written by HEATHER KW BROWN | photography courtesy of Center for Puppetry Arts
I realize it might date me, but I’m so excited… The Muppets are back on television. The Muppets, in one way or the other, have played a significant role in my childhood from “Sesame Street” to “Fraggle Rock” and even Jim Henson’s “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.”
When my own children were old enough, I promptly drove them into the city for a day at the Center of Puppetry Arts, where they were treated to an up-close-and-personal peek into a planet of puppets. Almost as thrilling as the smiles on their faces that day is the idea of doing it all over again when the new Worlds of Puppetry Museum opens its doors on Nov. 14.
Doubling the size of the previous gallery inside the Center for Puppetry Arts, The Worlds of Puppetry Museum will feature two galleries: a Global Collection, spanning five continents and various cultures that encompass more than 170 puppets and artifacts organized by country, and the highly anticipated Jim Henson Collection, which will house the world’s most comprehensive exhibit of his puppets, props and scenic elements, among other items.
“We’ve been in conversation with the Henson family since 2007,” explained Kelsey Fritz, the exhibitions director at the Center for Puppetry Arts. “Jim Henson was here for the ribbon cutting on opening day with Kermit the Frog and when he passed, his family was looking for a puppetry home.”
Every bit of Henson’s passion and creativity will be on display when the new museum opens this month. The Henson family’s momentous gift includes more than 500 artifacts, which will rotate in the gallery.
“For both conservation efforts and to show as much of the collection as possible, the goal is never to have anything on display for more than two years,” Fritz said.
Highlights of the Jim Henson Collection include the beloved duo Bert and Ernie, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from “Sesame Street,” Muppet characters Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog, which will be displayed in “The Muppet Show” section, along with icons Fozzie Bear, Scooter and Dr. Teeth. Even The Doozers, Sprocket, Red and Gobo will be on display in the “Fraggle Rock” section of the gallery.
Aside from Henson’s characters and artifacts, Fritz also described how this gallery will provide a deeper look into his work, complete with a reproduction of his office and a mock television studio so that guests get a feel of what it’s like to be a muppeteer.
Centerpieces within the Global Collection include the popular stop-motion clay animated Gumby and Pokey, as well as examples of the iconic European hand puppets Punch and Judy. Julie Taymor’s Mufasa mask, developed as a prototype for the Broadway production of Disney’s “The Lion King,” will join the Scar mask as part of the exhibit’s animal collection. Also included are Bunraku puppets from Japan, water puppets from Vietnam, shadow puppets from Indonesia and two pieces dating back to the Pre-Columbian era.
Other noteworthy renovations include an expanded Museum Store, a new puppetry library and a renovated entryway — one that promises to be packed with locals excited to explore the Worlds of Puppetry Museum for their first of many visits.
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A Grand Ol’ Time
Grand opening festivities will include well-known walk-around Henson characters, photo opportunities and other engaging activities to make the day a festival-like celebration. In conjunction, the Center’s annual long-awaited, holiday classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” returns to the stage!
To purchase tickets, visit centerforpuppetryarts.com or call 404-873-3391. Ticket options include Museum-only tickets, as well as the all-inclusive ticket that includes the performance, Create-A-Puppet-Workshop and entry to the new museum. All tickets will include the additional celebratory activities happening that day.