Tennessean, Mary Hance, June 13, 2012
The Nashville Public Library’s “Puppet Truck” literally takes its shows on the road — introducing the art of puppetry to thousands of people who might not otherwise experience it.
Lots of people know about the regular puppet shows at the Main Library every Friday and Saturday morning. But you may not know that the Puppet Truck’s three puppeteers do an additional 400 free performances a year at schools, branch libraries, day care centers, senior centers, hospitals, museums, and community centers.
“We are the only library in the country that has performing artists on staff to do puppet shows,” said Liz Atack, the Bringing Books to Life Coordinator for the Nashville Library.
“It is such a treat to take live theater out to children who probably don’t get to see many live shows,” said Atack, who said funding for these traveling shows comes through a public/private partnership with the Nashville Public Library Foundation.
“There are puppet theaters in other places but not through a library,’’ she said, noting that our traveling puppet shows will reach over 29,000 people this year.
The Puppet Truck made its debut about six years ago as part of the Main Metro Library’s extensive puppetry program, that was started by marionette icon Tom Tichenor more than fifty years ago.
The library’s Wishing Chair Productions calls the shots — making decisions on the scripts, costuming, and the mobile sets which are cleverly built in such a way that two professional traveling puppeteers, can easily pull them out of the truck and set up for a show and then fold and fit the set back into the truck after the performance.
“They do it all — they drive, they set up, and they perform,” said Atack, who added that the Bringing Books to Life puppet team is always developing new shows to add to the repertoire. The current production making the rounds is Many Moons (James Thurber) but lots of other shows are ready to roll (literally), including The World of Mother Goose, Anansi the Spider, Hansel & Gretel, and Ellingtown.
Aesop’s Fables is in rehearsal now and will debut in July, taking over the Many Moons top spot for regular circulation.
One of the most fun parts of the hour-long performances, is the interactive post show Q&A where the puppeteers take questions and demonstrate how the various puppets work and explain how they were made.
For example, the show I saw last month at Room in the Inn was Ellingtown, which was a joint venture production with the Nashville Jazz Workshop, which provided the music.
The puppeteers Bret Wilson and John McSparran, showed us all three of the types of puppets they used to bring Duke Ellington and his music to life — with hand puppets, rod puppets, and shadow puppets all playing a part.
The audience at Room in the Inn was not the typical audience but they clearly loved the jazzy musical performance that Bret and John pulled off with the various puppets. And they also enjoyed seeing the post show demonstration, especially the cat puppet — which is basically a Slinky, fitted with black felt and shrouded in a black boa, and of course the rods for its movement.
“We bring our own personalities to each show. The payoff is the audience,’’ Bret said, adding that having different audiences keeps things interesting, fun and challenging for the puppeteers.
Upcoming Puppet Truck show dates for Many Moons, which is based on the James Thurber book, and Aesop’s Fables include:
June 16 10:30 a.m. Richland Park Library
2 p.m. Southeast Library
June 23 10:30 am Hermitage Library
2:30 pm Old Hickory Library
June 30 10 a.m. Thompson Lane Library
2 p.m. Bordeaux Library
July 14 10:30 a.m. Edmondson Pike Library
2 p.m. East Library
July 21 10:30 a.m. Inglewood Library
2:30 p.m. Bellevue Library
July 28 10:30 a.m. Goodlettsville Library
2:30 p.m. Madison Library
The Puppet Truck productions are not the only library programs that make the rounds.
Let’s say you missed magician Scott Cantrell’s fun interactive magic and juggling show at the Donelson Branch last week. All is not lost, because Scott will be working his magic again at at least five more branches in coming weeks.
You can access the whole library schedule at www.library.nashville.org to find out when and where the programs you want will take place. The added bonus is that children should enjoy library-hopping anyway.
Here are some programs that will have performances at multiple locations this summer.
Scott Cantrell, who offers several interactive magic, comedy and juggling programs that appeal to little ones as well as their parents, will be at North today, Pruitt on June 18, Southeast branch on June 19, Donelson on June 20, at Hermitage on June 21, at East on June 23 and June 30, and Inglewood on June 27.
Mr. Bond the Science Guy
brings his big fun science experiments for schoolage children to Southeast today, to East on Saturday, Edgehill on June 21, Main on June 28 and Inglewood on June 30.
A Night Creatures from the Zoo program will be at the Bellevue branch on June 16, at Hadley on June 26, at Edgehill on June 28 and at Southeast on June 30.
Zig‘s Musical Journey, featuring Zig Wajler with his interactive musical experience from around the world, will be at the North branch and at Green Hills on June 21, Bellevue on June 23, East on June 25 and Hermitage on June 26.
Entertainer Melba Toast presents “Miss Solar System”, which teaches children about the solar system with a planetary sing-a-long, a dramatic play and other activities at Inglewood on June 20, Edmondson on June 23, at Thompson Lane on June 27 and at Pruitt on June 28.
For more information see: www.library.nashville.org or call 862-5800