knows that this puppet rocker ROCKS HARD!
After our lunch break, the cast and crew made their way to Cincinnati’s Westwood neighborhood. The video and lighting equipment was nearly set up when the sky above us began to darken. Rain was determined to stop this from being shot. No trouble, we still had a third location on the schedule, the city garbage truck garage!
For our final location we shot a few of Cyril’s intros, welcoming the viewer, and explaining where he’s going with his pal John. This time we were protected from the rain, and I got to sit on an apple box! Now that’s luxury.
With several of our garage shots “in the can”, the crew began to pack up all of their video and lighting equipment. And I thought puppeteers had lots of gear! These folks filled two vans with their gear.
What I really enjoy about this production is that it’s cast and crew are all from Cincinnati. Working with these fine folks was great. Everyone gave it their all to make this production shine, even though the sun wasn’t.
We are very please to announce that Wump Mucket Puppets has brought a new puppet character to our stage, Unka Unka the caveman!
A couple of years ago my daughter Eleanor said, “Daddy, you need a caveman in the show.” She is a big fan of the classic Scooby-Doo cartoons, and really enjoyed the episode that has a “caveman” chasing Mystery Inc. around. This silliness inspired her to make up her own “caveman” word “unka”. An idea was planted.
Some time later this doodle found it’s way to my studio desk:
This made me want to try my hand at creating a puppet head sculpted from clay:
Time past. I was able to see many incredible paper maché puppet heads at the 2013 National Puppetry Festival. It was time to get this puppet rolling! It had been decades since I worked with paper maché, and I took my time to learn as I built the puppet. There were a couple of setbacks, which will now be known as learning experiences.
More time past. Shows were being booked, songs were written, skits were being created. The puppet was coming along slowly but surely. Many thanks to fellow puppeteers Rick Morse, Mathieu René, Michael Schwabe for advice and tips. A HUGE HUG and THANK YOU to my fantastic wife Lara Rumizen! She really helped this puppet “get his act together”. Many thanks to my father-in-law Jim Rumizen for shooting these photos.
We hope our audience and fans will join us in welcoming Unka Unka to the silly stage of Wump Mucket Puppets. Please visit out Facebook Page to view more photos of the building of this puppet.
Hello 2014! Are you ready to ROCK?!?
It’s a new year! Yippee! I look at it as a blank sheet of paper waiting for a doodle, a song, or a skit to work into the puppet show. I have already started a list of goals to work towards and would love to share a few with you, our fabulous friends and fans!
New puppet characters! In the new year we will introduce two new member to our growing cast of silly puppets. Both have been “on the drawing board” for a some time and it’s due time that they joined the fun! First will be this guy, Unka Unka the Caveman!
Next will be our second Sasquatch character, who will be named Cousin Snavely. The voice is sounding a bit like actor Charles Nelson Reilly. He played Horatio J. HooDoo on the 1970s kid’s TV show Lidsville. Here’s the opening theme on YouTube.
Our third puppet project with be a much needed rebuild of on of our most loved characters, Coleman the Sasquatch. This little guy is over 35 years old! It’s quite amazing that he has held up as long as he has. The mouthplate inside the puppet is deteriorating with every show. We’ll be sure to share this process as his rebuild begins.
Of course that’s not all! We have a couple of fun new skits and songs in the works, which we think you will enjoy. Here’s a short video with a sneak peek of a few of the tune ideas:
I had planned to create an entertaining end of year review of Wump Mucket Puppets adventures in puppetry over 2013, then I caught the flu. Ugh. I am happy to share that I am on the mend, and will do my best to keep you interested in a look back at what was a FANTASTIC year for me performing my puppets. Let’s get rolling…
Looking back at my goals for 2013 I see that some were met, some were lost, and a few popped up while the year was in full swing. Wump Mucket Puppets had the pleasure of performing all over Greater Cincinnati to thousands (yup –THOUSANDS!) of children and their families. Not too shabby for a little puppet troupe fueled by a dream.
January was cold in Cincinnati. It’s a very good time to stay inside and build a puppet. You should try it! The design team (Terrence, Lara, and Eleanor) put on their thinking caps to create a pet for our space traveling puppet pal G’Wazzl G’Wook. What did we come up with? Kitty Quo Quo Quo Qua! Learn more about Kitty here.
February started with a meeting with the producers of the local variety/talk show Cincinnality for Wump Mucket Puppets to make a possible television appearance. A few good ideas were bounced around, yet sadly the program was canceled before anything was recorded. We didn’t make it onto television this year, which is something that Coleman plans to change in 2014.
With the hope of the television appearance on the back burner, the puppet troupe kicked into gear for the public debut of our new puppet character Kitty Quo Quo Quo Qua at Happen in Northside on February 16th. What a night! What a crowd!
Here’s a video clip from the show:
Keeping things rocking and rolling, the puppets (and their puppeteer) where interviewed on the Ted Clark After Dark show at the rock club MOTR. The audience were a bit older than our usual crowd, and may have been drinking something other than chocolate milk. Perhaps that explains their choice of words? Still it was fun to bring our brand of silliness into a rock club, and Ted was a cool host. Big thanks to fellow puppeteer Ryan Moore that night.
Enjoy Cyril singing “A Song About Cryptozoology”:
Valentine’s Day was a little over a week late at Wump Mucket Puppets H.Q. It’s not that we forgot the date, it’s the news that was received on Tuesday February 26th…
Yes fans and friends, we had been awarded our first scholarship! We were really going to the 2013 Puppeteers of America National Puppetry Festival! Yipee!!!
Marching along into the end of Winter, the troupe performed at St. Boniface School in Northside. We were part of the school’s Right to Read Week, and from what we’ve been told were a big hit! Here’s part of the kind thank you note we received from the children’s teacher:
Dear Mr. Burke,
Thank you so much for bringing your Wump Mucket Puppets to St. Boniface. We loved them! We were even inspired by your program to make our own hand puppets.
It was around this time that I gave a bit of thought to my philosophy of puppetry, it’s very simple: “Share the knowledge. Spread the joy.”
We dodged a few rain showers in April to begin a very busy Spring. The puppets entertained guests at the Voice For the Innocent/Connections: A Safe Place event at Sharon Woods. And while the television cameras were looking elsewhere, the microphones at Cincinnati’s NPR affiliate, WVXU were on -inviting us into their studio three times over the year! Here’s our April interview with host Jim Stump, as we talk about Cincinnati’s National Day of Puppetry:
The members of the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild presented a fantastic National Day of Puppetry with help from our host Happen, Inc. It was marvelous to see so many happy people interested in puppetry! I was a very proud father that day. My daughter performed with me, and even up-staged me to get BIG laughs! Way to go Eleanor!
If you have never attended a National Day of Puppetry, here’s a short video made by puppeteer Bill Yost:
At the beginning of May, we pointed the Wump Mucket mobile towards Columbus Ohio. I was invited to speak about puppetry at Entertainer’s Camp, organized by our pal Bob Abdou. What is Entertainer’s Camp? It’s a day long, low-key, networking event for members of the variety arts (clowns, magicians, jugglers, balloon artists, and even puppeteers).
It was great to hang out with puppeteer pals and talk about…puppets!
Best of all, the end of day pie fight was a SMASHING success!
Then our Summer schedule blasted off like a rocket on it’s way to Mars! It seemed like we were everywhere, well we were! Libraries, schools, festivals, there was no stopping our mighty little puppet troupe. Somewhere we even found the time to give another chat, this time for the Cincinnati Women’s Connection. It was during this speaking engagement that a member of the audience told me that my puppetry and love of using one’s imagination reminded her of one of my heroes, Fred Rogers. I was flattered.
August popped up quicker than you can say Puppetry Festival five times fast! The car was loaded, the puppets safe in their cases, off to Swarthmore College we went. We did make a stop along the way, Coleman gets hungry when traveling:
Now I won’t review an entire week, that’s been covered HERE. However, I will repeat that attending the 2013 National Puppetry Festival was one of the happiest weeks in my life. I was free to be my five year old self (more or less) for an entire week of nothing but puppets and puppeteers! Will i be attending the 2015 festival? You bet your Bert bedsheets I will!
Of course Cyril got into the spirit of the festival to perform during Potpourri:
We were even “heckled” by several Sesame Street puppeteers!
As Autumn made it’s way to Cincinnati, the puppets and I kicked into festival season which brought us to the Edgewood Kentucky Fall Festival, CliftonFest, and a very special performance for our new pals at Saint Joseph Orphanage. The big news for us was our new stage!
The stage was a planned project over 2013, and started late 2012 with the guidance and knowledge of California puppeteer Charles Taylor. The construction of the stage was a team effort that included my neighbor, and fellow puppeteer, Jesse Mooney-Bullock.
Jesse opened his workshop to me and shared his woodcrafting skills as we constructed the stage together over a few Saturday mornings.
After I painted the frame, my wife Lara, and mother sewed the curtains for the new stage.
We had our share of troubles, yet in the end things were worked out and the new puppet stage made it’s debut performance at Smale Riverfront Park on Sunday September 15, 2013. This was a very special show for me. I was performing on the same stage as my friend Jesse, who had helped me so much with the stage over the summer. I was also performing my show for my mother, who lives in New England and has never seen my puppetry -as an adult that is.
As we rolled out the new puppet stage, we also stopped by WVXU again to chat about our trip to the Puppetry Festival and upcoming performances. Cyril considers this the best interview he has given, enjoy:
In puppetry you must be ready to improvise in a split second. Sometimes this means changing the show a little to engage the audience, sometimes it means packing all your staging and sound equipment away when the weather suddenly changes! Our second performance at CliftonFest 2013 was in danger of being canceled due to the rain. What could we do? There were children waiting for a silly puppet show, I had puppets… it’s showtime!
With our outdoor shows finished for the year, we began to wind down and prepare songs and skits for our silly holiday shows. I have always loved watching the television Christmas specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Year Without a Santa Claus, and love to perform my puppetry at Christmas time. This year I donated a performance to another of our non-profit friends, United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cincinnati. The clients are a lovely audience, and always have kind words about my puppet show.
But wait, there is something very special that arrived in today’s mail -speedy delivery:
And there is is, more or less, Wump Mucket Puppets had their busiest year ever! We thank all our clients, audience members, fellow puppeteers, friends in the media, neighbors, friends, and family. YOU are the reason I do my very best to create a family friendly puppet show that I would want to see with my children. Thank you for your interest and allowing me to share my puppetry with you. Puppets ROCK!
Short and sweet blog tonight gang!
We have LOTS of activity at our super secret headquarters. What?
Well, it’s tip top secret! I can say that one of our regular characters is getting a pal.
Not only will we have a new puppet at the February 16th show at Happen, Inc, we’ll have a new tune for Coleman to sing, a new game for Cyril to play with the audience, and lots of fun and laughs for new members of our audience. Our regulars all know that the Wump Mucket Puppets R-O-C-K! (that’s why they keep coming to our shows)