"It really, truly was like an electrical circuit," McCrae recalls. "It went back through me, through the control, down the strings to him. Then he would do something, and then it went from him to the audience. A circular electric connection. An ecstatic electric vibe. I knew right then that I would never find anything that was more fun than that. And I just always knew -- I'm going to be a puppeteer. This is what I'm going to do."
It's what her husband and daughter do, too. Soon after she married John McCrae, he began performing. Their daughter, Allison, who's now eight, pulled strings for the first time at the age of two.
"We gave her a puppet, and she went out and did her solo act," McCrae says. "Believe it or not, it worked out just fine. Now she does about 20 percent of the show." Allison also contributes new ideas for the Clement McCrae Puppet Company. Right now, she enjoys animal tricks, such as making the animal puppets jump through hoops.
McCrae estimates that her family performs about 120 shows a year, most of them in December. The variety-type revue involves approximately 25 marionettes, hand puppets and rod puppets McCrae describes as "strictly fun and purely entertainment." This month, the revue takes on a holiday theme, with special part-time puppets.
"We only use them for five weeks out of the year, and when it's all over we just pack them up and put them away, and we don't see them again until we drag them out again next year," McCrae says. "It's good to see our old friends."