Anniversaries — In celebration of our 32nd anniversary, my wife (Nancy) and I traveled to Atlanta for a quick getaway this past weekend. We packed a lot into two days. We saw the Romare Bearden’s Profile Series Exhibit at the High Museum of Art, and we were pleased to see that number of works on exhibit are based on his experiences in the Charlotte area. We took the behind-the-scenes tour at the Georgia Aquarium, and we saw the giant whale sharks up close. We visited the touring Silk Road exhibit at the Fernbank Museum, and we learned all about this ancient trading route between China and Iraq.
My favorite place that we visited, however, was the Center for Puppetry Arts. As a puppeteer, I enjoyed seeing their amazing collection of puppets from around the world. These puppets are housed in what they call their Global Collection Gallery. As much as I liked seeing the international collection, the part of the center that appealed to me the most was their Jim Henson Collection Gallery. This gallery houses the world’s largest collection of Henson puppets, or muppets as Henson often called his puppets. Our visit coincided with the Center for Puppetry Arts’s celebration of Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary, and the gallery includes lots of information related to this anniversary. This coincidence added to my enjoyment, for it brought back memories of my introduction to Sesame Street and Henson’s puppets.
When Sesame Street made its debut in 1969, I was in high school, so I did not watch the program at the time. In 1972, however, I started watching Sesame Street on a regular basis. I worked at a day care center in Burlington, Vermont, at the time. The day care center owned a television, but nobody turned it on until late in the afternoon when the parents started streaming in to pick up their children. About 4:00 somebody always turned on the television just in time for the remaining children (and me) to watch Sesame Street. That is when I first saw Kermit, Big Bird, Elmo, Miss Piggy, Oscar, the Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, and the rest of the Sesame Street puppets. I marveled at how Henson and his crew brought these puppets to life and gave them distinct personalities. It would be another four years before I launched my own career as a puppeteer, but my love of puppetry can be traced back to 1972 and the afternoons I spent watching Sesame Street, often with a kid in my lap. Seeing Henson’s puppets at the Center for Puppetry Arts reminded me of those days in the early 1970s when I became a Jim Henson fan and joined the ranks of the countless people whose lives have been influenced by Sesame Street over the past 50 years.
Since our visit, the Sesame Street theme song has been running through my head. I keep finding myself humming the opening lines of the song:
Sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get?
How to get to Sesame Street?
Well, I can’t tell you exactly how to get to Sesame Street, but I can tell you how to find Kermit and the rest of the Sesame Street puppets—just take Interstate 85 down to Atlanta and follow the signs for the Center for Puppetry Arts.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Lara Vetter‘s A Curious Peril: H.D.’s Late Modernist Prose (UP of Florida, 2017) has been released in paperback.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines — Here is information about upcoming events and deadlines:
October 1– Benjamin Filene, the Chief Curator at the North Carolina Museum of History, will deliver a lecture titled “Reading, Writing, and Race: One Children’s Book and the Power of Stories” on Tuesday, October 1, from 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm in Fretwell 290B. A Panel discussion with Janaka Lewis and Ashli Stokes will follow the lecture.
October 2 — Molly G. Yard will deliver a lecture titled “‘We Have Lost Our Labour’: Recovering Women Editors of Shakespeare” on Wednesday, October 2, from 12:15 pm to 1:15 pm in Fretwell 290B.
Quirky Quiz Question — Jim Henson worked with many puppeteers over the course of his career, but there was one puppeteer he worked with on almost every project he did. This was the puppeteer behind Miss Piggy. This same puppeteer also controlled Yoda from Star Wars. What is the name of this puppeteer?
Last week’s answer: Gregory Peck
What is the name of the actor who played the role of Atticus Finch in the famous film version of To Kill a Mockingbird?