File puptcrit/puptcrit.0707, message 117

Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2007 21:51:24 -0400
To: <>
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] WPA puppets-for Carolyn Roark

Once again, Alan Cook rocks the puppet world!


From: on behalf of Alan Cook
Sent: Thu 7/12/2007 3:34 PM
Subject: [Puptcrit] WPA puppets-for Carolyn Roark

In 1980 during the World Puppetry Festival of Puppeteers of America/Unima-USA, there was an WPA puppet exhibit at George Mason University in Northern Virginia. Lynnie Raybuck was then working with/at the campus---she is a long-time member of the National Capital Puppetry Guild.  Maybe you can reach her through <> 

In 1980, George Mason University had the bulk of WPA Federal Theatre Files which had been rescued from obscure storage (there had been attempts by the usual reactionary forces {ironically in Stalinist style] to obliterate the history of WPA).

At GMU there were reports from various Federal Theatre groups on shelves. GMU also tried to get oral reports before and after 1980 from many who had been involved---unfortunately sometimes the staff failed to truly connect with the puppet community, so they did not always know what questions to ask. Lorraine Brown had the opportunity, but chose to ignore it.

As part of the 1980 Festival, there was a symposium on WPA puppets with Molka Reiche (Spelling?) who was with the Florida WPA, and others. Molka later gave the bulk of the marionettes to GMU, I donated a WPA Recreation Project clown marionette to GMU from South Pasadena CA (Oneonta Grammar School which I attended) taught by Lora Knight Pattison who had earlier trained with the Pasadena CA Recreation puppet project.

WPA mimeographed 'how-to" puppet construction sheets, and probably scripts too.

I have the bulk of surviving South Pasadena string puppets (except for many which kids took home---some may yet turn up in attics and rare yard sales)? ? ?

When the Tony Sarg Marionettes performed at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in the 1930s, a member of that troupe visited the South Pasadena puppet workshop

(If Tony Sarg was with the troupe at the time, it was he who visited.)
At any rate I stiil have a small cardboard Sarg poster from the Pasadena booking.

I also have a group of marionettes from a Los Angeles WPA mariontte project which had been stored in an L.A. garage for decades, still wrapped in newspapers from the late 1930s. That treasure was expedited to me by Bob Baker who worked as a teenager with Theatre of the Magic Strings  (WPA, Los Angeles) which at various times had connections with prominent puppeteers such as Ralph Chesse (also connected to San Francisco & Oakland projects) and Bob Bromley (who in 1930 had also worked with The Yale Puppeteers on L.A.'s Olvera Street and later on that street with The Olvera Puppeteers.

Bob Baker has a few programs from the Los Angeles Magic Strings project, and is well worth contacting at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 West First St, Los Angeles (they have a nice web page).. Bob's theater has the record for the longest running Puppet Theater in Los Angeles, over twice as long as the previous record-holder (Turnabout Theater) (Many Turnabout photos online through Los Angeles Public Library's web pages).

Carol Fijan would be an important contact for New York WPA shows. The Conservatory of Puppetry Arts has "Joe Worker" and other hand puppets shown in a new CD (with other legendary puppets) we HOPE to have ready for next week's National Puppetry Festival (Puppetry Store) at Concordia University in St Paul MN. We hope to get a DVD version later.

Nick Coppola in NYC did a re-creation of the WPA script for Pinocchio--another good contact.

I am told that the Library of Congess has taken over much of the WPA archive which had been at George Mason U, but GMU was allowed to retain any duplicate copies.
Lynnie could verify.

In Pennsylvaia, both in Philadelphia & Pittsburgh the WPA "Museum Project" created both hand puppets and marionettes in papier mache/cloth for use by schools and museums. COPA has some examples, and many have filtered thru antique stores and e-bay to collectors. Michael Malkin did a magazine article fo a now-defunct antique magazine, and has examples in his book, TRADITIONAL & FOLK PUPPETS OF THE WORLD pub'd by Barnes.

The Museum Project made SETS of puppets, for shows on nutrition and hygiene (puppet tomatoes, carrots and pupper-tooth brush characters for example), as well as for Alladin (with a definite Chinese rather than Arabic look), Red Riding Hood, and other standard tales etc., etc.

Any info you can track on Hattie Flannigan including her book on Federal Theater may have BRIEF mention of puppets.

The references offered by John Bell are important to start with.

Ralph Chesse's important book was first published by George Mason U Press (Jean Reges Burn made the important contact so that could happen---I know because I went with her to the campus, and Lettie Connell Schubert did the intro for the book because we knew she was mentored by Ralph for 14 years and the logical choice).

Personally I think Ralph's book belongs on every puppet book shelf.

I hope we get to hear about the results of Carolyn's research!

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