As a gift to the children of Utah, the Pioneer Craft House (3271 S. Fifth East in Salt Lake City) will present a free puppet show Dec. 10, with Melody and Chris Johnson as the puppeteers.
A second puppet show on Dec. 17 will cost $1. It is being put on by Lynn Anne Richards and is also to be held at 10 a.m. at the Craft House.The Pioneer Craft House has been sponsoring puppet shows since 1947, when the Craft House founder, Glenn J. Beeley helped Granite Junior High School students
produce a puppet version of "The Christmas Carol."
The students' handmade puppets are still on display and, in fact, spawned a Beeley collection that has grown to include over 500 puppets from around the world. Mrs. Beeley died in 1981, leaving a legacy of fanciful painted faces and little wooden feet to charm youngsters for many years to come.
The entire collection of antique puppets, hand puppets, marionettes, stick puppets, paper bag puppets, gourd puppets and etc. are on display Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Monday and Thursday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. through Dec. 20.
Helen Sheets, office manager at the Craft House, is usually on hand to explain where the various puppets come from and who made them.
The "Alice in Wonderland" collection (featuring a sweet Humpty Dumpty with blue eyelashes), Punch and Judy, and many other marionettes were willed to the Pioneer Craft House by a local puppeteer of national stature - Elliot Airmet.
The "Pinnochio" hand puppets come from Ohio. Twenty-five "Ten Commandments" puppets are from New Jersey. "Tom Sawyer" characters were made by a puppeteer in New York.
While children will enjoy spotting puppets from their favorite fairy tales, adults will appreciate the puppets from other countries.
Puppets are defined as any inanimate figure to which motion is given. The type of figure we think of as a puppet, with movable mouth, dates back to the first religious ceremonies in ancient Egypt.
These small characters have been popular in every country in the world, it seems. In China, India and Java shadow figures are popular for puppet shows. Stick or rod puppets are especially popular in Eastern European countries.
When the first settlers came to America they brought marionettes along and were surprised to see that Native Americans had pretty puppets of their own - for use in religious ceremonies.
Many of the puppets on display at Pioneer Craft House were made by students. Seeing the display or watching a puppet show will probably inspire a new generation of puppet lovers to make a puppet or put on their own shows over the winter holidays.