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Old puppets get new life at Puppet Festival (r)Evolution

Puppets take center stage at Swarthmore

Seth Shaffer works his magic behind the scenes of "Cinderella." Credit: Richard Termine Seth Shaffer works his magic behind the scenes of "Cinderella."
Credit: Richard Termine

Seth Shaffer fell in love the second he met Baby William. On the outside, Willy was sleek, simple and symmetrical, but inside was a complex web of wires and soldered joints. He was unlike any other puppet Shaffer had ever encountered.

The University of Connecticut MFA student pleaded with his professors for access to more of Dick Myers’ iconic characters like Baby William. He didn’t have to go far. The Dick Myers Archive has been housed at UConn since the puppeteer’s death in 2005.

With mountains of original notes, recordings and puppets, Shaffer set out to recreate some of the master’s original productions. On Friday he will perform Myers’ version of “Cinderella” as part of Puppet Festival (r)Evolution, the national festival of the Puppeteers of America, at Swarthmore College this week.

“He did everything himself — the puppets, sound, lights, scene changes. Everything! So that’s the way I have to do it, too,” says Shaffer, from the UConn campus. “It’s taken months to piece together how he pulled this off. Dick really didn’t like people touching his equipment. So I’m the only other person in the world that has performed a Dick Myers show.”

Myers created his stable of characters in the mid-'60s, from his Waterford, Connecticut, home. But he was always more appreciated overseas. In 1983 he abruptly stopped touring, and there are no surviving recordings of his performances.

“Dick was a bit of a recluse, that’s for sure. I think he always felt like an underdog, and every one of his characters has a bit of that in them. Cinderella grows up in poverty, but eventually goes to the ball,” says Shaffer. “Dick was somebody that didn’t have a whole lot in the world, but he loved when people helped him to become what he always wanted to be.”

'Dick Myers' Cinderella'
Aug. 9, 8 p.m.
Pearson Hall Theater: Lang Performing Arts Center
Swarthmore College
500 College Ave., Swarthmore
$15, 267-240-3679
www.puppetfestivalrevolution.org

 
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