Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

Five Questions with the Center for Puppetry Arts

Atlanta, Georgia

Scene from Cinderella Della Circus, playing through July 16. Image courtesy of the Center for Puppetry Arts.

There are certain childhood loves that we never seem to outgrow. Kermit the Frog is one of them. Miss Piggy is another. And yes, even the cranky moods of Oscar the Grouch remain incredibly endearing. While the Muppets are in a class all their own, the wider world of puppets is no less enthralling, enchanting, and winsome---both for adults and children. At the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, the wonders of marionettes, rod puppets, hand puppets, shadow puppets, Muppets, and more are celebrated through a museum collection, educational workshops, and performances, including the current Cinderella Della Circus, which plays through July 16. We spoke with exhibit curator Jeremy Underwood to learn more about this magical destination.

NEA: In your opinion, what makes the Center for Puppetry Arts unique?

JEREMY UNDERWOOD: The Center for Puppetry Arts is a unique arts organization because we offer three forms of programming: educational workshops, award-winning puppet shows, and outstanding museum exhibitions. There’s absolutely nothing like the Center for Puppetry Arts in the nation and possibly the world. The Center offers programming for adults and children. Anyone can find something they’re interested at the Center.

NEA: What do you think it is about puppets that people find so captivating?

UNDERWOOD: The desire to  suspend disbelief when the inanimate becomes animated seems to be a universally held human trait. As children, we create life in dolls, toy soldiers, even everyday objects. As adults, we build puppets or robots, attribute personalities to the things around us, or animate still images. Dull puppetry evokes contempt, because it doesn't satisfy that desire to suspend disbelief; good puppetry, where objects convincingly take on individualized personalities, creates wonder---or in some cases, the thrill of fear.

Scene from a past performance of Charlotte's Web. Photo by Bill Jones © 2010 Center for Puppetry Arts

NEA: Can you tell us a bit about what visitors might find in the collection?

UNDERWOOD: The Center’s museum exhibitions display puppets from all over the world. Almost every culture in the world has some form of puppetry, most of which are on display at the Center. We also offer temporary exhibitions of Jim Henson’s family collection. This collection contains some of Henson’s most famous puppets, like Big Bird and Kermit the Frog.

NEA: What is your favorite part of the museum?

UNDERWOOD: My favorite puppet in our exhibitions has to be Rowlf the Dog. I grew up with The Muppet Show, and Rowlf really holds a special place in my heart. It was a wonderful experience to put the puppet on display.

NEA: Can you tell us about the different programs you have for different age groups?

UNDERWOOD: The Center offers two types of performances: our Family Series is perfect for ages 4 and up, while our New Directions Series is more suited for teens and adults. We also offer films, workshops, and classes in addition to tours of our museum. There’s truly something for everyone at the Center for Puppetry Arts.

Center for Puppetry Arts
1404 Spring Street NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30309

Please visit the Blue Star Museum website for more information about the program and to find participating museums.

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