Fellow puppet enthusiasts,
I wish you had been a fly on the wall at Beyond the Sock. If you had, then you would know that the $1350 price tag for attendance would be worth saving for. I can’t think of any place better to enjoy myself while developing my professional skills than this program hosted by the University of North Texas. A brain child of James Martin, a professor in the Radio, Television, Film & Performing Arts portion of the University, Beyond the Sock is sponsored by two different departments at UNT: Department of Media Arts and the Department of Dance and Theatre. It features the teaching talents of Sesame Street puppeteers Noel McNeal and Peter Linz, with the puppet building talents of Pasha Romanowski of Project Puppet. To say that these guys are my professional heroes, is an understatement. The first year I attended the workshop in 2013, I was a nervous admirer. Now I have the pleasure of calling these teachers, my friends. These gentlemen are not only talented, but kind and down-to-earth.
The previous two years attendance have increased my skills professionally, and this year was no exception. Pasha’s online patterns are in a class by themselves, the best available. His patterns at the workshop are even more exciting. Each year I have learned a new technique to add to my skill set as a builder. The pattern you receive is not available outside the workshop and should be considered one of the valuable take-aways of attending. The monkey pattern from this year is now one of the most complex in my personal collection. It’s amazing that beginners and experienced puppet builders alike complete their puppets each year in time for a final video production at the week’s end. Pasha’s instruction and a massive scramble by week’s end ensure that every participant has a video ready puppet to perform on Saturday’s live Sesame Street style professional taping.
With a max attendance of 24-26 students, and classes split in two groups alternating between building and performing each day, each attendee gets plenty of individual attention from the instructors. Daily practice in front of monitors teaches participants the art of puppeteering in the style of Sesame Street, the best in the business. Peter Linz and Noel McNeal have both professional experience as puppeteers on Sesame Street and as teachers of puppeteering for Sesame Street’s international television offshoots. The puppeteering portion is a delightful mix of hands-on practice with the polished and playful demonstration of key concepts by two very funny, talented guys. I love watching Noel and Peter. I laugh and smile as I tackle the concepts with their encouragement. With monitors as a reference for puppeteering in frame, this style is not an easy one to master. You and other participants slowly learn this craft in preparation for a final show taped on the last day of the workshop.
Everyone at Beyond the Sock knows I love this workshop. I wear my smile every day because I’m tickled to be there. During BTS, I live, eat and sleep puppet for 5 days straight. It couldn’t be more fun. I plan to attend Beyond the Sock 2016. I wouldn’t miss it. Hope to see you there!
Check out “Beyond the Sock” video highlights CLICK HERE to see what you are missing!
Review by Pam Groom