An essay delivered May 17, 2021 to the Chicago Literary Club, a venerable institution founded in the late 19th century.
My Life in Puppetry:
©2021 Susan Bass Marcus
Where Did It All Start?
Have you ever invented a caption for your pet’s moves as if you could read his thoughts or would you admit to making your whole fryer chicken dance before nesting it in its roasting pan? Maybe you used to play with paper dolls or made your toy puppet say something outrageous you wouldn’t dare to say yourself. If you answered yes, you were bringing inanimate—or at least nonverbal—things to life. You were puppeteering.
My interest in puppetry began with a childhood love of puppet shows whose stories, characters, stages, props, and sets fascinated me. Well before the 1969 premier of Sesame Street, children watched puppets on local television. My favorite show created by Burr Tillstrom, the gentlest puppet master I’ve ever known, featured a clown, a dragon, and a sweet woman vocalist—the mainstays of Kukla, Fran and Ollie. I rarely missed a broadcast of the show on NBC then ABC. They aired from 1947 to 1957 shortly before dinnertime, for a half-hour, then 15 minutes (a network decision causing audience outrage). Children and adults were great fans of that calm, intellectual, and inventive program. At the end of its run, the show still had loyalists who begged its return to no avail.
Puppets on television and those featured in school programs were a given during my childhood and adolescence. Although puppeteers of the mid-twentieth century might have assumed their audience would be children, adults also enjoyed their acts. I remember my parents’ tears of laughter during Señor Wences’ bit on Ed Sullivan’s show. Wences set a box on a tabletop. He tapped it and a voice inside responded. Wences had one- or two-word exchanges with the box until finally he asked it, “S’alright?” When he opened the box’s front ‘door,’ a head inside answered with a moving mouth, “S’alright.” Every time Wences appeared on that show, my parents eagerly anticipated that bit. “S’alright” became a family catchword.
Emulating Wences, I worked on my own “Johnny” figure. I shaped a puppet head by drawing eyes on the back of my hand and tucked my rouged thumb under my equally rouged curled forefinger to make a mouth. Hinging my thumb up and down, I transformed the back of my fist into an animated vent figure’s head. My lips moved, but—who cared?—so did Edgar Bergen’s.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, my siblings and I also followed the antics of various marionettes on the Howdy Doody Show and hand puppets on Garfield Goose and Friends. Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town family-oriented variety show introduced Topo Gigio (a ten-inch foam mouse puppet worked by four animators) and “Johnny,” a figure created by Señor Wences, who had a tradition-defying ventriloquist novelty act. Paul Winchell and Edgar Bergen were conventional ventriloquists also regularly seen on television. Their rapid repartee involved arguments or gags with their wise guy figures, Jerry Mahoney and Charlie McCarthy, respectively. In the early 60’s The Shari Lewis Show, introducing three cuddly mouth puppets, Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, and Charlie Horse, inspired me to attempt ventriloquism with my own socks.
Today, audiences regard puppetry as both an entertainment for children and an art form, whether high-tech, like films or theater—The Lion King, for example—or traditional manipulation as on Sesame Street, with puppeteers animating their characters directly. Staged puppet performances, like those presented by Blair Thomas’ annual Chicago International Puppet Festival enchant audiences of all ages with the immediacy of live performance, encouraging a suspension of disbelief as animated figures in fantastical settings spin out their stories or vignettes.
Ever the puppetry fan, especially after viewing the first seasons of Sesame Street with my preschoolers, I turned to that art in my thirties as a way of channeling my creative energies. I’d been moping and thinking I needed to have a job outside the home, but I did not want to abandon my children to a babysitter. As always, my husband Stephen helped me dispel my funk. Paper and pen in hand he mock-interviewed me. In the course of our conversation, memories of all the short stories I’d written, the skits, shows, and choral groups in which I participated, the voice and dance lessons I took, and even the many paper dolls I animated on my bedcovers while recovering from childhood illnesses helped us identify puppetry as the remedy for my malaise. I would do it all: write scripts, make puppets, create scenery, and perform.
At first, I doubted I had any puppetry talent or skills. Where would I start? How would I make puppets? Could I perform anywhere beyond my living-room? Anticipating my doubts, Stephen said, “Well, I found a group of puppet show people (we did not know the term ‘puppeteer’), The Chicagoland Puppetry Guild. We’ll go to a meeting and find out if any of them teaches puppetry.” He made some calls, found the group’s location near Lincoln Square, and arranged for us and our children to attend a gathering. There, I met a professional who coached aspiring puppeteers. I signed up for his classes and after weeks of lessons, at his urging I decided to take my puppeteering to a higher level.
The Chicagoland Puppetry Guild offered fellowship and encouragement as I pursued the art of puppetry. The delightfully eccentric and lively members’ enthusiasm for my burgeoning efforts encouraged me to explore an ever-intriguing and enjoyable interarts discipline with endless possibilities. Moreover, many members were pros. They performed in variety show acts or took their productions to schools, small theaters, community centers and libraries, and some were regulars on local and national television. Eventually, after several years, my association with the guild led to my acquaintance with Burr Tillstrom and on his recommendation a prestigious booking for my original show about the last days of Pompeii at the Art Institute of Chicago. After becoming friends with so many members, not only did I feel my ambitions were validated. Participation in the group also established a link between me, my childhood puppet master idols like Tillstrom, and a great and varied tradition. I hadn’t arrived yet at mastery, but I was on my way.
“First Steps into the World of Puppetry”
Puppetry is an art form. My goal as a beginner was competency. I knew I needed coaching and never would dare perform in public unless I trained with a professional. I found that person, Hans Schmidt, who had a studio in Lincoln Park. A beloved performer, educator, and teacher, Hans offered small-group lessons. Over time, he taught me scripting, hand puppet movement, and even business tips. Encouraged by his enthusiasm for my work, I studied with him for quite a while and became enamored of the practice.
After months of lessons and experimenting with shows for my children and their neighborhood friends, I decided to perform for strangers and require a small fee. People hired me! For children’s birthday parties, mostly. I hoped younger children would be receptive to the fantasy world I would bring into their homes. Generally, those performances went well. Although I sometimes used a small, portable stage consisting of a playboard, a stand and curtains, often I let my young audience see me work with my puppets obviously attached to my arms. I was comfortable performing directly in front of an audience, like a storyteller.
My Bunny Puppet Bit was a good example of such a routine. I had modified two plush rabbit toy puppets by putting a skirt on one and denim overalls on the other. After their skit, I had a conversation with the girl rabbit. I sat facing my audience with the stage behind me. I would ask the girl rabbit, “How are you today, Ms. Bunny?”
The puppet would answer and we’d carry on, joking and asking each other riddles. Although my puppet had no moving mouth, children watching our interplay believed the rabbit was talking to me. In a way, I was using the techniques of ventriloquism to produce that effect. Ventriloquism is all about illusion and sound substitution. I managed (usually) to speak for the puppet through slightly parted lips and I always looked at it while the puppet was ‘speaking.’ In the illusion business that technique is called ‘misdirection.’ During my turns to speak, I faced the audience. When Ms. Bunny ‘spoke,’ I looked at her. Visual cues created the illusion that we were engaged in repartee.
Many years later into my puppetry career, I often entertained at two or three birthday parties a weekend if I wasn’t otherwise occupied. One afternoon I arrived at a Chicago suburban home with several sets of puppets for the performance and materials for a puppet-making workshop. A five-year-old boy was having a birthday party and his parents had hired me for an hour-long program. While I was setting up, I answered the young guests’ questions about the show. When all my equipment was in place, I gathered my audience together and began the program. I started with Little Red Riding Hood. In my version, the wolf was rather sympathetic, did not really eat Grandma, and everybody won in the end. Next, I brought out my rabbit friends who danced and did a comic routine with blocks. When that ended, I carried Ms. Bunny from behind the stage, held her close to me, and began the voice-throwing bit.
The kindergarteners seated close to me were fascinated, and I thought how much fun it was to bring a little magic into their lives—directly, without the mediation of television. Suddenly, from the back of the group an older child’s voice rang out. “I know how you do that!” he shouted. I spotted the child, a little boy somewhat bigger than the other birthday guests.
“Of course you know how I do this. I’m a puppeteer and I bring these puppets to life.”
“No, no,” he said. “That’s not how you make Ms. Bunny talk.”
“Ah-ha. You have discovered my secret. Please tell me your name. And how old are you?” He stood up and proudly declared he was Brian age six-and-a half, almost seven-years-old!
“And,” he said, “you’ve got a radio strapped to your chest. That’s what makes the puppet talk.” He smiled and lifted his chin in triumph.
The other children stared at my chest. “Well, I’m happy you were watching so carefully. Let’s see what else Ms. Bunny has to say.” I shifted Ms. Bunny closer to me and continued my show. Happily, the boy’s outburst had no effect on the other children’s engagement with Ms. Bunny’s antics. They applauded enthusiastically as she and I ended our conversation. We bowed and I moved into the puppet workshop segment of the engagement.
I have often thought about that day and the differences in children’s development and perception of the world. My critic had been thinking deeply about the way I made Ms. Bunny talk. He was at a new stage of discovery in his life and needed to know how it all worked. The other, younger children were not at that point yet, or perhaps were not as willing as Brian to voice their doubts. I imagine they wanted to linger in the fantasy a little bit longer and I enjoyed bringing it to them.
Not All Puppetry is Sweetness and Bunnies
Classic puppetry can have a rough and disorderly side, too. Imagine the following scene: passersby gather near a pair of men arguing. With his sharp chin, one man in a silly, high-pitched voice taunts the other, a roly-poly policeman, then he hits him with a flat stick on top of his head and across his belly. As he sweeps the policeman out of sight, he squeaks, “That’s the way to do it, that’s the way to do it.” Onlookers whoop and applaud.
Mr. Punch continues to do away with one annoyance after another throughout the early afternoon. With the same one-two whack of his slapstick, he tosses out of sight his wife Judy and their baby, a judge, Pretty Polly Peachum, a hangman, and even the Devil. As every challenger meets defeat, the crowd’s laughter and cheers accompany Mr. Punch’s eventually predictable, “That’s the way to do it!” until the end.
I relish the crowd’s enthusiasm for they have been watching my show. Punch and his antagonists were hand puppets. The onlookers were my audience. The puppet booth’s curtains close. I, the puppeteer and Punch ‘professor,’ stow my puppets and fold my booth. I am happy to have won over another audience but tired from manipulating all those hand puppets above the playboard for nearly an hour. I was working in the manner of Punch professors preceding me for hundreds of years. Traditional Punch and Judy shows have provoked shocked laughter since the 17th century, principally in England, but also wherever a Punchman (and in the last four or five decades Punchwoman) could set up a booth and gather an audience.
Originally, a Punch professor would perform at an intersection or on a beach and “busk” (perform in a public place for money), passing the hat for coins during and after the show. In the latter half of the 19th century, Punchmen became paid entertainment at birthday parties and other gatherings, an arrangement lasting well into the 21st Century. They still perform on the beach in England, famously so at Brighton, a holiday area on the south coast.
I learned to perform a Punch and Judy routine from a dear friend. Jay Marshall owned a shop in Chicago called Magic Inc. In the shop’s spacious back room, the Chicagoland Puppetry Guild used to gather monthly. I joined the group in the 1970’s and met Jay at the first Guild meeting I attended. He was a great solo performer, a magician, and ventriloquist. He often appeared on the Ed Sullivan TV show with his rabbit glove puppet, the wise-guy Lefty.
Jay loaned me a script and some books about Punch. He taught me how to make an easily portable stage and coached me on the characters I’d need to perform an authentic Punch and Judy show. He also advised me to change the plot’s ending to reflect a common American revision of the script. He suggested the story would be more palatable to Midwestern audiences if I tinkered with the order of the characters who encountered Punch and finished with an alligator.
Pulling the show together, I sculpted all the other characters and one of my good friends, also a puppeteer, built me a toothy wood and felt alligator whose mouth would shut with a loud bang. A great effect and it worked perfectly. Naughty Mr. Punch verbally and physically sparred with every antagonist he met, but he was no match for the alligator. My audiences gasped when the beast chased Punch up, down, and across the stage. They screamed, warning Punch it was sneaking up on him, until—whoosh!—he gobbled Punch (below the playboard); then rising alone above board, he said in a gruff reptilian voice, “That’s the way to do it. The end.”
The character Punch became popular in England when theater was banned by order of the “Long Parliament,” during the Commonwealth following civil war and the execution of the monarch Charles I. Puppetry was the exception to the ban and “motions” as they were called were commonplace. Punch and Judy shows allowed a critique of Authority without censure. They appealed to mass audiences because in their heyday the stories gave vent to popular resentments, bigotry, a yen for violence, and endemic misogyny.
I had not considered those negative aspects of this lively entertainment because I felt mastering the routine would connect me to tradition and add to my authenticity, but I had to deal with it when I performed Punch and Judy at a country club Christmas party. I was booked as one of several performers for the occasion. Although most of my audience—children and adults—responded with laughter and applause, one parent of two small children took me aside to criticize the story’s violence. She shook her finger as she reminded me that battering one’s opponent was the wrong way to resolve conflicts. At that moment, I replied without rancor that I thought current television programming was much worse.
Nevertheless, after more consideration, I tinkered with the script again. I had Judy and the baby survive Punch’s tricks and team up with the alligator to vanquish Punch. My audiences applauded this new ending. Not exactly a negotiated peace, but it worked. That may not have been the way to do it, but one never knows how people will react to a Punch and Judy Show.
Take my experience at a party in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. The phone rings.
“Hello, Susan Marcus?
“Yes, who’s calling, please?”
“This is Kathy Smith. [name changed to protect myself!] You’re the puppet lady?”
“[Clears throat] Yes, I am a puppeteer.”
“And you do birthday parties?”
“Yes and school shows, special events, but I’m booked up for a few weeks.”
“Oh, that’s OK. My husband’s birthday is next month and I want to surprise him.”
Mrs. Smith was calling to arrange a performance of my Punch and Judy show. Her husband was turning forty, a big milestone for the couple, and she was planning an elaborate dinner party in a private room of a North Shore restaurant. Every party needs some kind of entertainment, she said, and to impress her guests she imagined an adult puppet show would be the coup that would keep them talking for weeks.
I hesitated. My birthday party gigs usually were for children age eight and younger. Although most of my young audiences behaved well because my shows engaged them—most of the time—I worried that Mrs. Smith’s guests would be less well-behaved in the absence of “grown-ups” to restrain them.
“Thank you for considering me, Mrs. Smith—”
“Call me Kathy.”
“Kathy. I will check my calendar. I’m not sure that date is open, but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. What’s your number?”
Once I had her contact information and told Kathy my fee, we ended the conversation and I stewed about the offer the rest of the day. I’d doubled my normal fee, but she happily agreed to it. So much for that disincentive. My calendar was open on the party’s date; lying about my calendar would make me uncomfortable so that excuse was out. My Punch and Judy was a silly, raucous set of skits and I could not say it was unsuitable. My anxieties multiplied until I forced myself to consider the gig’s advantages: it might bring me more business. Most of the guests probably had kids in my audience demographic.
I needed some back-up. Stephen, my husband, listened to my woes that evening and suggested we hire a babysitter so he could accompany me and keep the audience under control. In effect, he’d be the party’s grown-up. My anxieties melted away. With his help, I’d have no distractions while setting up and performing. Everything would go well and I’d add the engagement to my list of successes. After a few days, I returned Kathy’s call and set the date for my show.
Over the next few weeks, I rehearsed with my adult audience in mind. Punch became especially mischievous and Miss Polly Peachum, a hussy if ever there was one, strutted and slunk her shapely self across the stage. I gave the Baby puppet more bawdy and disrespectful lines, and Punch’s foes—the policeman, a judge, a hangman, and the Devil—succumbed miserably to Punch’s tricks. By the date of Kathy’s party, the show was smooth, clever, and naughty but still nice. I felt more than prepared for the event, especially with Stephen by my side.
We parked in front of the restaurant, a steakhouse with luxurious pretensions, and began to unload my cases and the eight sections of my stage. A flustered waiter rushed out as I piled my gear near the door.
“What is all this,” he said. “You can’t bring this into S___’s.”
“I don’t know what you mean. Mrs. Smith engaged my show for her private party here and all this gear is part of it.”
The waiter slapped his forehead. “Oh, Kathy Smith? Of course. Sorry. Let me get a dolly and we’ll bring you in around back.”
My husband and I exchanged “oh-boy” glances. The waiter returned with a dolly and together we stacked the stage’s pieces on it —the base, proscenium, playboard, scrim, lights, and supports—and rolled them to the deliveries door, through the chaotic kitchen, and into the room reserved for Mrs. Smith’s party.
Kathy rushed to meet us and showed us where she hoped I would set up the stage. With a forced smile, she wished me good luck as bursts of laughter punctuated her guests’ conversations. Raising her eyebrows she added, “I hope they pay attention.” While we were putting the stage together and setting up lights and sound equipment, no one in the party seemed to notice us.
At last I was ready. Puppets were hanging upside-down on their hooks backstage, prepped so I could thrust my hands in quickly as one character exited and another took its place. Lights were focused and warmed the stage. My microphone was in place and the intro music primed. My husband gave me a thumbs-up and I walked around to the front of my stage to give an introduction.
“Hey there, pretty lady, when does the show start?” slurred one man seated at the end of the long table closest to the stage. “You’re in the way. Tell the puppets to get going.”
Momentarily, I was flummoxed, but soon countered his Royal Rudeness with, “They’re busy getting everything ready and will start as soon as you all are quiet.”
Silence. Not one burp or wisecrack from any of the 20 or so diners. Kathy stopped wringing her hands as I smiled and waved to her before going backstage. Once settled, with Mr. Punch on one hand and Judy on the other, I hit the boombox ‘start’ button and the show began. Mr. Punch rose from below the playboard, the flat area used to hold props and give the puppets a base and in his squeaky voice he sang while prancing back and forth and banging his slapstick. The audience must have sensed his volatility and mischief because I heard their nervous laughter and “Uh-Ohs’ accompanying his every prank and puppet-cide or murder. Almost every scene in a Punch and Judy show ends with another character succumbing to the force of Punch’s slapstick.
For a less violent interlude, I brought up Miss Polly Peachum. Punch flirted with her, eyed her décolletage, the appreciation of which he shared with the audience, and pleaded with her for just one little kiss. Outmaneuvering her suitor, Polly managed to snatch away his slapstick and smack him not with a kiss but a blow before exiting stage left.
The show ended with Punch paying for his sins in the belly of an alligator. Kathy’s dinner guests applauded with great enthusiasm and when I came front of stage to take a bow, some of them were sober enough to give me a standing ovation.
With relief, I thanked them. Kathy introduced me to her husband and I wished him happy birthday. Tucking the check she handed me into my jeans pocket, I said good-night and went backstage to break down my equipment and pack up the puppets.
“Polly-ee. Oh, Polly. Come up. I want to see you.” A slurring male voice accompanied a fist banging on the playboard. “Polly, you are so pretty. C’mon. Gimme a kiss.”
Did the voice belong to Mr. Punch in the flesh? I called from backstage, “Polly’s asleep now. She can’t come up.” I bent below the scrim and, looking up, saw the same forty-ish man—with curly brown hair, his tie askew and his collar open—who heckled me during my intro. The playboard bounced each time he hit it with his fist.
“I want Polly,” he bellowed. For the first time, I was encountering an audience member who was a true believer but not a little kid.
My husband, an accomplished trial lawyer, in calm, measured tones, reminded him now that the show was over, the puppets were gone. Polly wasn’t alive; she was packed away with her troop, resting in a box until the next show. The man became thoughtful, then quietly walked away, muttering, “Polly’s dead. Polly’s dead.”
I can’t recall packing and transporting my gear back to the car, but I do remember vowing never again to perform for an adult birthday party where the audience could be just as unpredictable as Mr. Punch.
The Art of Puppetry offered me opportunities to work for many different kinds of audiences—not only private parties, but also for schools, clubs, recreation centers, libraries, and hospitals. During the 1970’s and ‘80’s in the United States, puppetry was experiencing exceptional growth and popularity as an art form. New ideas in staging, materials, scale, and subject matter plus media attention in television and film encouraged that surge in interest and creativity. My professional commitment to puppetry began and grew in that period, and I was fortunate to have a number of mentors who helped me. No mentor, however, had prepared me for a new and unexpected situation that challenged my perceptions of the art and its functions. In 1981, I began a residency as a puppetry artist at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Medical Center.
My employer was the Child Life Services department at the hospital, headed in those years by Myrta Perez. Child Life, as we called it, assisted and supported young patients and families adjusting to the stresses of a hospital experience.. The uncertainties of hospitalization can confuse and frighten children. Professionals trained in child development address the patient experience to minimize stresses by using play, relaxation, and special events and activities. Another puppeteer, Marilyn Price and I supplied special events and bedside activities at Children’s for six years. A grant covered our fee and the cost of creating puppets and programs for the hospital.
Every few months Marilyn and I would set up our stage in the hospital’s lobby. Our puppets performed short sketches or a longer one-act story prefaced by interactive puppetry-related games designed to acknowledge and alleviate the concerns of young hospital patients. For example, I enjoyed adapting Leo Lionni’s stories for these occasions, especially his “Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse,” “Frederick,” and “Swimmy”—all tales of redemption, persistence, and facing adversity.
Our audience consisted of patients, staff, and caregivers on couches, in armchairs or wheelchairs, occasionally on a gurney, and nearly on top of our set-up. The lobby shows challenged Marilyn and me for we did not have the advantage of distance characteristic of a conventional theater, not that we really wanted it. In that necessarily intimate setting, we aimed at relaxing and entertaining our audience. We knew that, away from their beds and procedures, the children and puppets could build a connection through humor and fantasy. Puppet programs provided an alternative to the children’s hospital experience. All we hoped for was the sound of giggles and comments freely expressed, separate from “upstairs’ where children and families had little control and few certainties.
Although the lobby shows reached a bigger audience, my bedside puppet interventions better met my objectives targeting relief, control, and humor. We accomplished this indirectly by crafting a set of easily manipulated hand puppets for Child Life Services with attractive neutral features, textures, and hues. We used jewel-tone velour in forest green, ruby red, and dark sky blue for the bodies, yarn hair in contrasting fantasy colors, little round noses, and shank-button eyes. Child Life volunteers animated them to explain upcoming procedures to patients. The puppets permitted children to express their concerns in direct conversation with the puppet.
I also worked directly bedside with patients. I would bring a special puppet with me. I called him Orange Julius, a clown with bright orange hair. He is still in my collection of puppets I crafted over the years, a gentle figure with a big red nose and sweet smile. Although mute, he would take over those bedside encounters with a sort of pantomime. Although I often acted as interlocutor, his gestures were eloquent, implying receptivity and compassion.
Orange Julius had a routine. He would hide in a lightweight box I’d built for him out of foamcore, slowly push its lid, pop up, see the patient and—overwhelmed with shyness—retreat into his box. I would encourage the patient to help me coax him out again. With every pop-up, Orange Julius would grow more confident and trusting until at last he’d linger and offer a timid wave before covering his eyes from another attack of shyness. Emboldened by our encouragement, he would peek out from behind his mittens, and at last the connection between puppet and patient was complete.
The memory of one bedside encounter will stay with me all my life. A few years into my residency at Children’s, Myrta Perez invited me to work with a patient for whom she had special concerns. Although correctly she kept the patient’s diagnosis to herself, she told me the condition was chronic and Angela, the patient had been hospitalized often over her lifetime. We walked through the old hospital’s corridors, recently redecorated with bright, cheerful murals until we arrived at a room with four beds. No other patients were there at the time. We stood in the doorway and greeted Angela, sitting up in her bed, and her mother. Myrta let Angela know she had a little visitor.
Myrta watched me develop Orange Julius’ routine. I sat on a chair to the side of Angela’s bed and told her Orange Julius was inside the box I was holding. She showed interest in my puppet from the moment he popped out of his box. About twelve years old, dark blond, and slender, Angela leaned into Orange Julius and whispered a string of secrets to him. I glanced at Angela’s mother; she was dabbing her eyes with her sleeve. Angela and Orange Julius continued to chat until a coughing spell interrupted the conversation. I gave my seat to Angela’s mother who began to pound her daughter’s back. Myrta suggested we say good-bye until the next time. As we left the room, Orange Julius waved then retreated into his box.
Not long after that, Myrta sent me a note from Angela’s mother. The child had died, succumbing to cystic fibrosis. The note thanked me and Orange Julius for giving Angela such a boost. Her whispers in Orange Julius’ ear were the first words she had spoken in days, and when possible, she had chatted about the puppet during her remaining time at Children’s Memorial.
The art of puppetry has many guises and unexpected outcomes. Although the grant supporting our project ran out, my experiences at Children’s Memorial Medical Center inspired me to expand my art’s possibilities, to reach and help people in ways I’d not imagined before, and to enrich my ideas about and appreciation for the ways both my audiences and I responded to the art form—one of the many reasons I am grateful for my years in puppetry.