We here at Off the Grid have often explored the history of the artists’ residence Westbeth, as well as mining the depths of the artistic talent located in the venerable housing complex. So we thought we’d spend some time looking at one of the many unique artistic groups who make the place home: Penny Jones & Co. Puppets.
Led by puppeteer Penny Jones, the company has presented full stage, tabletop, and musical puppet performances since the 1970s. The company specializes in informal puppet shows for young children, often involving children in the performance, having them make and use props, and use their voices to contribute to the program. In fact, school programs are a popular program within the company.
The current repertory includes full length productions such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Peppi and the Pop Up Dragon, whose pop-up backdrop was featured in the Henson International Festival. Small tabletop shows such as The Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood bring puppetry to unlikely locations such as classrooms and homes.
Ms. Jones, whose puppets, sets, and props were recently the focus of an exhibition at the Westbeth Gallery, is the director of Penny Jones & Co. Puppets and The Early Childhood Puppet Theatre. She has been a puppeteer since the 1950s, working with Village puppeteer Bil Baird (you can learn more about Baird in this past Off the Grid post), for Sesame Street, and the New York City’s Department of Parks Marionette Theatre. She is also a past president of the Puppetry Guild of Greater New York.
Hurricane Sandy put a damper on the Early Childhood Puppet Theatre as Westbeth sustained major damage from the storm. But performances are back this season with upcoming shows on Sundays in November. Off the Grid recommends checking out this community cornerstone, good for both kids and kids at heart.
You can read more in our Community Cornerstones series by clicking here.