The Puppet Maker

The Puppet Maker

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Article by Craig DilgerDAILY HERALD   

Nat Reed’s basement is lit by two small windows and series of tiny lamps arranged on his cluttered workbench. A thin layer of clay dust covers everything. In this basement, Nat spends hours every evening breathing life into his handmade puppets.

“I love puppetry and I love theater,” Reed said. “I just love making things. I just want to share that with other people.”Nat runs a puppetry class at the Lehi City Arts Council. There, he teaches kids not only how to operate a marionette, but how to make their own and use it. This year his students will perform in the upcoming production of “Alice in Wonderland.”

“I like the mechanics of seeing how things work and actually seeing it happen on stage,” Reed said. “To me a puppet really shows that because you get to see the stings being pulled and making things happen. Then if it is really good you start to forget that the strings are there and you are only seeing this amazing puppet.”

All around Nat’s basement are puppets that he has built and collected over the years. They hang limp from shelves and sit lifeless atop boxes in the corner. But as soon as Nat pulls one from its hook, it takes on a personality. Suddenly, what looked like a forgotten toy becomes a complex character living out a scene from Nat’s imagination.

“I guess that deep down I want to be a performer and I am too afraid to get up in front of an audience so I let my puppets do the acting.”

Puppetry is only a part-time hobby for Reed. He has a regular day job and a family, but they all spill over into his passion for puppetry. Nat works full time as an exhibits designer, which he says stems from his early days of making theater sets. Currently, his two daughters are both in his class and are heavily involved in the Utah Marionette Theatre.

Nat regards his collection of puppets very highly, taking special care of his first designs despite great improvements in craft and materials. But his real passion seems to be in the process of creating new puppets and watching them take on roles in a performance. As he slowly sculpts the face of his most recent puppet project he says, “I always wish I could do this full time.”

More information about upcoming performances and classes at the Utah Marionette Theatre can be found at www.utahmarionette.org.

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