The gallery at our local library is displaying a sampling Alan Cook’s collection of puppets. My curiosity, and an opportunity to take a friend brought me into a world way beyond Howdy Doody.
Many of the smaller puppets were housed in glass, not easy to capture. But, I think you will enjoy the costumes and incredible craftsmanship of this man who can truly be called, The Puppet Master.
A little background first.
We think of the puppeteer as someone who gives life to inanimate characters. But for more than half a century, Alan Cook’s own life has been shaped by friends made of wood and clay.
Inspired by a puppetry class he took as a second-grader, the sixty-something Cook has devoted most of his working life and a good chunk of his private life to the art of puppetry. His collection now hovers around 2,000.
The way he sees it, the word “puppet” can apply to almost any figure that can be animated with a little human intervention, whether it was once a “little green ball of clay” like Gumby, or the 10-cent orange crates from which he carved his first marionette as a kid in Pasadena, where he grew up watching free puppet shows frequently held in the department stores there.
Cook, whose resume includes working with Art Clokey as an animator for the 1950s children’s TV show “Davey and Goliath,” says there isn’t any kind of puppet that doesn’t fascinate him.
“Puppets are a part of history. They represent tremendous interchange across borders, even when countries aren’t speaking to each other,” he reasons. And, in countries where the political climate restricts free speech, puppet plays frequently serve as an outlet for personal expression.