The IMA welcomes Heather Henson, President and Artistic Director of IBEX Puppetry and a crew of kite makers for aperformance in 100 Acres this weekend to mark the Spring Equinox. Heather and her comrades perform a puppet show in the sky – the story of a young crane.
IMA’s Facebook friends had a few questions for Heather. Here is the interview, conducted yesterday while the kite makers practiced in the unseasonably hot sun.
Is there a theme or story behind your kite performance? And if so, how do you decide on the concepts?
This show [called Celebration of Flight] is about a young whooping crane learning to fly with a flock. The whopping crane’s life cycle makes a good archetypal story. The show is about how birds fly with the season. Our concept was to find the dance in nature and represent that flow. You know, we’re at that point in time halfway between winter and summer, with a perfect balance between day and night. We’re in the middle of the country and the birds are flying back north. It’s a moment of crossing over.
Cranes mean a lot to me — I’m a board member for the International Crane Foundation. Cranes are still endangered, but the numbers are back on the rise. Humans have really stepped in to help the cranes.
What is your favorite performance that you have ever done?
We once did a show in a cathedral. It’s great to work in scared spaces. Though landscapes are also sacred for me.
Do you have a favorite puppet?
Whichever one I’m working on at the moment – unless I’m mad at it. Right now it’s the adolescent crane puppet.
Do you prefer stage, cinema or gallery puppetry? Why?
I prefer stage because that’s where the most magic can happen. The perfection required for cinema is a challenge, and in a gallery you can see the craftsmanship of the puppetry up close.
Is it common for puppeteers to also do character voices?
Yes…but I don’t! My dad loved to sing and I’m not a singer. But most puppeteers certainly use their voices.
What is your favorite memory of your father, Jim Henson?
I remember that he’d be working so hard, and one of the first things he’d do when he got home was take me for a walk in the woods. We lived in Bedford, New York, which was near a wildlife refuge. His love of nature was often reflected on The Muppet Show. I remember the show where Linda Rondstadt guest-starred and sang Blue Bayou with a chorus of frog puppets. My dad was born in Mississippi and he loved that style of music and the countryside.