Behind the Scenes at PST: Raccoon Tales

Paul Vincent Davis, creator of Raccoon Tales
Raccoon Tales, Not Tails

Greetings, Readers!  In honor of Thanksgiving - which we all know is tied for "Best Holiday of the Year" with Christmas because you get to sample so many different kinds of pies (*insert happy "YAY!" here*) - we're bustin' out some of our favorite stories, each seasoned with a dash of food-themed fun.

We begin the yummy, finger-lickin' season with Raccoon Tales by Paul Vincent Davis, performed by PST artist-in-residence Brad Shur, which, we think, will inspire you to create a family folklore of your own - with the help of some tribal tricksters, of course.

About the Show...

What better way to bring in the holiday season with a show inspired by Native American tales of the Seneca Tribe?  That's right!  Thanksgiving's (basically) just around the corner and we're celebrating with Raccoon Tales.  Based on tales such as "How the Fox and the Raccoon Trick Each Other," "Why the Blue Jay is Blue and the Gray Wolf Isn’t," and "Why the Bear has a Stumpy Tail," Raccoon Tales is guaranteed to get you in a "thankful" mood.

Yes, see what happens when the animals from the forest play tricks on each other. Will they learn their lessons? Boy, we hope so because!

Its History...

Although our artist-in-residence Brad Shur is performing Raccoon Tales this week, the show was first created by Paul Vincent Davis in the late 60's - one of the six shows commissioned by the New York Town/Park Department.  Drawing inspiration from a humorous collection of Native American tales called Skunny Wundy, written by Arthur C. Parker, Paul prepared the show in a year, with puppet making help from friend, Karen Larson.
The "Inspiration"
Of course, the show due at PST this week is Paul's third revision.  That's right.  Paul loved Raccoon Tales so much - more than the other five shows he was commissioned to do - that he thought, "Let me make some changes.  So, how did the show change?  Well, it used to be that the puppets were glove puppets with Styrofoam heads, but then Paul changed them into glove puppets with paper mache heads - all handcrafted with faux fur.
Paul's Hand Puppets
You may be wondering: why glove puppets?  Well, in case you didn't know, they're Paul's signature - his "thing."  For the longest time, he's been fascinated by glove puppets because they're the hardest puppets to manipulate.  Seems strange, right, to enjoy something so challenging?  Wrong.  Paul loves a challenge - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  As a puppeteer, he believes in communicating through movement - to use a puppet's entire body to showcase what it feels about what it's saying - and it takes a lot of work to do so with glove puppets.  Of course, Paul's so invested in his work - studying his art - that he's, in a way, mastered it.
Paul, performing an earlier version of Raccoon Tales
Now, when Paul handed down Raccoon Tales to Brad, he was a little nervous, not because he thought Brad was a "bad" puppeteer but because he was asking him, this other person, to do the show in his voice.  One of the reasons why Paul was so invested in Raccoon Tales during its earlier run was because he wrote the script using his own sense of humor - his own voice.  Of course, after meeting Brad and seeing how much of a fast-thinker he is, Paul gave him his blessing.

And the Man Behind the Raccoon...

Paul is widely recognized as one of the foremost hand puppeteers in the country.  Not to mention, he's a great artist, writer, etc.

One of Paul's sketches
Paul joined the PST team in 1977 as its artist-in-residence and has been part of its history since then.  He has received many awards, including four "Citations of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry" from UNIMA-USA (the highest award given in puppetry) and the distinguished President's Award from Puppeteers of America.  In addition to performing, Paul has taught at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  Pretty impressive, eh?  Well, he's also served as a faculty member and on the Board of Overseers for the Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.  With a resume like this, we're proud to call Paul "family!"

Paul, surrounded by clowns (literally)
Oh, and be sure to keep your eyes open!  Paul's been writing a book - working title Glove Puppets: Fantasy and Realism Hand in Hand.  "It's almost done," he says.  There was a minor setback when his computer lost the pages, but our wonderful artist-in-residence Brad Shur saved every file.  The finished work is being proofread, so we hope to see it on shelves soon!

And Finally...

Be sure to come on down to PST this week to see Raccoon Tales.  Tickets can be purchases online HERE.

Till next time!  Yours truly, Esra Erol - marketing intern at PST.