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Squatchin’ with Coleman the Sasquatch comic strip

I am very happy to share with you the first installment of Squatchin’ with Coleman the Sasquatch.  The idea for a comic featuring the Wump Mucket Puppets characters has been floating around my brain for some time.  Several years ago I printed a mini-comic to give-away at one of our performances on Free Comic Book Day at Maverick’s Comics & Cards in Cincinnati, Ohio.

<<<CLICK ON THE COMIC TO READ IT LARGER

A Comic about Puppets?

Comics and cartoons have been an interest of mine probably as long as puppets!   I read many comics online, and often check out collections from the Public Library of Cincinnati.  It made total sense to me to draw and write a comic strip featuring the puppet characters that  I have been performing for so many years.  Why not let them explore a comic strip as well as a puppet stage?  I feel that the two art forms have several similarities in storytelling.  

What’s a Squatch?

As someone who is very interest with Sasquatch, Sea Serpents, aliens, and other mysteries I found it amusing that there are SO MANY different names for this “undiscovered” ape species.  Why not have Coleman question it?  I imagine that Coleman would have a large pile of well-read comics in his cave.  Maybe I will have him address this in a future strip?  As in puppetry, anything is possible in a comic strip!

Comics and Me

Some of my earliest memories are of my parents reading the Sunday comics, or as we called them The Funnies, to my sisters and brothers when we were young children.  I tried to continue this practice with my children when they were younger.  Some of my favorite comic strips over the years include Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, Pogo by Walt Kelly, Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson, and more recently Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley.

Let me know what you think of the comic by leaving a comment on the Wump Mucket Puppets Facebook page.  Tell me about some of your favorite comics while you are there.  Thanks for reading the comic strip!  There is MORE FUN to come in 2019!!!

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Wump Mucket Puppets by Terrence Burke - 1M ago
Merry Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas to all of our fans, clients, and media friends.  2018 has been another fantastic year for Wump Mucket Puppets,  I appreciate everyone who has been a part of it.  I have asked Coleman the Sasquatch to help me make this short Christmas video, and hope that you enjoy watching it on our YouTube channel. Please subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss any of the videos that are coming in the new year.

Wump Mucket Puppets Christmas Greeting 2018 - YouTube

Free Holiday Coloring Page

Here’s a brand new holiday-themed coloring page that can be printed out and colored over the Christmas holiday break.  I would love to see the finished colored pages shared on the Official Wump Mucket Puppets Facebook page.  Please like the page while you are there.  Here’s the coloring page featuring three of our “Frozen Follies” puppet stars; Space Princess G’Wizzl, Coleman the Sasquatch, and Santa Claus too!  Click on the picture for the PDF download:

If you enjoy coloring in our puppets, print out the many coloring pages that Wump Mucket Puppets have offered over the years.  Just visit the Coloring Page section of our website:  CLICK HERE

Don’t forget to share them on social media so we can enjoy your wonderful artwork! Wump Mucket Puppets can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Pinterest!

Christmas and puppets  

Christmas and puppets have always seemed to fit together rather well in my life.  As a young boy, I found puppets or puppetry books under the Christmas tree several times. 

Terrence Burke with his elephant puppet Christmas Day 1974. Ballardvale, MA

Some of these gifts have stayed with me to this day, while others have been lost to time.  This photo of myself was from 1974, or at least I guess it is.  It is an elephant hand puppet that Santa Claus had brought me.  I love elephants almost as much as puppets, of course, Santa knew this!   I wish that this little puppet stayed with me, so I could have shared it with my children.  Perhaps I should build one in the future?

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and a fabulous New Years.  Wump Mucket Puppets have several exciting productions planned for 2019 and hope that you will come to see them.

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Frozen Follies at the Kentucky Science Center

Happy Holidays to all!  We are very pleased to share that the Wump Mucket Puppets will be ringing in 2019 at the Kentucky Science Center Noon Year’s Celebration.  This family event includes many great activities for children, there will even be a puppet building station near our performance area!

The event is held on Monday, December 31, 2018, and again on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.  We take to the stage with our Christmas themed puppet show Frozen Follies show at 1 PM on both days.  Ticket information is available here: https://kysciencecenter.org/visit/

We are thrilled to be bringing our one of a kind puppet show to Louisville, Kentucky, and hope to see you there to watch the ball drop at 12 Noon.

What Will The Puppets Be Up To?

Frozen Follies includes two Christmas themed stories, which includes The Many Names of Santa Claus, featuring Space Princess G’Wizzl and Santa himself.  In this story, our cast makes stops around the world as G’Wizzl learns about different Christmastime customs in several countries.  G’Wizzl will even sing a little song about her fantastic adventure with Santa!  Later in the show, we will perform The Great Marshmallow Harvest.  In this tale, Coleman the Sasquatch discovers what he thinks are “puffy white tumbleweeds” blowing around his family’s farm.  What can they be?

Unka Unka the Caveman and his pal Kitty will be trying to build a snowman on the puppet stage.   They also share a few wintertime safety tips to help children and families have a safer time while playing outside in Winter.  Will Unka be able to build the snowman?    Be sure to join us in a singalong of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” too! 

After the puppet show we will be available to meet and greet with the audience, and have FREE coloring pages and stickers for everyone!

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Hope you had a Happy Halloween

I certainly had a very Happy Halloween as I performed The Kooky Spooky Halloween Show around Great Cincinnati in October.  The Wump Mucket Puppets even traveled to Columbus, Indiana to perform at the Bartholomew County Public Library to a FULL HOUSE!  It is certainly a thrill as a puppeteer to be on stage for a large audience.

Here are some photos and memories to share with you from the puppet shows that I had the pleasure of bringing to children this past month.  I wish to thank all the venues that booked The Kooky Spooky Halloween Show.  An extra special “BOO!” to all the kids who came to see me and the puppets.

 

Merlin Soars!

Merlin the Bat puppet is a new addition to the Halloween show.  I didn’t feel that the skit that started the show was being understood by my audience.  Maybe puppets pretending to be on a cooking game show was a little bit abstract.  Adding the new “BAT-tastic” segment did the trick and Merlin has already begun to gain fans of all ages.  I saw many great bat dancers in October!

Downtown Witch Willie

What a thrill it was for me to perform at the Public Library of Cincinnati’s Main Library located in Downtown Cincinnati.  While this may not seem such a big deal to some, it matters very much to me.  The children and families who came to see my show at the library’s HallowREAD had a great time.  Certainly, that’s what matters the most.  I look forward to performing at the Main Library in the near future.  Witch Willie wants to find a copy of Space Witch by Don Freeman to read.

Puppets ROCK at WordPlay Cincy

For most of October, I was leading a Saturday morning puppetry workshop for children at the Northside language arts center WordPlay Cincy.  I am very grateful to the staff for asking me to participate in the workshop.  The kids were great to work with.  I am very excited to stop by in a few weeks to watch their finished puppet shows.

Now November is here.  The Kooky Spooky Halloween cast is tucked into their bags in a trunk, waiting to bring a Happy Halloween to new audiences in 2019.

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Wump Mucket Puppets by Terrence Burke - 4M ago
Caroll Spinney retires

Caroll Spinney retires.  This news broke yesterday that after nearly 50 years, Caroll Spinney is retiring from Sesame Street.  This may be one of the longest gigs for a puppeteer.  Today he will record his final voice session that will be used in the upcoming season of the television program.  It is a retirement that is very well deserved.

My encounters with Caroll

Everyone has their favorite Muppets and favorite puppeteers who performed them over the years on Sesame Street.  Some love the antics of Ernie and Bert as performed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, while others love Jerry Nelson’s, Count von Count.  For me, it was always Oscar the Grouch.   I watched Sesame Street on November 10, 1969.  I was almost five years old and remember it well.  He was an amber-orange color back then, which may be one of the reasons that my eyes were drawn to this cantankerous creature.  Orange is my favorite color.  Enjoy this video of Oscar’s debut on Sesame Street.

During this time in my life, my father was a radio announcer and would play Oscar’s signature song “I Love Trash” for me on the radio now and then.  My dad even brought me to a puppetry convention in Boston in 1970.   There we met both the orange Oscar and the bearded man from Waltham, Massachusetts who made him talk.  That man is Caroll Spinney of course.  I do not recall ever having a photograph of that magic moment of my childhood.  I did have an autograph for many years, that has been lost, unfortunately.   

Jumping ahead several decades.   Puppetry is back in my creative life.  I am a father of a little girl who loves to watch Sesame Street with her daddy.  One of Eleanor’s early baby words was “Bau Bau”, which was how she first said Big Bird.  A few years later my son Tiernan was born.  What was his favorite DVD to watch every single day?  “Follow That Bird” of course!  I have very happy memories of my children enjoying Sesame Street with me.

Encouragement from The Grouch

I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet Caroll when he was visiting the Cincinnati area.  There’s a fun story about this can be read in my blog.  We also exchanged letters several times.  Caroll has always been very kind and encouraged me to be a puppeteer.  For someone of his celebrity to take the time to write back to a longtime fan means a lot to me.   

Thank you Caroll.  You have given the children of the world so much love through your characters and inspired several puppeteers too.  I wish you nothing but the best.

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Wump Mucket Puppets by Terrence Burke - 4M ago
Happy Burr-thday Remembering Burr Tillstrom on his birthday

Burr Tillstrom.  While his name is sadly not as well know in the 21st Century, Chicago puppeteer Burr Tillstrom certainly left his stamp on puppetry.  His work entertained and inspired many of his fans, myself included. 

It is possible that I may be among his younger group of fans who enjoyed watching Kukla, Fran, and Ollie host the CBS Children’s Film Festival on Saturday mornings in the late 1960s and 1970s.  Back then I had no idea that the clown and dragon puppets were superstars of early television.  I remember wishing that they had more screen time, beyond introducing the films shown during the program.  It was the personalities of the characters that I loved,  My memory is sometimes foggy, I do recall mixing up the names of the puppets.  Shame on my younger self! 

Rediscovering Burr’s work

When puppetry found it’s way back into my life in 2001, I made it a point to watch and read about the puppeteers who’s work that I enjoyed as a boy.  Sure there were plenty of videos and books available of Jim Henson and the Muppets and a bit about Fred Rogers’ puppet characters.  Yet there was very little recorded work of Burr Tillstom’s available.  How terrible! 

As digital media and the internet’s ability expanded, I would encounter video clips of Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.  The feeling was wonderful and similar to that of finding old family movies made before you were born, you knew who the people (or puppets) were, but had no actual memory of them.  It was “new” KFO, well at least new to me.  Then in 2010, the same year that I began to perform in public, the first volume of official Kukla, Fran, and Ollie was released on DVD!  Watch this fun clip on the official Kukla, Fran, and Ollie YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/LwjYb5xhGuU

Inspired by Burr

As an adult, I ask myself what was it that caught my eye as a child watching Burr Tillstrom perform his characters?  Was it their appearance?  Their voices?  Maybe it was their personalities?  Giving this some thought, I think that it must be all of these, otherwise, I would have lost interest.  If you analyze Tillstom’s actual puppeteering skills, it’s not very flashy.  There were no stage effects and very few props.  Some may get hung up on this.  However, if you take into consideration that he performed nearly two dozen different characters, live and solo, it gives the viewer a fresh appreciation for his skills. 

Watching the program as an adult, I am drawn in by each character’s unique voice and personality.  These puppets appear to have souls, which for me is the crowning achievement of Burr Tillstrom.  He gave his puppets heart by sharing a bit of his with his audience.  In return they adored him.  What more can a puppeteer ask for?  His work continues to inspire and entertain me to this day.  Happy Birthday, Burr.   

Want to learn more about Burr Tillstrom?  Visit the fantastic kukla.tv website

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Wump Mucket Puppets by Terrence Burke - 4M ago
Welcome Merlin the Bat

We are very happy to welcome Merlin the Bat to our cast of puppet stars.  His name is inspired by both the author/bat conservationist Merlin Tuttle, and the famous wizard Merlin from the legend of King Arthur. 

The idea for the puppet started in the summer when I felt that the Halloween show needed a new opening story.  My wife Lara made the suggestion that I write something that would help children understand bats better, as I had done for bees in our “Bee Happy” show.  What a great idea!  It tied in with the Halloween theme since bats are often associated with the holiday, and it would give me the opportunity to help children and their families learn more about these amazing flying mammals. 

Learning About Bats

To learn more about bats I researched a number of books that I found at the public library.  I was very pleased to find many available for both kids and adults.  As an extra special learning opportunity, a neighbor of ours brought two big brown bats to our home for me and my family to see up close, photograph, and meet.  Being able to see the bats like this was a very cool experience. Thanks, Anita, Eddie, and Bruce! 

Building Merlin the Bat

Building the Merlin puppet took me about two to three weeks.  On this puppet, I did not use a pattern but used this drawing that Lara made as a reference for the puppet.  It was a conscious decision to make the puppet appear to be cute, so it would not frighten children who see it on the puppet stage.  I think that real bats are cute in their own way and hope that kids will agree with me.  This puppet was built in three separate sections; the head, the neck tube, and the outer body.  While I did encounter a few obstacles in the building process, which were probably brought on by not using a pattern, I am very pleased with the finished puppet.   Visit the Wump Mucket Puppets Instagram page to see more photos and videos of Merlin through the building process.

Please come to see Merlin and his co-stars in The Kooky Spooky Halloween Show this October.  Here is the schedule of upcoming shows:  Schedule Page

Here are a few helpful links to learn more about bats:
Bat Conservation International
Bat Conservation and Management
Bat Conservation Trust UK based
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Wump Mucket Puppets by Terrence Burke - 5M ago
WordPlay Puppetry Workshop.  Sharing my knowledge with children

Today I began a new chapter in my adventure in puppetry by sharing my knowledge with children who are taking the WordPlay Puppetry Workshop this Autumn.  I am teaching the first four weeks out of the eight-week program. 

My focus this morning was to give the kids a 90-minute overview of puppetry. To begin, we talked about what a puppet is, and what it may be used for.  The children all had great ideas and enjoyed the puppet head that I used as an example.  I followed this by sharing some world puppetry history by talking about the many different styles of puppets and showing them several of the international puppets that I have acquired over the years.   

Next, I had the children use Sesame Street toy puppets that were played with by my two kids when they were younger.  I felt that by using a character that they were familiar with to ignite their imagination to create a character of their own design.  From here we talked about using our voices to help bring the puppet to life for the audience, and the importance of not hurting our voices in the process.  When the kids each tried making up new voices, we stretched out feet and talked about how to hold a puppet when performing, and the importance of making sure that the puppets eyes and head were properly pointed in the right direction, and not staring into space or looking at the floor.  With this completed, we tried a bit of improv and singing a little bit.  Throughout the morning I used a few of my own puppet characters to “help” me demonstrate what I was teaching the sic children enrolled in the class.  I finished with having Coleman the Sasquatch sing my song “Things That I Dream”, which is about bedtime stories. 

This opportunity to share what I have learned about puppetry with children at the WordPlay Puppetry Workshop is very special to me.  It takes me back to the early 1970s when I was a young boy who was madly in love with puppets.  My parents had enrolled me in a puppetry class at the Andover, Massachusetts YMCA.  I was a bit outspoken as a boy and practically took over the class by writing what would become my first puppet story, “Snowy Baby and the Seven Hippies”.   It’s funny how this part of my life has turned out.

Later in the day, I saw the mother of a boy who is in the workshop.  She shared with me that he asked her where he could find an old sock, so he could make a puppet.  That is nothing short of wonderful. 

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Wump Mucket Puppets by Terrence Burke - 5M ago

Today would have been Jim Henson’s 82nd birthday.  Like many of my fellow puppeteers, his work caught my eye as a child and helped inspire me to achieve my dream to create and perform my own puppet characters to share with children and families.

Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending. -Jim Henson

When I was growing up all of the puppetry that I enjoyed was on television.  That’s right, at this point in my life, I had not experienced seeing live puppet shows.  I am not sure if my parents were aware of any local puppet shows being performed.  In fairness, they certainly had their hands full raising five children, and it would have been difficult for them to shuffle us all into Boston to see one.  Fortunately, my Mum and Dad were very aware of my childhood obsession with puppets.   In the 1960s there were several great TV shows that featured puppets that they would tune in for me, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Captain Kangaroo and on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street hit the public television airwaves of America. 

I loved the program from the very second that my almost-five-year-old eyes saw it.   Being an inquisitive child, I asked my folks about the puppets that were featured on this groundbreaking program.  How were they made?  Who made them?  How do they create the puppet’s voices?  What is a puppeteer?  Can I be a puppeteer?  I am sure that they did their best to answer my endless questions.  Around that same time, my father read in the newspaper that the creator of the Sesame Street puppets, or Muppets as they were called, was going to be on TV to give a behind-the-scenes look at how his Muppets were made.

Please enjoy this video on YouTube of Jim Henson on Making Muppets from 1969:

Jim Henson on Making Muppets 1969 - YouTube

I still remember seeing this program, trying to soak in everything that was shown.  A little while later, while attending kindergarten at South Elementary School, I brought a puppet that I “made” after watching the program for show and tell.  It was nothing more than an old green sock pulled over a soap strainer, that I would squeeze to open and close the mouth.  I was very happy to perform this puppet for my classmates, telling them that it was a green frog.  Sound familiar to you?

Thank you, Jim Henson, for inspiring so many future puppeteers.   Your legacy lives on.

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FREE Puppetry workshop for kids

I am pleased to share that I will be co-teaching a FREE puppetry workshop for kids ages 5-8 this Autumn at WordPlay Cincinnati.  The workshop begins on Saturday, September 29, 2018, at WordPlay 4041 Hamilton Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45223.

Puppets Telling Stories will meet from 10 – 11:30 AM on Saturday mornings and is open to the public.  Joining me will be teacher/actress/singer Spring Starr PillowClick here to register your child

WordPLay is a wonderful resource that my daughter and son have enjoyed visiting over the years.  I am looking forward to working with many future puppeteers.  For additional information contact WordPlay at 513-541-0930 or info@wordplaycincy.org

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