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:
In the last couple of weeks I have had the pleasure to view two new films (on DVD) that I found very touching. Thanks to the Cincinnati Library for being such a GREAT library and adding these DVDs to their already amazing collection
The first is a documentary following the puppeteer Kevin Clash, you know, the man beneath the world’s most famous furry red monster. The film is titled “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey”, and what a journey (and treat) this film is. I found myself close to tears as the story is told of how a child from a working class Baltimore family follows his dream all the way to Sesame Street. I remember when I was around 10 years old and read about Kevin in an issue of National Geographic’s World magazine for children in the 1970’s, and thinking “Wow! He makes his own puppets”. Who knows where I would be now if I had followed that road back then? Keeping in mind that I grew up watching “classic” Sesame Street I first found Elmo to be annoying. Neither of our children became very attached to the puppet, yet we do have a number of toys and things with his likeness printed on it around the house. Over time I have accepted Elmo, and found humor in his appearances both on and off Sesame Street. I was pleased that the filmmakers captured a very real look at this very talented and successful puppeteer’s life when he is not performing Elmo. He’s a human being following his dream, just like many of us. Here’s the trailer. I give this **** and recommend that you see it.
The next film that I enjoyed is also about a puppeteer (imagine that!), well puppetry was just a part of the volume of work completed in the lifetime of the film’s key figure, Fred Rogers. “Mister Rogers & Me: A Deep and Simple Documentary Film” is the work of brothers Benjamin and Christofer Wagner, and what a wonderful piece of work it is. At the start of the film Benjamin recalls his time spent as Fred Rogers real life neighbor and then takes to the road to speak to some of the people that Fred Rogers was friends with in his life time. You may have heard of a few of them; Susan Stamberg, Tim Russert, and Found Magazine’s Davy Rothbart . Each person had wonderful memories to share about the person Mister Rogers was and how his work touched their lives.
I was one of the early viewers of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” as a young boy in the 1960’s and like Sesame Street it was the puppets that pulled my young eyes to the television screen everyday. My childhood had some difficult times, and I can recall wishing to live in “The Neighborhood” or “The Land of Make Believe”, since everything seemed so more appealing to me back then. Now, as a father of two children, I try to keep Fred Rogers simple yet very true words of wisdom in my everyday life. The Wagner brothers have created a very simple and honest film that helps continue to spread Fred Rogers wisdom to a world that I feel could really use more neighbors like him more than ever. Here is the trailer. I give the film **** and a cardigan sweater.
Watching these films made me reflect on a few things; My own childhood, both the good times and the not so good times. The past 8 years of fatherhood, and my work as a puppeteer. One thought stayed with me, and that is we are here on this planet a very short time. We should do something that we love and share it with others. If you watch either of these films, I’d love to know what you think about them. Drop me a message at www.facebook.com/wumpmucketpuppets
It’s probably true that most parents are happy when their children take an interest in something that they both enjoy. Some dads may share their love of baseball (my father was a HUGE baseball fan), or perhaps a mother may enjoy gardening with her children. Every family has their own shared interests. In our house, we are into puppets… a little bit.
Today’s puppet show performance was very special to me. It was the first time that I performed with someone else, that someone was my almost seven year old daughter Eleanor. She asked me a couple of days ago if she could “do something” in the show. Seeing that she seemed very interested I told her sure, and asked if she wished to perform. Earlier in the day she even put on a little “warm-up” puppet show for her brother Tiernan and I to enjoy:
About an hour before I loaded the puppet gear into our car, Eleanor seemed hesitant about performing. As much as I wanted her to perform with me, I was not going to push her. “Besides”, I told her, “you’ll be inside the puppet stage with me where no one can see you.” That seemed to settle her fears, and she was ready to perform with her toy puppet “Pinky”.
A father and daughter, and their puppets.
As you can imagine, my children have been around puppets their entire lives. When they were very young, I would perform my puppets to entertain them. Eleanor would often ask to talk to Cyril, and would seem to have “private” conversations with the puppet -even though her daddy was right there operating the puppet. Somehow I doubt that will happen when she’s a teenager. Which is why I am happy that she has the interest in puppetry now while she is young and able to use her young imagination right along with me. Who knows? Maybe Eleanor and Tiernan will be the second generation of the Wump Mucket Puppets.
As you may know, the children’s television program Sesame Street has always been very dear to me. Watching it back in 1969 sparked my young imagination and inspired me to become a puppeteer.
Eleanor and her Daddy "play" piano with a Cookie Monster puppet.
When I became a father in 2004, I was very happy that I could once again enjoy the “sunny days” on Sesame Street. Our daughter Eleanor picked up on her Daddy’s interest in all things Sesame quickly. Some of her first baby words were “Ku Ku” (for Cookie Monster) and “Bi Bi” (for Big Bird). She loved sitting with me on the couch every morning at ten to see what our pals on Sesame Street were going to do. If you are a parent, you know that there are literally TONS of Sesame Street products for young children. We bought, or were given, many of them. Both of our children played with their Sesame Street toys for many happy hours. I was often asked to supply the voices for our collection of Sesame Street puppets and toys. Imagine that!
My daughter Eleanor watching Cookie Monster on TV, 2005
Yet, this past week I was watching a few episodes from the 42nd season of Sesame Street all by myself. Eleanor and Tiernan were off at school and I had no one to share my thoughts about the new episodes with. They had “graduated” from The Street just as I had many years ago. I am sure that many parents have feelings of sadness as their children out grow certain television shows, clothes, toys. I know that I have them and can expect more feelings similar to these in the years to come as my children learn and grow beyond the happy times we had watching Sesame Street together.
Thank you Sesame Street, for those sunny days I had with Eleanor and Tiernan, they will forever be cherished memories.
Can you tell us how to get to Sesame Street? Eleanor and her Daddy, 2005