In the late '40s and early '50s Southwick was a radio announcer /actor in Akron, Ohio, with an invisible sidekick named Ol' Gus, but when TV became the medium of choice, Ol' Gus needed a face.
As a result, the Torey and Friends TV series (starring an embodied Ol' Gus) began in 1956 and in 1960 made its way to Kansas City television, where it remained a hit for 11 years. Southwick and Gus will appear, in both animated and live form, at Crown Center from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, as part of the Great Plains Regional Puppet Festival 2000, which starts July 13 and continues through July 16. Festival activities are planned at Crown Center, the American Jazz Museum, the Kansas City Art Institute, Lakeside Nature Center, and other venues.
Although one might think of puppets as children's fodder, some adults still attend Jim Henson's Muppet movies and others spend their lives bringing fluff and string to life. "The gift of puppetry is the ability to bring the puppet alive and give it a sense of humanity," says Coyote Schaaf, Great Plains Regional Director for the Puppeteers of America. "Puppetry is an all-encompassing art -- acting, set design, story, music, puppets, costumes -- the puppeteer does the whole thing. And one has to be willing to take a risk, to do the acting and the voices."
The festival will feature shows, workshops, and lectures with guest appearances by Jane Henson, wife and partner of the late Jim Henson, and Kevin Clash, Elmo puppeteer. Local puppeteers, including Paul Mesner, Heather Lowenstein, Lisa Jorgenson, and Mary Susan McCrae, will also perform. In conjunction with the festival, The Wonderful World of Puppetry exhibit -- featuring over 150 puppets, including Punch and Judy, the Muppets of Fraggle Rock, and many other stringed things -- will be on display at Crown Center through Sept. 4.
For more information, contact Heather Lowenstein, festival public relations director, at 816-221-5351 or visit http://greatplainsfestival2000.home.att.net/index.html.