Puppets Animate Pledge Night at KLRU

By Brionne Griffin, PBS Interactive Intern

KLRU Web Developer and improv puppeteer, Jesse Overright, wanted to mix things up a bit in the studio for the Being Elmo pledge program. In a stroke of  creative genius, he decided to bring puppets into the studio for the night. Both humans and puppets agreed, Jesse's creative idea made pledge night a huge success.

1. How did you come up with the idea for a puppet pledge night to accompany the Being Elmo program?

When I heard we were doing a live pledge night around Being Elmo, I thought it would be so fun if we had real puppets in the studio. I could just picture the puppets answering phones, introducing pledge gifts and causing all sorts of mischief.  I mean, how cool is that!

About two years ago, I started performing with the Puppet Improv Project—they do live improvised performances and musicals, all with puppets. I thought PIP would fit great with the Being Elmo program because it’s a local non-profit focused on Austin arts who builds all its own puppets, and loves sharing the passion of puppeteering. And they’re used to improvising, so they’re ready for anything! 

2. Any behind-the-scenes stories you can share from the puppet pledge night?
Puppet Improv Project brought in all sorts of handmade puppets, and each of our phone volunteers got to choose a friend for the night. It was so funny seeing the volunteers (and some KLRU staff) transform themselves just by putting a puppet on their arm. Puppets are naturally rambunctious, so it really livened up our phone banks. We also had a larger-than-human puppet named Ratio to help me introduce the pledge premiums.  Asking a puppet if it would like a puppet as a thank you gift was a new one for me.

3. How does a PIP show differ from a “normal” improv show? (other than the obvious)
Improvising with puppets opens up all sorts of new worlds. The puppets themselves have so much personality. When you first pick up a puppet, you never know what their voice is going to sound like until it’s coming out of your mouth. But if you play with the same puppets for awhile, they start to each have their own character. You find yourself saying “that wasn’t me, it was the puppet!” PIP shows often are based on what sort of puppets the builders want to create. The next show will be “Off the Reef”, a black-light, underwater story with fish, eel, crabs, and other underwater-themed puppets.

4. What was the most challenging part of learning how to be a puppeteer?
Making the puppet talk. It’s easy to open and close the mouth, but to get things to match with the words you’re saying can be difficult. You have to be very deliberate.

5. Who is your favorite Sesame Street puppet?
Elmo! He has the best personality and is always in a good mood. When you’re loved by every kid on the entire planet, you’re doing something right.

6. Who is your favorite puppeteer?
Jim Henson. Especially after watching the Being Elmo documentary, I am so amazed at how he was able to build an entire industry out of nothing. It is really incredible.

Has your station tried any creative pledge tactics? We want to hear about it! Want to know more about Jesse? Check out his SPI File! (It's one of the SPI Blog's most popular posts).

1 comment:

  1. What a great idea! Keep up the good work Jesse!