2018-07-07 / News

Library To Host ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Marionette Show July 12

By Marley Tucker


At left: During the story of marionette performance “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy meets the Tin Woodman, who wants a heart on her journey to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City, all while evading the Wicked Witch of the West. (Photograph courtesy of Dan Raynor) At left: During the story of marionette performance “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy meets the Tin Woodman, who wants a heart on her journey to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City, all while evading the Wicked Witch of the West. (Photograph courtesy of Dan Raynor) Mackinac Island Public Library will host “The Wizard of Oz” marionette show, performed by Stevens Puppets, Thursday, July 12. This will be the sixth time the library has hosted the program.

The puppetry company tours the world with fully staged marionette productions of classic literature and fairy tales for children of all ages. It aims to provide cultural literacy and enrichment for children.

“One of the key reasons I do this, at least, is to see children smile,” said owner Dan Raynor. “It makes my job so much brighter. Also, I think that it’s important that kids today can gain the cultural enrichment our shows provide. Puppetry is something that a lot of people don’t see anymore, and we want people to laugh as much as possible with joy.”

Stevens Puppets were established in 1933 in Middlebury, Indiana, by Martin and Olga Stevens. A Peabody Award winner, Mr. Stevens was a leading American puppeteer and founder of the Puppeteers of America. With his wife, Margi, he created marionette shows with designs that have influenced generations of puppeteers in America. With the slogan of “bringing fairy tales and literature to life,” audiences have been enjoying

Stevens Puppets for 85 years.

Mr. Raynor and his wife, Zan, have been with Stevens Puppets for more than 20 years. Mr. Raynor has taught theatre at the Northwest Arkansas Academy of Fine Arts and performed with and directed musicians like Neil Young and Huey Lewis. In addition to performing on stage as an actor and dancer, Zan Raynor has directed high school and college theatre programs, as well as designing lights, costumes, and choreography for numerous theatre companies in the Midwest and Northeast.

With a company of around eight to 10 performers, they divide their time between studio artwork, both original and restoration, training other performing artists, managing tours, and performing at schools, libraries, festivals, and fairs.

In addition to interpreting classic fairy tales as they were originally intended during performances, Mr. Raynor says his company wants to make audiences forget they are watching puppets and get respite from the world during their shows.

The puppet shows feature handcarved wooden marionettes in front of painted scenery and sets. The puppets become animated in their miniature worlds through the artistry of their handlers. The pup- peteers are rigorously trained and preform their shows consistently throughout the year on a rotating basis to keep their skills fresh.

The original puppets crafted by Mr. Martin and his wife, Margi, have been restored by the Raynors to preserve their legacy and continue the tradition of their predecessors. They also create new productions of classic stories with hand-carved characters. The company is currently in the process of creating a new show that will hopefully debut this winter, says Mr. Raynor. Mrs. Raynor is carving the new puppets this summer for a rendition of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” They have previously completed restorations of the marionette shows “The Sleeping Beauty,” Rumplestiltskin,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Aladdin,” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

“A lot of credit should go to my wife. She does so much work to lovingly restore these pieces, and her talent for art shines through in every production,” said Mr. Raynor. “We love coming to the Island every year, and this season is no exception. The response that we have gotten is only improving and overwhelmingly positive, especially with the children.”

In their visit in 2017 to the public library, around 100 people attended their performance. They hope more will visit to experience the featured production this year.

Mr. Stevens created “The Wizard of Oz” marionette show in 1966. It closely follows both the book and movie versions.

The July 12 performance here will begin at the public library at 2 p.m. and a puppet demonstration will immediately follow. The event is free and appropriate for all ages.

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