At work with Alison: Puppets

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WDTV) - From Sesame Street and The Muppets, to Broadway shows like the Lion King, puppets have long been a lovable staple of film, TV, and theater.

"It's about creating a new being; seeing a new character that's come to life," said Mary McClung, professor of costume design & technology at WVU.

It takes a special kind of person to want to work with puppets for a living.

"We're odd folks, what can I say," said McClung, laughing.

Today, I met a handful of puppeteers from West Virginia University.

Puppetry is offered as an undergraduate major in the university's creative art department. It is one of only three programs like it in the country.

"I actually started as an acting major, then I got into children's theater and realized I was having a lot more fun with puppets and interacting with kids," said puppeteer Kevin Smith.

It's a difficult job that requires a lot of skill in many areas including acting and design.

One common misconception about puppetry is that it's just for kids.

"I've seen adults react in the same way that children do; it's a suspension of disbelief and treating thing that's been brought before you as if it's real," McClung said.

Puppeteers say one of the hardest things about their job is making their voice match the character.

"It's being able to have her mouth speak when you speak, and just having that proper manipulation," said Cassie Hackbart, another puppeteer.

On the other hand, the best thing is getting to have fun while making people smile.

"It's the look on a kids face when you sit down and interact with a puppet," Smith said.

Catherine the puppet, voiced by Hackbart, said "I love singing and dancing, and just having fun."

WVU's puppetry department will be bringing back their 'Puppetry Mobile', a mobile puppet theater, in the spring. The Puppetry Mobile show will be "The Three Little Pigs," and will travel to schools, hospitals, and other areas across the state.

You can learn more about WVU's Puppetry Department and their upcoming shows under the related links tab to the left of your screen.