World Premiere Performance Series starts with Songs and Shadows

Chris Monti and "The Fox"
“Yankee Peddler: Stories and Songs from Old New England” by Brad Shur and Chris Monti
Saturday & Sunday | Jan 19 & 20 at 1pm & 3pm
Monday | Jan 21 at 10:30am and 1pm 


Puppet Showplace Theatre (PST) will present two world premiere performances of puppetry works created by Boston-based artists as part of the theatre’s “New Year, New Shows!” series, running from January 12 – February 3. The series begins with "The Yankee Peddler: Stories and Songs from Old New England", by PST Artist-in-Residence Brad Shur and Folk Musician Christopher Monti.  There are additional performances on Monday, Jan 21st at 10:30am and 1pm.  PST is open for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday!  As part of the theatre's shows in repertoire, look for "Yankee Peddler" on our calendar in the spring and beyond- it is sure to become a fan favorite!

Behind the puppet stage: Brad Shur's signature shadow puppets
performed on an overhead projector

In this brand new show, two very different types of media come together to create storytelling magic! Both shadow puppetry and live music have a long history and tradition rooted in rich cultures of many peoples all over the globe. Brad Shur’s signature shadow puppetry style uses cut-outs manipulated on a overhead, and then projected onto a large screen.  During the entire show,  Chris Monti is the only performer visible to the audience. This creates a unique interaction between performer, spectators and characters on the puppet screen. Chris as the live performer acts as a go-between to draw the audience into the two dimensional world of the shadow puppets.

Chris Monti and Brad Shur

Puppeteer Brad Shur knew he wanted to make a show with live music, so he tapped folk musician Chris Monti to collaborate on “Peddler.” Comrades and past roommates, this storytelling team is a perfect pairing of sound making and tale-crafting. Together, they scoured songbooks and dusted off folklore anthologies in search of material that would make for good visual storytelling while celebrating life in the Northeast.  Chris dove into the depths of his own repetorie that comes from playing with New England folk musicians and old time musicians. As an example, the song “The fox” comes from the Scotts who compiled a book called “Ballad of America.” The text is a history of America through folk song. 


After narrowing down an enormous list to 10 songs and stories, the result is a collection of unique folktales. All of the stories are pieces of folklore from the New England region. Some are based on historical facts, others express interesting cultural practices, and a few even tell the tall-tales of local mythology folk heroes. Every part of the world has their own arts and stories. New England has its own history with its own flavor, and “Yankee Peddler” reflects those traditions and local culture.

From "The Mammoth Cheese of
Cheshire Massachusetts"
One of the stories is a piece of real history about giant cheese. This is clearly the kind of history you can’t ignore! The performers picked stories that had unexpected elements, with a lot of energy, and room for silliness. “The Mammoth Cheese of Cheshire Massachusetts , is the true story about Thomas Jefferson and the gift of a giant piece of cheese. Another historically inspired story is “Letters to Rats” which comes from actual letters found in old houses written by people in colonial times addressed to vermin infesting their homes and eating their food. These stories come from a broad range of social classes, including characters from a mayor to the president, and sailors, and even animals!
Often when we study American History, we first address the Revolutionary War, or the Civil war, but Brad and Chris didn’t want to explore Old New England culture using military history. War is only one small facet of history, and it is not something these performers wanted to glorify. They are instead interested in celebrating a different kind of hero. 

One such hero in “Yankee Peddler” is the famous Stormalong who battles with his own demons and whose hero status emerges because of his determination- and also his enormous girth! Stormalong is part of the same tradition as Paul Bunyan and John Henry who found fame in being very good at the thing they loved, and putting their passion into it. Have you ever seen Stormalong face-off with the Kracken, a giant octopus sea creature? Now is your chance! 

From "Cluck Old Hen"

Other stories in the show feature man’s connection to nature. Living more closely to the grand out doors was a huge part of life in old New England. In “Yankee Peddler”, expect to see forest creatures galore, like “The Fox” who dives into his den, and a bear who needs a little help getting dressed in “Jenny Jenkins”, some rats who love to eat cheese and crackers with jam in “Letters to Rats”, and the fastest egg-slinging hen in the east in “Cluck Old Hen.”

Chris Monti rehearsing in the PST lobby

All of the music in the show is performed live by Chris Monti.  The orchestration is mainly vocals, harmonica, guitar, kazoo and a few other noise makers like a triangle and symbol crashes for those pointed moments requiring special effects. Chris composed original music and adapted licks from fiddle tunes for incidental music that underscores about half of the shadow puppets stories.   Other visuals in the show are entirely based on the songs themselves.


“Yankee Peddler” has benefited a lot from wonderful feedback of other local puppeteers and performing artist during its development. Scenes from the show were workshopped in 2010 at the Eugene O’Neil Puppetry Conference in Connecticut, as well as at PST’s own Incubator program for the development of new works. The show received support from the Harris Grant Program of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America.


Rehearsal footage from "Yankee Peddler: Stories and Songs of Old New England"


“This is Americana, but a different kind of Americana. It will make you proud to be a New Englander for reasons you never thought!” –Brad Shur

Brad Shur created over 100 shadow puppets for
"Yankee Peddler: Stories and Songs from Old New England"