Throwback Thursday: “What’s So Special About Puppets?” with John Farrell

We’ve had lots of special guests here at the Museum & Theatre over the years, and today we’re looking back at a special puppetry series that took place here at the museum in January of 1994. John Farrell of the Freeport-based  – and world traveled – Figures of Speech Theatre devised and implemented What’s So Special About Puppets? which explored, in his own words, the “different realms of reality and experience you can juxtapose onstage.”*

Farrell demonstrated a number of different styles and techniques during these performances, immersing audiences in the art of storytelling with puppets ranging from Japanese bunraku figures to hand puppets to his own shadow cast against a scrim. On the first floor of the museum, a temporary workshop was set up where our visitors could see Farrell building puppets for a performance of The Nightingale (which this writer remembers seeing at a young age!), and What’s So Special About Puppets? demonstrations took place Wednesdays through Sundays throughout the month. He explored the fact that while most anything can become a puppet, the life given to it is what makes the performance.

Of the art of performance, the museum’s then-director of education Jacqueline Potter said, “You have to lose yourself to find yourself. We want children and adults here to experience that.”*

Indeed, over the twenty years that have passed since these workshops took place, we have hosted events, put on performances, and even brought puppets to life again on the floors of the museum. Live performance is an excellent teaching tool; we love looking back to see the different ways generations of kids have enjoyed learning through performance in the museum! (Keep your eye on our calendar for new puppet and theatre performances and opportunities!)

You can learn more about John Farrell and Figures of Speech Theatre at the Figures of Speech website,



[*Source: “The Secret Lives of Puppets,” Fried, Suzy; Casco Bay Weekly, January 20, 1994; p.21]

Throwback Thursday: Big Gallery Art and Automata by Randy Regier

From dinosaur tracks to insects, from discovering Talking Walls of stories around the world to wondering What About Whales?, the Big Gallery (currently the home of the Playscape) has been the perfect space for many different exhibits over the years. In 2010, it played host to SmartArt, a huge exhibit dedicated to the fusion of art and science.

Portland’s own Randy Regier, an MFA graduate of our neighbors the Maine College of Art, designed two parts of the “Sound and Motion” component of SmartArt: Automata Dancers and Wake Up! 1, 2, 3. When we interviewed him about his work for Kitetails, he stated, “I imagine stories I wished had happened in the past and the objects that are part of those stories, and I make them come ‘true’ by building the objects. Often in my work the objects are toys.” In the area of Oregon where Regier grew up, there were no nearby toy stores, so he made his own as a child. The automata that Regier designed for SmartArt were colorful toys shaped like retro robots.

What exactly are automata? Automata is the plural of automaton, a Greek word meaning acting of one’s own will. (Think “automatic!”) Have you ever seen a cuckoo clock, or a clockwork doll that can write or serve tea? Cuckoo clocks are a great example of automata: the gears in the clock make the bird (or sometimes several objects) move in a certain way; the craftsmen David Roentgen and Peter Kintzing even created an automaton of Marie Antoinette in the late 1700s that plays the dulcimer! Automata usually have a recognizable physical shape, like a human or animal, and can act mechanically on their own without the aid of electricity; usually because of their shape, they mimic real human or animal movements. In fact, there are surviving automata from throughout several centuries, and accounts of mechanical figures dating back to ancient China and Greece!

Regier's Automata Dancers
Regier’s Automata Dancers

To make Regier’s automata move in our SmartArt exhibit, a visitor had only to play a nearby instrument made of found objects. The toys would respond to the vibrations caused by the instrument and dance!

SmartArt (3)
A young visitor makes Regier’s automata dance.


Regier’s delightful and thought-provoking toy art has been featured throughout Maine, including nearby Space Gallery; the United States; and even in Madrid, Spain. You can learn more about his work at his website (ask an adult to help you visit!),

Keep your eyes on our calendar for new ways we’re fusing science and art this winter and spring… including mini robot making labs!

The Enormous Crocodile Puppet Show Tomorrow, Thurs. Jan. 22


The Enormous Crocodile Puppet Show

Tomorrow, Thurs. Jan. 22 | 11:30am

Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile is a horrid greedy grumptious brute who loves to guzzle up little boys and girls. But the other animals have had enough of his cunning tricks, so they scheme to get the better of this foul fiend, once and for all!

Come see this wild live action theatre show for young audiences featuring our own Theatre Director Reba Short and local actress Allison McCall. Reba and Allison will act out the story of The Enormous Crocodile using puppets, masks, silly costumes and interaction!

This show is best for audiences 2-6 years old.

$3/member, $4/visitor plus admission. For tickets call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk, or click here.

Meet Our First Golden Ticket Winner, Kjeld!

Here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre, our afternoon was rocked with excitement today when our friend Kjeld came to visit. Kjeld is already a cool dude, but it wasn’t *just* his visit that got us excited. While here, he thought it might just be a good time for a chocolate bar. A fine idea, Kjeld. We couldn’t agree more.

So, imagine everyone’s surprise when, after opening the chocolate bar with his mother Leah, he discovered… A GOLDEN TICKET!

After some fanfare in our lobby, we caught up with Kjeld to ask how he felt about finding the ticket, which will get him admission to our upcoming production of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

Unfortunately, due to a mouth full of chocolate, he was unavailable for comment.

Congrats to Kjeld! Do you want to have a shot at winning one of the remaining Golden Tickets? Our special signature cholcoate bars are on sale in our lobby!

Throwback Thursday: Featured Photographer Michael Odokara-Okigbo

Perhaps you know him as Michael O., of Dartmouth College’s Dartmouth Aires, the singing group that landed second place on NBC’s The Sing-Off in 2011. Perhaps you know him as the founder of the Mugadi Foundation, which provides necessary funding for education, clothing and more for children in Africa. Chances are, if you don’t know the name of this Portland native yet – you soon will, as he is making strides worldwide.

In 2005, Michael Odokara-Okigbo was a student at Waynflete School in Portland, ME, and was showing his photography exhibition, Mugadi (I Will Live), at the Children’s Museum on July’s First Friday night. In 2004, when he was only 14, Michael took a trip to the West Africa region (Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Ghana) with his mother Shalom, a speaker at World AIDS Day events. This trip would mark the founding of the Mugadi Foundation; during this visit, the photographs Michael took and stories he collected from children whose lives had been drastically changed by HIV/AIDS became the exhibit that showed here at CMTM along with other locations such as libraries, hospitals and schools. “It is estimated that a child is orphaned by AIDS every 14 seconds,” we reported in our quarterly Kitetails issue that year. “Many countries in Africa are at risk of losing the next generation.”

Fourteen tales were told in the exhibition, but several lives more have since been touched by the generosity of the Foundation. On First Friday in July 2005, Michael spoke at a free opening night reception about his photography project. The Mugadi Foundation (taking its name from “I will live” in Igbo), now ten years old, continues to assist children in need.

You can learn more about the Foundation, their good work and how to donate to their cause at their website here.

Follow Michael O.’s musical career at his website here!

Currently located in Los Angeles, Michael’s first EP, In The Beginning, debuted in 2013, and in 2014 he landed a role in Pitch Perfect 2 alongside actor Anna Kendrick, another Portland native. Congratulations to Michael – we wish him the best in all of his endeavors!

You may see many other photography exhibits gracing the halls here at the Museum & Theatre – keep your eyes open for chances to be a photographer yourself, and learn the art of telling stories through photographs in some of our upcoming 2015 programs!

Mini Moviemakers: Stop Motion Animation Workshops – Coming up on February 8th!

Calling all movie-makers! In this afternoon workshop, we’ll work together to make a short claymation movie in the style of Wallace and Gromit. You’ll learn about how animation works and then get to view your group movie on the web once it’s published. Ideal for ages 6+.

$16/members, $22/visitors. This is a drop-off program. To register call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk.

Next workshop on February 8th: sign up here!

Play Our Way: Private Playtimes for Families affected by Autism – Next Playtime is February 7th

Families of a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are invited to the Museum for a special, private playtime. The Museum will be closed to the general public, providing a more conducive play environment. Our staff has made adjustments to the lighting in our exhibit and play areas, and noise-reducing headphones will be available. Play Our Way is free, and pre-registration is not required – just come over for as little or as long as you like!

The Play Our Way monthly playtimes will continue through February 2015 thanks to the support of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine.

For more information about this program, contact Louisa Donelson at or call 828-1234 x227

Saturday, February 7th Play Our Way runs 8-10am.

Join our Science Exploration Mini-Camp February 17th-19th

Join us for three days of curiosity quenching science exploration! We’ll use the museum’s exhibits and natural artifacts as prompts for fun experiments, art projects, and games. We’ll travel to the deep sea with puppets and costumes, learn about the stars in the night sky within our mini planetarium, investigate dinosaur fossil replicas, and practice our scientific sleuthing skills all along the way! This is a drop-off camp for ages 5-8. Runs 2/17-2/19.

$90/member, $120/visitor. To register call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk.

Register online here!