TURIN — The B. Elizabeth Strong Memorial Library once again hosted the nationally recognized Catskill Puppet Theatre on Friday as it made its way to the French Festival in Cape Vincent.
Puppeteers and partners Carol Mandigo and John Potocnik, who began their show in 1979 as college students, entertained over 40 people with their two-feet-tall, hand-made stick puppets at the Turin Fire Hall performing one of their classic shows, “Sister Rain and Brother Sun.”
“It seems Mother Nature’s work is never done,” says Mother Nature near the beginning of the musical story that has her arbitrating between her children Sun and Rain while they work through some jealousy issues made worse by a greedy old dirt farmer named, appropriately, Farmer McGreedy.
While the intended theme revolves around the relationship and jealousy between siblings, the timeless tale of ecological balance, especially in the modern climate change context, the repercussions of greed and dishonesty and, ultimately, the healing of forgiveness, make this simple story written decades ago very timely.
After the show, Ms. Mandigo and Mr. Potocnik showed the audience what happens behind the curtain: how the puppets work, the unique “super powers” they each have and some interesting details, like Brother Sun weighing in at 40 pounds of fiberglass.
Each puppet had its fans among the children, especially a baby bear that often complicated things when trying to help Farmer McGreedy.
“I liked it,” said nine-year-old Parker Caputo of her first puppet show experience, “My favorite was the bear.”
Miss Caputo, who lives in Las Vegas, is in the area visiting family.
The children were focused but fidgety and entertained throughout the performance, but while the puppeteers showed them the magic of puppetry, the same children were wide-eyed and spellbound.
“It’s strange because they are so stimulated and out there experiencing so many different things with technology and information, but I haven’t seen a big change in how children react to our shows over the years,” said Ms. Mandigo, “Children are children. Still.”
With seven shows in their repertoire, the performers often get requests for specific shows from repeat clients.
“We’ve had them here in Turin about 15 times,” said Sharon Stewart, organizer for the event for the library, “We requested ‘Sister Rain and Brother Sun’ this year to go with our Summer Reading Series, ‘A Universe of Stories.’ “
Ms. Mandigo, who has a background in fine art and music, said she spent all of her summers at Point Peninsula growing up, so coming to every French Festival since 1972 to perform in one way or another means a lot to her.
Mr. Potocnik and Ms. Mandigo were in a band together in college and, according to Ms. Mandigo, came up with the puppet theatre as a good “day job” option.
The theater company is based in Oneonta.
Having now put their three kids through college with Mr. Potocnik doing the theater full-time and she having recently retired from her job as a social worker, Ms. Mandigo said it’s all worked out very well, and she is starting to work on ideas for new shows.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said.
This year, the puppeteers offered “The Villain’s Mustache,” an old-fashioned melodramatic musical romp for French Festival attendees on Saturday morning.