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I really like working in Libraries. In the Chicago area we have nearly 200 suburban Libraries. I have worked in 125 of them at one time or another. Surprisingly i don't really advertise to the Chicago Public Libraries as many of the small branches can't afford me, and it takes 6 to 8 weeks after the show to get paid an" honorarium" from the Chicagp Libraries.

Now to get back to the subject at hand. While I get library bookings year round. I find if I stick as close as possible to a show that fits the summer reading theme I get more shows. Northern Ilinois always seems to do it's own theme, but some libraries choose the National theme. This summer the Northern Illinois theme was A Midsummer Knights Read hence my new show Dragon Days and Knight Time.  the national theme was One World Many Stories, this was the theme for the Mid Eastern Michigan Library Cooperative for whom i show cased and got 32 shows. I show cased Dragon Dasy but changed the publicity to fit the theme. The original "blurb" for the show stated it was King Percy's birthday and members of his royal court are gathering to entertain his majesty in style. I changed that to read  and ambassadors from around the world are gatherinmg to entertain his majesty in style. I then changed the name of soem of the characters and used music from the country they were supposed to represent.


Next summer the national theme is Deam Big, Read or words to that effect so I am just changing the wording of my Stringing on a Star outer space show to fit that theme. The northern illinois theme is Food. So I am recostuming some puppetsand building a chef to hoast the show and calling it Puppet Soup. After all that how do the rest of you handle themes. Lets face it when it comes to marionette varietyu it's hard to come up with 10 to fifteen new puppets per year.

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I don't ever make something new for the library themes, I only make shows I want to make. Some people only book based on the themes, but most I have found will book us just because they know we will bring a top show. Often I find they will find a clever way to tie us into the theme, even if it isn't directly related. I know many puppet companies in CA who build only for the summer themes, but we don't. Too much time and money to only work within their parameters.




It sounds like you've found great ways to make use of your time and your puppets!  I'm so glad you take your talent to libraries.  In our little haven, the audience of course changes every couple of years; but even returning older kids and their parents ask me to do the same holiday shows each time.  The Hallowe'en show includes the Pelham skeleton, and in winter they look for my melting snowman.  I tend to use hand puppets for regular story hours and unpack the marionettes for holidays.



Now I am officially a glutton for punishment. Speaking of themes my bigest client, Navy Pier asked me if I had anyting remotly related to Oktoberfest. I thought before sending an email back expaining what I could do for the theme. Lets just say three new puppets are already being made.  I wil also be recostuming two old puppets I'm not using currently into the theme. I'm ordering aPair of Lederhosen[ for me] on line and I've come up with an easy way to have a new theme that I can expand on and sell as a new fall show for next year. Plus I really like the challenge. Starting on page 222 In The Art of the Puppet Bil Baird explains how they built a show in a weeks time for a party Clare Booth Luce was giving at the Waldorf Hotel. I'm sure the story is somewaht exagerated for effect, but it has always inspired me , and I thought the challenge must have been intriguing to Baird.  

Anyone read Bob Nathanson's column in the last Journal?   He said what Judy and I have been saying for years.....that the audiences keeps getting younger and younger.   I created several shows specifically with libraries in mind.  The marionettes perform in front of a giant book (4feet high by 8 feet wide) in which the sets unfold from the pages like a pop up book.   (see bobbrownpuppets.com and click on story book series).   And it seems like everytime I do a show it is for a room full of nursing mothers.  If my audiences get any younger I will be performing for a room full of pregnant women.  So I try to convince libraries to book one of my variety shows because it plays so much better.  Kids nowadays have a shorter attention span and because of the tremendous success of Sesame Street puppetry has been categorized as being for a 2 and 3 year old audience.  Years ago when I toured the Soviet Union with the Bairds I found out that trying to get tickets to Obratzov's theater was the equivelent of trying to obtain tickets to a sold out broadway show.  Everyone sez puppetry is more of an art in Europe. Maybe so, but in the the meantime I have to contend with a preschool library audience that is usually much too young.   For some reason librarians can't or won't tell mom's with babes in arms that the show is not appropriate for that age.  I have also found that if a library here (Washington, Maryland, Virginia area) wants to book a show I have enough themes to pretty much cover anything (plus some good marketing ploys)

good points Bob, I find changing the publicity to make Librariens thisnk the existing show fits their theme is abig help. To my mind many librarians are much to stuck on the theme concept.


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