Twenty-two years ago, more or less, my daughter Corrie and I started a puppet company. We called ourselves PUMPARILLA PUPPETS. Our first show was "The Humpty Show," based on the tragi-comic tale of Humpty-Dumpty. Corrie was the voice and manipulator of the lovely Princess Zucchinia, a little puppet who had such a love for zucchini that she turned green from eating it all the time. I wasÂ the voice and manipulator of the Sad-and-Lonely King, sad in part because his daughter never listened to him. "I'm the sad-and-lonely King, hoya-hoya-hoya" he would sing, dancing a sort of Russian dance in his blue and red satins and his big gold crown. I also spoke and manipulated Humpty Dumpty, which was quite a challenge, since I had to hold the top of his head on with one finger through a pair of plastic loops inside his head until it was time for it to "break." I also played "All-The-King's-Men," the Potato-Skin Men, who happened to be fashioned from baked potato skins that I had hardened with acrylic gel, and mounted all together on a contraption of black-painted dowels. They all had black top hats. "Oh, we're the Potato-Skin Men! Humpty-Dumpty, diddle-de-umpty!" they sang.
Corrie had a lovely, clear way of speaking Princess Zucchinia. A born actress, she. We didn't have set lines - we always simply improvised on the story line, and somehow it always worked. Princess Zucchinia was a great friend of Humpty's, and she was really terribly concerned that he was showing off too much, and might fall off the wall - which he did. That meant that the Princess had to call on the Giants for help. Uh-oh! She carefully instructed them to be sure, absolutely certain, to give him a smooth ride in the stretcher on the way to the hospital.
Corrie and I were the Giants. We put on hats and came out from behind the puppet theater, acting giant-y and carrying a puppet-sized stretcher with poor foolish Humpty lying on it, his egg-head definitely cracked. We spoke in "dumb giant" voices, and of course we got mixed up and turned the Princess's directions around backwards. Merrily we went, jostling the stretcher and singing "Bumpy-ride, bumpy ride" until, horror of horrors! Poor Humpty fell off the stretcher and the top of his head came off - and out came his brain (a fried egg sewn of white and yellow satin).Â Oh, dear! One of the giants just happened to have a spatula - I think that was me - and flipped Humpty's fried-egg brain up-up-up like a flapjack, nearly flipping it out into the audience, and getting great giggles out of the delighted spectators. Finally, finally, the Giants managed to get the brain back into Humpty's poor broken head, and then they carried the stretcher to theÂ "hospital" -Â back behind the puppet theater. Soon the show was done - Princess Zucchinia, in order to help Humpty get well and behave himself better, decided to cut back on the Zucchini. Go figure. Then the Sad and Lonely King was happy again at last; and - oh, happy day! -Â Humpty's head was mended.
Those were the days! (Now Corrie's a professional actress. She even wrote and performed a one-woman show last year.)Â I was reminded of those old days in a delightful wayÂ recently by a visit from my Gather friends, Jessie and Lillie. After Jessie, Lillie, and I played with my current puppet troupe, the HOOZITS,* Â I showed them an old publicity photo of Corrie and me and the Humpty Show characters. Wow. Those moments with young children, so precious, are winged. How grateful I am for the memories. How grateful, as well, for my theatrical daughter, who keeps bringing new comedy roles to life there in Kansas City. And for Miss Lillie, who "woke up" the HOOZITS today in that way that only children can do!
*Â To read more about the HOOZITS, follow the ON WITH THE SHOW! link at the top of the page.
This article was originally published in Gather in 2007.