Independence, MO Part II: Puppetry Arts Institute
Lee's Summit, MO
Margery came up with a rather unusual sightseeing attraction for our next stop. After we left the Frontier Trails Museum, we drove several blocks down the street to the Puppetry Arts Institute.
The institute teaches puppet making and puppetry. They also have a puppet museum that Margery was interested in seeing since our daughter, Lora, was involved in a puppet ministry at our church when she was in grade school.
Hazelle Rollins was a Kansas City puppeteer who began manufacturing marionettes in 1932 in the midst of the Depression. Her business grew, and her puppets became very popular. She had several patents relating to marionettes including one for the mouth mechanism, one for the control to which the strings are attached (called the "airplane"), and one for foot movement. Hazelle had over 300 original character designs. In the 1960s, Hazelle, Inc. was the largest manufacturer of marionettes in the world.
Hazelle Rollins retired in 1975 and sold the company. She died in 1984.
Some of the remaining inventory of Hazelle, Inc., was acquired by the Puppetry Guild of Greater Kansas City, which eventually established the Puppetry Arts Institute. The institute now displays the puppets in their museum. That's Hazelle in the photo.
In the 1950s, Hazelle began producing hand puppets in addition to her marionettes.
Along with the Hazelle puppets, there are quite a few others on display including this one of Harry Truman. Of course, Independence was Harry Truman's home, and it is the location of his presidential museum. When the creator of the puppet was unable to find artifical hair that he liked, he used his own.
Nunsense was a popular off-Broadway play. The museum had a number of puppets representing characters in the play. It was interesting to see the different personalities of these Muppet-style puppets. These puppets have been rented for performances all over the world.
There were also quite a few examples of finger puppets.
The lady who gave us the tour of the museum has traveled worldwide, and many puppets she had collected in her travels were on display in the museum. The photo below shows some Punch and Judy characters.
The puppet below is from Taiwan...
...and the dragon is from China.
Margery had a good time with one of the puppets that were available for visitors to try. Look at the child-like exuberance on her face.
The photo below shows a group of puppets in various stages of completion with a completed one the right. You can see how the frame starts out with flat pieces of wood. Padding is added, then the clothes are put on.
The Puppetry Arts Institute isn't a major attraction and wasn't one that Paul was particularly enthusiastic about visiting. However, we do some of the things we do even if only one of us is interested. The other then usually finds it's better than they thought. We both had fun seeing the different types and styles of puppets. Visitors to the museum also have the option of making their own puppet. The institute does birthday parties, too. Wouldn't that be fun!
It seems with all the high-tech toys available to kids today that they are not challenged to develop their imagination. It was heart-warming to see how puppetry sparks the imagination and that there is still an interest in challenging young people.
We had a couple of days to relax before heading to our next destination of Sioux Falls, SD where we will be staying only a few days to get our driver licenses renewed. We'll have a report on our travels in our next post.