Humans have been making, performing with, and enjoying puppets since the days of ancient Greece. In Iowa, this art form continues to thrive with a number of practicing puppeteers writing shows and giving performances throughout the state.
On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Monica Leo, lead puppeteer and Managing Director of Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre in West Liberty, and puppeteers Kevin and Amy Coble of Jester Puppets in Des Moines, about the continuing impact of puppet theater in Iowa. Richard Leet, retired Founding Director of the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum, also joins the conversation to talk about the famous puppeteer from Mason City: Bil Baird
The legacy of Iowa’s puppeteers might be traced back to Bil Baird, a puppeteer who grew up in Mason City, traveled the world, and performed for millions. His most famous work was the Lonely Goatherd puppet show in the film version of The Sound of Music. Leet tells us about his experience working with Baird to display his puppets at The MacNider Art Museum in Mason City, which owns the largest collection of Bil Baird marionettes and hand puppets, including those used in The Sound of Music.
Today, Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre and Jester Puppets continue to give performances to fans of all ages. Eulenspiegel performs traditional folktales as well as historical shows that Leo writes herself, and Jester Puppets specializes in original shows for summer reading programs that incorporate anti-bullying messages.