Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Puppets With Papa

Back in April 2006, my son, Michael, and I went to Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville to catch a rising star. Jeff Dunham was gaining popularity due to a popular Comedy Central special. Although he had not yet jettisoned into the world wide stardom he has now; the club was packed.   

It was on that night that I decided to seriously consider doing something I hadn't done in over 30 years: be a ventriloquist. 

I dabbled in ventriloquism when I was a teenager and was really fascinated by it. But then I discovered that there was a segment of the population not very interested in a 15 year old guy publicly pretending to hold a conversation with an overgrown stuffed animal. That would be teenage girls. Thus my interest in becoming the next Edgar Bergen or Paul Winchell ended almost before it got started.   

Then in July 2006, I attended the Vent Haven ventriloquist convention in Fort Mitchell, KY. I actually met Jeff Duham

along with some other very talented entertainers. After spending time with them, I was hooked once again on being a "vent."

The day after I got home from the convention I performed my first ventriloquist skit in church as part of the weekly Children's Sermon. 

And that's how I started ventrilquism again after 40 years. 

For the next decade or so I would grow my galaxy of puppet stars and ventriloquist props. I would use them to teach and entertain the kids at my church and in my community.  

Six years later, April 2012, I became a grandfather. Among the many things I looked forward to with my grand daughter was introducing her to my many puppet characters.

Ever since my Aria was a toddler, I've been trying to entertain her with my puppets. I even bought her puppets of her own. Including a turtle and a rabbit. She just never seemed to be interested.

She has loved and carried around many stuffed animal friends but puppets just never seemed to connect with her. 

But within the last month or so that has changed and it came about in a most unusual way. 

Back in May, I collected the first series of Lego's Disney mini-figures. 

While Aria has always enjoyed playing with the mini-figures I collect this Disney series was especially compelling for her. Among her favorites were these two. 
 She is familiar with these characters from both Disney's 1953 classic, Peter Pan and one of her favorite Disney kids shows, Jake & The Neverland Pirates. 

While playing with her in her imaginary world made up of Lego houses, Scooby Doo & Disney mini-figures, and Play Doh, I started talking about the crocodile from the film. I knew I had a crocodile among my puppet menagerie, so I got it out to include it in our play. 

I gave the puppet a voice and the Aria's friend "Tick Tock Crock" was born. 

My grand daughter and Tick-Tock quickly became the best of friends. She wanted him around nearly every second she was playing. Of course her Papa had to be around too. 
Realizing that Aria had changed her feelings about puppets (at least the crock) I figured it was about time to reintroduce her to my turtle friend, Cecil. And now the four of us are play time buddies. 
 Recently, I have been selling off some of my ventriloquist puppets and props with the idea of really cutting back on or giving up ventriloquism all together.

But now that I have made a connection with Aria this way, I may have to rethink that. I'll just have to see how things work out. 

Anyway, having a voice in my grand daughter's new pretend friendships makes me very happy. 

As Tick Tock Crock or Cecil, she lets me into her world in a way she never has before. I can't tell you how thrilled that makes me. 

I'm sure she's in on the "joke" of pretending too. Although she enjoys having fun the puppets; I'd like to think it's cause it includes her Papa. 

If nothing else, I'm counting on our little land of make believe creating memories that last a lifetime, her lifetime. 

Papa & Puppets
Yankees & Baseball

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