Puppet Shows

  • Storybook Puppet Theater is designed for child audiences.

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  • The puppet cast of “Aesop's Fables.”

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  • Puppeteers Lewis Mahlmann and Randal Metz in action.

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All shows that grace the stage of Fairyland’s Storybook Puppet Theater are original productions, featuring scripts, costumes, music, and sets designed by our talented puppeteers. Don’t miss a chance to watch a production at the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the U.S.

Since we first parted the curtains in 1956, some of the country’s most gifted puppeteers have worked at our theater. The list includes Luman Coad, Frank and Dorothy Hayward, Tony Urbano, and husband-and-wife team Mike and Frances Oznowicz.

The theater’s fourth director, Lewis Mahlmann, held the position from 1967 to 2005. The current theater director, Randal J. Metz, has worked at the park since he was a grade-school apprentice to Lewis Mahlmann. Randal and Lewis shared the director’s job beginning in 1991, and Randal became sole director when Lewis retired in 2005.

2019 Schedule

Puppet shows are presented year-round, three times a day (11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.) at the Storybook Puppet Theater. During Fairy Winterland they are presented at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. We can’t wait to see you there. 

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The Nutcracker Prince - November 2 - January 3, 2019

We end the year with this wonderful holiday tale about Clara and her magic Nutcracker Prince. Through the music of Tchaikovsky, flowers and snowflakes dance, candies come to life, and Clara tries to outwit the evil Mouse King and return her nutcracker to a handsome prince. A different telling of the classic ballet influenced by the fairytale by E. T. A. Hoffman. Puppet designs and heads by Pamela McIntire. Scenery, script and puppets by Lewis Mahlmann.

01 Rumplestiltskin Low Res

Rumplestiltskin- January 4 – February 3

What’s in a name?  A lot!  Particularly if you’ve kept your name a secret for centuries.  This is a delightful Grimm Brothers tale about an imp who can change straw into gold, and a young girl who encounters him. This is a story about telling the truth, helping each other, and the importance of a secret. Adapted        by David C. Jones. Puppets by Nick Le’feuvre. Scenery by Lewis Mahlmann.  

02 Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings Low Res

The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings - February 8 – April 7

A charming African tale about the hazards of wishing to be something that you’re not.  Little Stubby has an active imagination and always wants to be other creatures, instead of the little rabbit he is.  Be careful what you wish for! Puppets and Scenery by Lewis Mahlmann. Script by David C. Jones.

03 The Kings Problem Low Res

The King’s Problem - April 10 – May 27

Come with us to India and explore the many tales of The Panchatantra, the Indian version of “Aesop’s Fables”, where each tale teaches young children a lesson about life. In our version, you’ll meet an honest woodcutter, a crow, a serpent – and even a dancing elephant! Traditional music from India and Bollywood highlight this exotic adventure. Adapted by Randal Metz, with original songs by Tony Jonick. Scenery designed by Warren Moten III.

04 Rabbit and Cayote Are Friends Low Res

Rabbit & Coyote Are Friends? -  May 30 – July 11

Rabbit & Coyote are friends...or are they? Why do coyotes howl at night? Why can you see the face of a rabbit on the moon?  When did these two animals start playing tricks on each other?  These questions, and more will be answered. In our version of this funny Mexican fairytale. Mice doing a Mexican hat dance, a cactus shows off the chicken dance and so much more. Ole! Puppets and script by Randal Metz.  Festive scenery by Warren Moten III.

05 Thumbelina Low Res 

Thumbelina - July 12 – August 27

What a big world we live in!  Particularly for Thumbelina, who is no taller than a thumb. Born from an enchanted flower, she tries to find out who she is and where she comes from.  Her journey takes her from her home and on many adventures before reaching the Land of the Fairies. Adapted from a script, with music, by Forman Brown of L.A.‘s famous Turnabout Puppet Theater. Puppets by Lewis Mahlmann with original scenery by Garth Geary.  Music performed and re-scored by William Lewis.

06 Emperors New Clothes Low Res

The Emperor’s New Clothes - August 28 – November 1

 Hans Christian Anderson’s funny tale about an Emperor who only cares about his looks, returns once again to the Fairyland Puppet Stage. Emperor Raiment the Resplendent, spends all his country’s money on new clothes, never considering the welfare of his people. Come see what happens when he believes he’s wearing an outfit so special that only the cleverest can see it! Rated R for rocking good fun. Adapted by Randal Metz with puppets by Lewis Mahlmann. Original puppet designs and idea by Don Ingraham.

07 Velveteen Rabbit Low Res

The Velveteen Rabbit - November 2 – January 2020                

Based on Margery William’s lovely tale of “How Toys Become Real”, this is the tale of a special relationship between a young boy and his toy bunny. You’ll be charmed as the Velveteen Rabbit fearlessly stays by the young boy’s side and is rewarded for her loyalty in the end.  Witness the march of the toy soldiers, the pranks of the jack in the box, and learn firsthand the “nursery wisdom” of the old rocking horse.  Puppets and script by Randal Metz.  Scenery by Annie Wong.  Puppet design by Kacey O’Hare.

Types of Puppets

The puppeteers of Storybook Puppet Theater use different kinds of puppets to tell their stories. Check the calendar to see what’s on stage during your visit.

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Bunraku—In this Japanese form, puppeteers share the stage with their puppets, manipulating them using handles. Complicated puppets require up to three puppeteers.

Hand Puppets—Many classic puppet shows, including Punch and Judy, use hand puppets. The puppeteer manipulates the puppet’s movements with his or her hand.

Marionettes—This very old style of puppetry originated in medieval France and involves puppets moved by strings. Our Hansel and Gretel production features marionettes.

Shadow PuppetsThis form originated in Indonesia in ancient times and is sometimes known by the Balinese name “wayang.” Figures are attached to sticks, with the heads left free to swivel.

Some Thoughts on Fairy Tales, Folk Tales… and Puppet Shows

Shadow and Glare

Most of our puppet shows are based on classic fairy tales and folk tales. Some of these stories have been around for more than a thousand years, like Cinderella, which dates back to 9th century China. We have over 150 puppet shows in rotation at Fairyland, and it takes more than a year to create a new one. Thus, many of our shows have been around for quite a long time. American society changes. What we think is suitable for our children changes. But as fantasy expert Jane Yolen has written in her book Touch Magic, one thing about compelling fairy tales stays the same: “The idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition” (Yolen 26). If everyone in a story is full of joy from beginning to end, it will not make for a very good puppet show. There is no journey or growth. “A fine story – whether for children or adults – should reflect both dark and light, both shadow and glare” (Yolen 33). It is worth noting that our puppet shows are not just for children and adults; they are for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers… the whole gamut.

Challenging Ideas

Of course, it is possible for us to change stories to make them more amenable to our modern values. But some degree of tension is necessary. Sometimes this takes the form of suspense, mystery, or a scary or mean character. The protagonist has to use his or her skills to overcome this challenge. The child viewer uses higher order thinking skills to reflect on what they would do in the given situation, watches it unfold, and then judges the outcome. Much like when your child watches a movie or reads a book that introduces new or challenging ideas, one way to help the child process those ideas is to discuss them. They may want to share their feelings about someone being mean or not being a good friend. They may want to say that they don’t like a character because of the way he or she acted. On the other hand, they may say a character was kind or brave, or knew how to share. In the real world we will encounter both people who show us kindness and people who do not, and talking about fictional characters and how they affect each other and us, the viewers, will prepare us for those encounters.

Mediated Learning Experiences

In the psychology world, Dr. Reuven Feuerstein calls this sort of discussion between adult and child a Mediated Learning Experience. One common example of a Mediated Learning Experience happens when you are reading your child a book and stop to examine the illustrations together. Look at that character’s face, you may say. How do you think she is feeling? Oh, you think she is angry? Why is she angry? This sort of mediation slows the child down and helps them process what they see and hear. It prepares them for real-life interactions and makes them better observers and deeper thinkers. Feuerstein believes that intelligence is not fixed, and that mediating learning can increase a child’s brain-power. One of the great things about mediating learning is that parents and teachers are driven to do it not only because it improves critical thinking, but because it is fun! Riding the bus with a child is simply more fun when the two of you are looking around, asking each other questions, noticing the buildings outside of the window, and waiting for the exact right second to ding for your stop.

We Trust Parents

Mediated Learning Experiences can be very powerful, but ultimately, you decide what is right for your child. If you are concerned about a certain puppet show, it is always okay to leave. Furthermore, I welcome dialogue about your concerns, questions, or anything you read about in this article. Please contact Vicky Chen, Director of Community Outreach and Education. Thank you for reading, and enjoy Fairyland!