Puppets and Theater

I’ve been interested in puppetry since I was a child, and have built puppets all my life. Lately I’ve been combining my interests in theater and illustration to create moving panoramas, or crankies. Here are some of my own projects involving puppets and theater over the years (most recent projects first.)

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Endymion Crankie by John Lechner

This is a scrolling crankie based on the first stanza of the poem “Endymion” by Keats. In a live performance, I recited the poem while turning the scroll to reveal the watercolor illustrations, with recorded music that I wrote. It was performed at a Puppet Slam at Puppet Showplace Theater (read more).

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Shadow Puppets by John Lechner

This is a shadow puppet show I created, based on an original story about an ant who becomes dissatisfied with his lot in life. The background was drawn on a vertical scroll of paper, so it could move up and down to change the scenery. It was performed at at Puppet Slam at Puppet Showplace Theater

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Sticky Burr Puppets by John Lechner

This is a paper theater I created based on my books about Sticky Burr and his friends. The puppets are controlled from above with sticks, inspired by the tradition of toy theater from the 19th century. The background is painted on a scroll of paper, so it can move sideways to change the scene.

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The Brave Fiddler by John Lechner

“The Brave Fiddler” is a scrolling story I created in the tradition of “moving panoramas” from the 19th century.  The story is painted on a scroll of paper, thirty feet long. To perform this piece on stage, I stand behind it and turn the crank as I tell the story, occasionally stopping to play the violin. It’s an original story of a young violinist who sets out to seek her fortune.

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This is an earlier experiment in scrolling stories, made entirely of paper. It was designed and created in about an hour, using paper, tape, and markers. (I recorded the music afterwards.)

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Giant Dragon Puppet

This is a giant dragon puppet that I designed and built with help from members of the Boston Area Guild of Puppetry. It was designed for use in a parade, the head is built from cardboard covered with paper mache. My friend Margaret Moody designed the body.

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Puppets by John Lechner

Shortly after graduating from college, I spent some time as a professional puppeteer, performing original shows for parties and events. These are hand puppets that I made from paper mache. The story was about a boy who befriends a mischievous monkey.

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