As I walked past a little recycled children's clothing and toys store one day, I saw the most wonderful being posed in the window, looking right into my eyes. I couldn't get over this creature: a plushy light green long-armed big-eyed orangutan. I had to have it. My first thought was, "I'm going to have to get back into puppetry! This one belongs on stage!"
I went into the store and before I could reach for the orangutan, another being caught my eye: it was a hard plastic green alligator-xylophone on wheels, with big eyes looking - yes! - looking right at me! This one had a moveable jaw, and a pull-string. I could not resist. Now I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'd be getting back into puppetry. How not?
In the next aisle there was another being - a floppy green-and-blue plush plaid dog. Of course this one was a member of our troupe, too. By the time I was finished in that store I had acquired Dr. Orangy-tangy, Music Al the Xylogator, and Nursie Nosey-Dog. There were several more to come. Within a few days we were joined by a very colorful McCaw; and then by Bunnee Rabbat, the long floppy-legged (knots for knees) fat-bodied lady rabbit made of an old bedspread and big bright buttons. I'm still looking for her "Majeek Hat," her magic hat, where I am sure she lives. When we find it she will make her entrance before the audience by being pulled - and pulled - and - eeeeeeeee - pulled - POP! - from the hat. "Oh, my goodness! My Majeek Hat 'as shrunk! Eet ees too small for my skinny leetle self! Tch tch!" and like that.
As I gathered member after member of my new puppet troupe, I knew we had to have just the right name. Years before, when my daughter and I puppeteered together (she was seven; now she's nearing 30, and she's a professional actress and a new mom), we called our troupe "Pumparilla Puppets." I knew, now, that I wouldn't re-use that name; and I was waiting for just the right inspiration. Finally one morning I had the strongest sense that the spirit of Jim Henson was with me. I received some great hints and ideas, and very soon our name was apparent: The HOOZITS.*
As time goes along, every so often The HOOZITS put on a little show. There's always a lot of audience participation: Dr. Orangy-Tangy likes to swing through the trees, so children and parents get to be her trees. Party-Hardy McGraw, the Real McCaw, loves to get audience members echoing his wild jungle sounds. And Music Al the Xylogator has a song to teach. He woke me up with it one morning, and now every show we do, Music Al insists on getting the audience to sing along while I play accompaniment on his little rainbow xylophone spine. Al's song goes like this:
Once upon a time, there was a Xylogator.....
His name was Music Al
And he was everybody's pal.
Much of the time - time that I'm working in the library or writing or doing my garden job - The HOOZITS are arranged in "star spots" around my front room, which is empty of rugs and most furnishings except some puppet theaters and little tables for plants. There they sit. Every so often Al wants to practice his song, or Bunnee Rabbat reminds me to keep looking for her Majeek Hat. I'm starting to feel the urge, though, to pack up The HOOZITS again and head out to do another show. Our last one was for my granddaughter's fourth birthday, and we had a ball. I think perhaps that some of the library children's programs might enjoy a HOOZIT VIZIT soon. Ah, there's nothing more fun than a room full of happy HOOZIT playmates, whatever their ages!
* 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