We are all supposed to be planning for the future, right?
A few years ago, I ran into a puppetry friend, colleague and scholar up in Boston. She’s in her 70’s and had just recently relocated to Boston. I asked her if she had family in the area, and she replied, “Well, not in the sense that you mean.” I asked for clarification, and she explained to me that she chose Boston because it has a strong puppetry scene; she knew she would be able to see lots of great puppet theatre (for all ages) throughout the year. She moved to Boston to be close to her puppet "family."
I love Richmond. Because we (my husband, Sam, and I) tour with our puppet shows, we are on the road a lot, but we love, love, LOVE coming HOME to Richmond. We love being part of the community as we raise two children. We love the parks, the art scene, the museums, culture, and the big trees. Thinking ahead, though, I’ve decided that I want to retire somewhere that has a really fabulous puppetry scene. That leaves me only one choice: create a fabulous puppetry scene in Richmond.
I’ve been taking classes in non-profit management for the past five years through Nonprofit Learning Point, so I actually know what I am getting into. (Mostly.) But I have been to numerous communities with a strong puppetry scene, and I know what that looks like, what it feels like. I'd really like to see it here.
What would it look like? Puppet performances on a regular basis. Yes, just fun stuff for kids and families, but also mind-blowing, transformative theatre for adults on difficult subject like dementia, multiple sclerosis, the environment, and antisemitism, to name a few. There would also be puppet slams, workshops, educational outreach, school residencies, and support for new works by local puppet arts professionals.
What would it feel like? Vibrant. Fun. Joyous. Eclectic. Open. Inclusive. Creative. Zany. Exploring. Magical. Alive. I'm not sure exactly how you feel these things, but that is what it feels like.
It’s a lot of work, but I am so proud of what we are doing! It’s just like birth: messy, painful, complicated, and there is paperwork. Lots of paperwork. And. Worth. Every. Minute.
Heidi Rugg is a puppet artist, mom, maker of stuff, and the founder of Puppets Off-Broad Street. Her company, Barefoot Puppet Theatre, has toured all over the country. She lives in Richmond's Northside with her husband, Sam, two daughters as different as rain and ribbons, a cat named Moxie, a lizard named Pepper, and a legion of nameless dust-bunnies.
Christopher Hudert is a is a versatile artist whose skills include script writing, sculpting, set and puppet construction, puppetry, clowning, stilt walking, juggling and much more. His company, Applause Unlimited, has toured extensively. He lives in Lakeside with his family.