‘The Fairy Circus’ by Tanglewood Marionettes: A look into trick puppetry

If you missed the chance to attend “The Fairy Circus,” make sure to check out “Sir George and the Dragon” by Pumpernickel Puppets on Oct. 27. (Hanaisha Lewis/The Daily Campus)

Tanglewood Marionettes performed “The Fairy Circus” at the Ballard Saturday to an excited audience of puppetry majors and toddlers. The impressive multi-puppet performance was conducted by puppeteer Peter Schaefer alone, and was designed by his wife and partner Anne Ware. It kept the audience entertained and laughing the entire time.

“I loved how he was able to do everything by himself, I know as a puppetry major that that’s hard,” Esme Rose, a fifth-semester puppetry student, said.

Schaefer began the show by introducing different types of puppets. He began by pulling a glove on his hand and doing a cute skit where he tried to put a nail-studded nose onto the poor puppet’s head. This served both to make the kids in the audience giggle and to teach them about “glove puppets” and show them how they can use creativity to make even the simplest things into toys.

Next, he brought out a “mouth puppet,” which appeared to be an orange fluffy tube with a face. Schaefer fought with this puppet for five minutes, trying to get him to open his mouth, and of course only succeeded in getting his nose bit. The kids and college students alike thought it was a riot. Lastly, he introduced the marionette, which would be the type of puppet comprising the rest of his show.

Puppetry graduate student Rob Cutler said that he thought “the mechanics of the puppets” was the most interesting part of the show.

The actual show consisted of impressive music changes, lighting and complex puppets. It was introduced from the perspective of a small child discovering a fairy circus in the woods, and was thus brought to the level of many of the audience members.

The marionettes used were almost magical, performing seemingly impossible feats of trick puppetry. One puppet juggled, another was able to toss a ball onto their nose and another rode a unicycle.

There were puppets that could change from plants into humans before your eyes, as well as ones that could fly and squirt water at the audience. All of these tricks were done by one man, a mind-boggling number of strings and sometimes another puppet on the stage.

“I really liked the mushroom guy and the flower girl,” Rose said.

The entire experience was incredibly interactive, with one puppet even crawling on the backs of half the audience members. At the end Schaefer asked if there were any questions regarding how his puppets worked, and even the tiniest kids were happy to say their favorite puppet and ask how the flower turned into the princess or how the water squirted out of the flower. They all seemed to have a lot of fun watching the show and learning about the puppets.

If you missed the chance to attend “The Fairy Circus,” make sure to check out “Sir George and the Dragon” by Pumpernickel Puppets on Oct. 27. If not, just take a visit and see all of the complex puppets and puppetry history the Ballard has to offer. It’s a great way to get in touch with one of the more unique programs UConn has to offer.


Rebecca Maher is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rebecca.l.maher@uconn.edu.