Employees at Stepping Stones Museum for Children are bringing four classic children's stories to life in their homemade puppetry production, "The Frog Prince and Other Tales," beginning Saturday, Nov. 10.
The brainchild of Alan Louis, a public programs manager and veteran puppeteer, the 40-minute show features a cast of colorfully painted, hand-sculpted puppets manipulated by a trio of puppeteers in front of light-projected sets.
Boasting a 30-year career in puppetry, Louis had performed in numerous productions (including a stint at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta), but "I had never made one of my own.
"I was itching to do a fairy tale in table-top style," he said.
The show includes four timeless tales of children's literature, "The Fisherman and his Wife," "The Shoemaker and the Elves," "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" and "The Frog Prince, all of which have "great messages," Louis said.
Written by the Brothers Grimm and brought to the big screen in Disney's 2009 animated film, "The Frog Prince" tells the story of a spoiled princess who reluctantly befriends a frog that magically transforms into a handsome prince. The lesson, Louis said, is about "being true to your word and keeping a promise."
The genesis for the project came about earlier this year after Louis attended the Voice 4 Vision Puppet Festival in New York City.
Inspired by the festival's Bunraku-style performances (a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre akin to the table-top style), Louis set to work on the puppets, building them from scratch in his spare time.
In the ensuing months, co-workers began to take notice of the miniature human-like figures appearing on Louis' desk. Hyla Crane, director of education at Stepping Stones, asked Louis if he would put on the production for museum visitors.
He happily obliged, enlisting William Jeffries, an actor who starred in Curtain Call's recent production of "Death of a Salesman," and professional puppeteer Sharon Murphy Boski, to handle the puppets. Museum staff and outside artists helped paint and create costumes for the figures.
It was an ambitious endeavor: Louis and crew ended up making more than 20 puppets for the production. Now, with that job finished, Louis is hoping to make some puppeteers, too.
"Hopefully, they'll come away being entertained and having an appreciation for this corner of the puppetry world," he said. "Maybe they will go home and make some puppets of their own."
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