By Kristopher Monroe/SMN
Who doesn’t love puppets? Only the grouchiest of grouches can deny the plushy appeal of puppetry and the excitement of seeing outlandish creatures and characters brought to life by their makers and manipulators.
Master puppet maker Angela Beasley has been a professional puppeteer for 40 years and is the director of the nationally acclaimed Savannah-based puppet company, Angela Beasley’s Puppet People. Beasley has two puppet shows and puppet-making workshops coming up at the Tybee Post Theater, June 14 and June 28!
Beginning June 9, a retrospective of 45 years of Beasley’s kaleidoscopic creations will be on display at the city of Savannah’s Cultural Arts Gallery through the end of July. The exhibition will include small, hand-and-rod papier-maché puppets and marionettes, as well as life-size mannequins, mascots and parade puppets.
Beasley’s fabulous fabrications have appeared all around the southeast, as well as at the 1996 Summer Olympics ceremony in Savannah and the Con Ojos De Niños Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As she explains, stage fright in a second-grade school play made her realize early on that she never wanted to be an actress.
“But having your say while hiding behind a puppet and getting to be whimsical, campy, dramatic and make people laugh, too … Whoa!” exclaims Beasley. “How much mischief and fun is a shy person allowed in public?”
Beasley says she found her passion early in life and never looked back.
“Roddy and I had our children when we were very young,” she says. “While he worked and finished college, I immersed myself in the sweet, safe and magical world of children. So when puppetry became a hobby, it dovetailed into all of our lives. My children were my first inspiration — my husband and family were our loyal fans.
“I had never seen a live puppet show, but when I learned how to sculpt a little face in clay, the fascination began! I had always wanted to be a sculptor and this was my ticket. That’s how my passion with puppetry began.”
Beasley volunteered for 10 years with the Community Children’s Theater of Savannah while traveling around the country to conventions and taking classes.
“I can’t remember when the transition happened in my mind from hobby to career, but I was smitten,” she says.
At first she assisted mentor Agnes Durden with performances by the Savannah Leisure Services Bureau and Chatham County Recreation Department, then she took over and performed with her own children.
“As Alyson and Jeffrey grew older, my style grew more commercial and more connected to pop culture and education than to stories and fairy tales,” Beasley says. “Their growing and changing continued to influence my style and content. Staying connected to my dear friends in the puppet world and continuing to learn how to create larger puppets with lighter materials has been very exciting.”
In addition to her exhibition in Savannah, Beasley will also be hosting shows and puppet making workshops at the Tybee Post on two Wednesdays in June, which will include “Cap’n Splatter,” featuring Coretta the sea turtle and her sea creature friends, on June 14; and a puppet cabaret, “Tina Turner’s Dancing Jukebox!” in June 28. More info on those events can be found at tybeeposttheater.org.
IF YOU GO
What: “The Art of Puppet People from the Studio of Angela Beasley”
When: June 9-July 28; opening reception 5-7 p.m. June 9
Where: City of Savannah Cultural Arts Gallery, 9 W. Henry St.