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Blue Sky Puppet Theatre

Last week I stepped into a living fairytale.

Or that’s what it felt like when I went to a house in University Park, Maryland that resembled an illustration for a children’s story.

In my mind this is how the tale started.

"Once upon a time there was a cottage on the edge of a big city that was made out of decorated gingerbread.  It belonged to a puppet maker and his wife.  Ten years before, the puppet maker discovered he was a wonderful painter and his vibrant artwork was now displayed throughout the house. 

People were amazed when they saw the paintings because they were so beautiful!

The puppet maker had a mobile puppet theater and he went round to schools and libraries, churches and country clubs putting on shows.  His theater became so successful that he hired other people and formed teams so that he could reach more children.  He loved his job because he really enjoyed making children happy. 

In his spare time the puppet maker created a giant xylophone made out of recycled materials that sat in his garden so that the neighborhood kids could come and make music. He and his wife loved to hear the children laughing and creating new songs right outside their kitchen window…."

 Do you see what I mean?  It sounds like the beginning of fairytale – but it happens to be true.

I met Michael Cotter, puppet maker and owner of Blue Sky Puppet Theater and his wife Judith at SpeakeasyDC, the storytelling club that I love in Washington DC. 

He very kindly offered to pass on his knowledge of the business side of an arts venture both to me and to author and fellow storyteller Julie Kraut , who is also a SpeakeasyDC regular.

I had seen one of Michael’s productions on a hot July day under a tent at the back of Strathmore Mansion.  It was the “Barker of Seville”, and I had been entranced by the creativity of the show and the enchantment on the face of the children in the audience. 

So I was delighted to take up his offer of an intense learning experience at his University Park home. Over the almost three hour seminar Michael poured out the lessons and secrets he had gleaned from twenty five years of running his puppet business that has been successful enough to provide a comfortable living for his family and to put three children through college.

In a nutshell the information mirrored the story of the rich Greek farmer who on his death bed passed on the secret of his great success to his sons.  “Every day you must walk over the land because the owner’s eyes must see everything.” 

For a puppet master, and a storyteller, that translates to - balance the creative side with the business side.  If one is to thrive they both must thrive.

By the end of the session I was enormously impressed with the professionalism, precision and creativity that Michael uses in running his puppet empire.  All the shows are primarily excellent entertainment as well as being a first class educational tool. 

And  they are fun!

The company travels regularly to a two hour circumference around University Park (which is near Washington DC) and goes further on request.  So if you need a fabulous puppet show, contact Blue Sky Puppet Theater.

 I left with facts, figures and strategies swirling around my head and encouragement warming my heart. 

What a gift!

Thank you Michael for so generously passing on your knowledge!

I was proud of myself when leaving the house for two reasons.

  • I successfully resisted the urge to bang on the outdoor xylophone.
  • I didn’t break off a gingerbread shingle and nibble on it all the way back to Frederick.

 I’m saving both those pleasures for my next visit!





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Reader Comments (3)

Love it. Shifting a seminar into a magic experience. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all education took place the same way!

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllouise Schoettler

That sounds really neat!

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

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December 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterenebda enebda

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