Monster-Puppet Show is a Real Treat

Posted on 07/30/2019
“M” is for monster. According to Youth Librarian Chris Culp, “M” could also stand for “misunderstood,” as she feels monsters come in many different forms and often are simply misunderstood creatures. This and getting kids interested in theater were some of Culp’s reasons behind starting a live version of Monsterpiece Theater, a recurring Sesame Street sketch that parodies the PBS anthology series Masterpiece Theater (now known as Masterpiece).

Culp came up with the idea in 2012 when she was the Youth Librarian at South Manatee. Similar to Sesame Street’s Monsterpiece Theater, which aired from 1978 to 1999 on PBS, Chris Culp’s Monsterpiece Theater is hosted by Alistair McCookie, an alter ego of the Cookie Monster, which mimics Masterpiece’s original host, Alistair Cooke.

Me digress.

Audience member meets a couple of puppets  after last year’s Aladdin-based showEach of Culp’s puppet stories start with a monster protagonist of some sort. If one of the puppets can't fulfill a role, such as when a giant monster is needed, a live character is added to the cast.

Culp writes the scripts, which are normally based on shortened versions of well-known books or musicals for kids. Then they add music and special effects. Her favorite performances were performances based on Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid, although they were also the most challenging because of the number of characters needed. One of their productions was an original storyline Culp wrote. Productions normally run about 20 minutes.  

Over the years, Culp has built up a puppet collection and also borrows puppets from different branches, then the team switches out hats, hair and other accessories as needed.

“We try to use a story that doesn’t have tons of characters since we have limited space and puppets,” said Culp.

help make the props and set.Teen volunteers are a big part of the show and help make the props and set. Throughout the year, Culp is always on the lookout for willing teens. Many who put on a production return next year to help.

“The teens really enjoy the process and come up with a lot of the ideas for props and staging. I have a few teens that have been with me for several years but am always looking out for new volunteers. Once they see the joy on the kids’ faces they feel very special,” said Culp.

This year’s production will be performed on Saturday, August 10, at 11 AM. It is based on the 2016 movie, Moana, about an adventurous teenager who sets out on a daring mission to save her people. A special ukulele performance by one of the teen volunteers will be included.  Facebook event.

Kids who attend can partake in a related craft activity right after the puppet show and will have the opportunity to meet the puppets and teens, including Alistair McCookie.

The goal is to have kids leave, thinking, “Me love theater… (and cookies)!”

This year, Manatee Libraries’ staff hopes to videotape the production and make it available later on its youtube channel.

Theater casts from 2015 and 2016