By Adam Waltz
PHOENIX – The Great Arizona Puppet Theater is one of the only full-time all-puppet performance venues in the country. I got a grand tour by the puppets who know this place best.
“I don’t know, we’ve lost count of how many shows,” said Mousie, a puppet actor at The Great Arizona Puppet Theater. “We sometimes say we got over 40 shows in our repertoire.”
A performance of Aesop’s “The Tortoise and The Hare” is given an Arizona twist with Jack, the Arizona jackrabbit, and Dusty, the desert tortoise. As the story goes, the cocky hare loses the race to the wise tortoise. We spoke to Jack and Dusty after the big race.
“Well, I guess Dusty got to the finish line a little bit ahead of me, but uh, next time, next time I’ll do better,” said Jack.
“Just keep on going, that’s my motto,” said Dusty.
In the front of the nearly 100-year-old building are puppets of past and present.
“Well, here at The Great Arizona Puppet Theater, we handcraft all of our puppets ourselves,” said Mr. Smee, a pirate puppet actor.
The theater even takes on never-before-seen plays by local kids through the “Imagine This” program. Every year, kids in second through eighth grades can submit a play and they’ll pick one to perform.
Past plays have included a pink llama with blonde hair, a play called “Teacher Fights Zeus” and who could forget “Ralph the Book” about a library book on the back shelf who throws himself on the ground to be noticed.
2018 is a great year to be a puppet because The Great Arizona Puppet Theater is celebrating its 35th anniversary.
“We’re celebrating the great state of Arizona and we’re really excited to be here in the great cultural landscape,” said Mousie.
It’s a great thing to do with the family, but it’s not all for kids. The theater regularly hosts puppet slams, performing more adult plays.