Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hot Diggity Dogg! Ten Minutes with Puppeteer Margo McCreary

At the end of this month Twin Cities puppeteer Margo McCreary will be performing “Diggity Dog Days” at The Play Ground in Duluth’s Technology Village at the corner of Lake and Superior. According to the promo material, “Diggity Dog Days” is an adult puppet show about an irrepressible dog and his owner. When changes in his aging owner's life begin to affect his everyday routine, Jack the dog responds doggedly, causing confusion and distress for all. An unexpected adventure to the dog park threatens to make matters worse, but a brood of neighborly urban chickens intervenes to save the day! Set to a jazzy score with lively original songs, “Diggity Dog Days” is a paw-lickin' good frolic on heartache and hope.

Sounds pretty wild. Chicken Run meets “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”

My interactions with McCreary made it obvious that this is a woman with energy. I asked if she would be open to an interview and gave us the following insights into her puppetry and other interests.

EN: What led you to take an interest in puppeteering?
MM: I always knew that I wanted to live a creative life and I was rooting around. Back in the 70's I was in a choir, and was asked to sing for a puppet show at Powderhorn Puppet Theater which is now known as In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. I sang for the show, and enjoyed so much what was going on in the basement of the church where the theatre was, that I stayed on and started creating along with the other puppeteers. I have always been a Jack-of-all-Trades, and puppet theater allows me to do some of everything; sculpting, painting, story creation, building, performing with different voices, creating character, puppet animation.... it goes on. I love the art of puppetry, and love the chance to bring particular characters alive.

EN: When did you realize you were a "dog person"?
Happy Doggie, by ennyman
MM: I have been a "dog person" all my life. I grew up with dogs in my family, and played games with them like hide and seek...not Checkers. Part of the attraction is my nature which is quite social. I have a desire to please, a quality I am trying to curb! I love how happy dogs are, and how they are in the present moment. Yesterday I saw a dog walk by that was smiling. I am also intrigued as I watch dogs sniff smells with such concentration and from all angles and I try to imagine what the details are that they are catching and how those details come in. Are they pictures, ideas, feelings?

EN: How long have you been performing puppet shows and what kinds of other stories have you told?
MM: I started doing shows back in the 70's when I was working with the puppet theater (HOTB), but in the early 80's I struck off on my own. A friend and I created a company we called "Journeywomen Puppeteers" and we toured two shows around southern Minnesota on bicycles. We travelled 900 miles over three weeks. Another friend joined me in some work where we performed a story to teach about cooperation. This was in the 80's and we called ourselves "A Stitch in Time Puppet Theater." Interestingly back then we had a hard time getting into schools because teaching conflict resolution and "peace" was considered too radical. Now this curriculum is required. I have created shows for particular characters. I have a larger-than-life character named Ollie McNutt who is 7 feet tall. I wear him. Ollie had a show about falling in love after his house plant, Hoya, encouraged him to get out of his stay-at-home rut and learn how to Tango. We took photos of Ollie on location having tango lessons and at the tango club with his love interest and worked a slide show into the puppet show! I made another show about Ollie finding a tiny hole with a wall down the middle in a Jack Pine tree where two completely different bugs lived. He discovers the micro-cosom!

EN: What have you learned about yourself through the shows you have created? 
MM: One thing that I have learned is that I love to play with words and often go to the dictionary with a particular word and follow the journey of meanings. That can be a source of ideas for me, and humor. Humor is always a part of my shows. I use my shows to process my life in some ways; to get comfortable with changes or to play with or poke at the discomfort that is present. Humor makes that work for me. I think Ollie's show about being scared to leave his apartment while not directly about my life definitely helped my heart ease. I hope it does the same for others who might be stuck in some way. Who is not stuck somewhere? My show "Diggity Dog Days" has much reference to aging and caring for parents. It is where I am in life. This show taught me how determined I am and how much creative energy I have. I poured myself into it's creation. I learned too that I have a facile brain with a great capacity to learn and flex!

EN: How can we learn more about your show? 
MM: I have a web page: margomccreary.com. Also information about "Diggity Dog Days" is on the web at duluthplayhouse.org

EdNotes
McCreary received a 2012 Arts Tour Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Special thanks to the MN State Arts Board. Her show will run Thursday Nov. 29th through Saturday Dec. 1st, each night at 7:30. The Thursday, Nov. 29th show is ASL interpreted. Tickets are available online or at the door; $15.

In addition the Play Ground shows, Margo McCreary and Marya Hart will be teaching workshops in puppetry and music theater on Saturday morning, Dec. 1st, from 9-noon at the Duluth Children’s Museum, 506 W. Michigan St. Duluth. MN.

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