I'm Jason and this summer, I worked as an intern at Puppet Showplace Theater though a program sponsored by my high school. Over the last seven weeks, I have worked on various different projects at Puppet Showplace. Everything from washing windows to marketing and promotions, each project I finished taught me more and more about how the theater operated.
The most important of these many projects was the very last one I worked on. In an attempt to document Puppet Showplace Theater's rich history, I visited Resident Artist Emeritus Paul Vincent Davis's studio, where puppets have been created for decades. The old studio was largely unused since Paul's retirement, but it was still a treasure trove of originality and puppet history.
The goal of this project was to document these puppets through photography, preserve them, and ask their creator about his work. The first step of this endeavor was to move the ancient puppets out of the studio and into Puppet Showplace. Many of the puppets were decades old with layers of dust on them. Fortunately, Paul's studio was directly above the theater, and I was able to discreetly extract the puppets in laundry baskets through the building's backdoor.
Inside the theater, a small puppet stage had been set. A small lamp placed on top of a milk carton, a phone camera, and a table draped with a black velvet curtain created the setting for most of the photos I would be taking. The documentation process was the last time many of these puppets would ever see the spotlight. Using the phone camera and the lamp, I was able to capture these puppets in their former glory. In total, I captured about 35 fully finished puppets, and forty unfinished ones. We safely tucked each puppet away in the basement in bins. Each bin became a miniature time capsule into the life of Paul Vincent Davis. Each photo was uploaded into a folder on flickr, which would serve as a reference for future exhibits.
The final step in this project was to invite Paul Davis downstairs for an interview. Together, we went over pictures of each puppet. Paul combed through five decades of puppeteering to tell me the details of each puppet. We went through each individual performance Paul performed; from commercials to variety performances to shows at the theater, Paul's puppets have entertained thousands across decades.
Check out parts of the puppet album here:
The most impressive aspect of this project was each puppet's originality. Although each puppet was made of similar materials, such as fabric and paper mache, each puppet was imbued with its own personality and special characteristics. There were puppets of dogs, clowns, witches, ordinary townspeople and everything in between.
The common ground between all of my projects this summer is the continued improvement of this theater, which has been open for 42 years. With the help of the staff and my fellow interns, I hoped that my efforts this summer has helped Puppet Showplace Theater in a small way.