Until last night, if I heard the word “marionette,” I might have thought “Pinocchio,” thanks to Disney. This morning, a few new things come to mind.
We took a chance with a Groupon to see a holiday-themed show by Le Theatre de Marionette, a local company that uses beautiful locally hand-crafted string puppets for unique family entertainment. I’m so glad we did! We walked away all smiles from this heartwarming show. We’re intrigued to see more, and since Le Theatre de Marionette is performing three different holiday shows around the metroplex this season, we can!
Three holiday options
The show we attended was “Holly Jolly Christmas.” Oversized puppets transform into toys that spring to life: an ice-skating penguin, a dancing snowman, Rudolf, Santa Claus, and more. It is a vaudeville-style variety show, with short captivating segments perfect for kids’ short attention spans. There is even “snow,” to the delight of the audience. It is performed open-stage style in which the puppeteer is visible to and interacting with the audience. “Holly Jolly Christmas” will run at the Arlington Christkindl Market through December 22nd. Tickets are $8 for children, $10 for adults. At the time I’m writing this, a Groupon is still available. Click here for more info.
Are you headed to Grapevine for Christmas on Main? Then you have an opportunity through December 22nd to catch “North Pole Texas,” another fun variety show with a bit of country flair. Tickets are $8 for children, $10 for adults. Click here for more info.
For a performance with a different flavor and more elaborate staging, head to the Hilton Anatole through December 28th for “The Little Drummer Boy.” This show is presented in “bridge style,” in which the puppeteers manipulate marionettes from above and are hidden from the audience’s view. A cast of 30 marionettes tell the story of the Nativity. This performance has received positive reviews from local and regional press. Tickets are $15 for children, $18 for adults. Click here for more info.
Why we enjoyed Le Theatre de Marionette so much:
A little history. String puppets have been used in performances since ancient times. They are traceable to the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and continue through the present day. There is something soulful about watching entertainment that succeeds in making you laugh, knowing this form has existed for literally thousands of years.
Locally grown. The founder of Le Theater, John Hopkins, is originally from Arlington. He cut his teeth in the world of children’s entertainment at Six Flags, and has since been around the country working for companies influential in children’s television entertainment. He founded the company in 1992 and has been involved in its growth ever since. Today, Le Theater partners with a number of local theaters, museums, schools and the Texas Commission on the Arts to bring marionette puppetry to a new generation.
It’s just kind of magical. The founder took out one of the puppets to demonstrate. He set its legs on the stage, moved the paddle slightly, and before my eyes, the puppet came to life in ways that exceeded my expectations. It’s limbs moved in realistic ways, it took on a personality. Suddenly, the thought of Pinocchio coming to life (as he does in the storybook and Disney movie) made me smile. I stood there like a kid, open-mouthed, saying simply, “wow!”
Skill. The puppets themselves are beautiful, but without the puppeteer, they just look like dolls. It’s amazing to me that with a paddle and strings, the puppeteer can make these objects transform so much. The puppets are carved out of solid wood, so they are a bit heavy to work for an hour long show. The puppeteer’s required coordination and imagination are pretty impressive. After the show, my seven-year old daughter got an opportunity to try it out herself. She loved it!
Engaging the audience. Much to the delight of the kids, the puppeteer brought the marionettes into the audience during the show. Kids of various ages (and their parents) were smiling, laughing, and practically reaching out to touch them. Today, there are endless options for screen-based entertainment, but this was a reminder that live entertainment is always a little more special.
For all these reasons, Le Theatre de Marionette is creating something unique and worth supporting. Seek them out this holiday season if you get the chance, and check their calendar for performances throughout the year!