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Examiner
  • Frank Haight: Puppetry Arts Institute to celebrate Pinocchio

  • Last year, Italy commemorated the 130th anniversary of the penning of Carlo Collodi’s world-renowned fairy tale “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” with a contest in which more than 400 artists entered to reillustrate one of the world’s most iconic puppets.

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  • Last year, Italy commemorated the 130th anniversary of the penning of Carlo Collodi’s world-renowned fairy tale “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” with a contest in which more than 400 artists entered to reillustrate one of the world’s most iconic puppets.
    The adventurous story about this long-nosed marionette who aspired to become a real boy has been published in some 240 languages since debuting July 7, 1881, as a serial in a weekly children’s newspaper in Italy.
    Not to be eclipsed by the Italians, Puppetry Arts Institute plans to honor Pinocchio, too. Not with an art contest, but with a scaled-down tribute and yearlong exhibit in observance of its 12th anniversary. The celebration begins Oct. 6 at PAI, 11025 E. Winner Road, in the Englewood Arts District of Independence. The exhibit opens Sept. 1.
    Coming from Albuquerque, N.M., to address the kickoff celebration is Sunny Birklund, a renowned puppeteer, who also is an artist, teacher, historian and author of two books – “Puppetry Animal Kingdom” and “Puppets and Dolls of the Southwest.”
    PAI Executive Director Diane Houk says Birklund will present a visual presentation on the many changes artists have made to Collodi’s original Pinocchio, who wore a pointed hat and a flowered shirt and doesn’t resemble the Pinocchio Walt Disney recreated in his second animated movie in the 1940s.
    The public is invited to attend two anniversary programs on Oct. 6. A program for family and children 8 and older begins at 2 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults; children are free. Refreshments will be served; children will receive finger puppets. The adult program follows at 5 p.m. Admission is $5; wine and appetizers will be served. Reservations are not necessary.
    Houk, one of the PAI founders, says every child who comes to the PAI knows Pinocchio. But it’s the Disney version they recognize – not the Italian one.
    So that children visiting the PAI could see the differences between the American version of Pinocchio and the foreign renditions, Houk asked Earl Rowan, an Independence woodcarver, to carve an Italian Pinocchio for the anniversary observance. And he accepted the challenge.
    “So now we have a (Italian) marionette, and we can show children what the Italian children see and then what the American children see and the differences (between them),” she explains.
    Rowan, though, didn’t stop with carving just an Italian Pinocchio. He and other PAI friends turned the large PAI display window into Geppetto’s workshop.
    The display shows Geppetto – Pinocchio’s woodcarving father – at his workbench carving “this wonderful head coming out of this log,” Houk says, adding: “It’s just a log, so he’s just starting.”
    Adding realism to the eye-catching display are the antique tools on the workbench – on loan from Doug Walter – and the period clothing worn by Geppetto, who is a mannequin.
    Page 2 of 3 - But period tools and clothing weren’t the only loans.
    For the Pinocchio Time exhibit, which runs through July 2013, Amy Tuso of Liberty, Mo., loaned her Pinocchio collection of figurines and pictures while making puppets with her children at PAI. While Houk was telling Tuso about the upcoming exhibit, Tuso replied: “Oh, I collect Pinocchios, and I would love for you to have them. They are just sitting in tubs; I can’t (display) them all.”
    From California, Texas, Michigan and Tennessee, more and more Pinocchio-related items were added to the display as news of the exhibit spread.
    “So we have people from all over (helping). It has just been fun to know all these people who are interested in Pinocchio and have added to our collection,” she says, including another big supporter – Regina Schaefer, a New York state artist.
    While reading the story of “Pinocchio” to her five children, Schaefer came across a picture of Walt Disney holding a model of the actual Pinocchio marionette used in the Disney movie.
    So enthralled by the photograph, Schaefer purchased a piece of balsa wood – and with no experience – succeeded in making a puppet. Not only did she make Pinocchio, but she also created Geppetto, Stomboli, Lampwick, Fox and the Cat – all characters in the “Pinocchio” movie.
    “And we have them all here,” Houk says excitedly, noting that after each of Schaefer’s five children received a puppet character for Christmas, they built a stage and entertained the neighborhood children.
    Though most of the original story remains the same, Houk says there have been some major changes since Disney’s version.
    Take Jiminy Cricket, for instance. In the original version, Houk says, he was just a nameless cricket who died violently after an angry puppet threw a wooden mallet at him for calling him a “wooden head.”
    “But, of course, Disney wouldn’t stand for that,” she says, explaining that in his version, the cricket is called “Jiminy” and becomes Pinocchio’s conscience, telling him what to do and what not to do, in addition to warning him about the people trying to make him do naughty things.
    “So he changes that,” she says. “So it’s an interesting concept of how you can take something and turn it around from what it was originally.”
    Houk says the story of Pinocchio is really a story about losing your childhood and other things you have to learn. Like not to lie. Not to be greedy.
    “He has all these adventures where things happen to him, and so it’s a loss of innocence as he grows up,” Houk says, “because when he finally learns all these lessons, then he becomes a real boy. So in a way, it’s rather a deep story. But it is also a fun story because it has a lot of adventures in it.”
    Page 3 of 3 - The public is invited to tour the museum and enjoy the Pinocchio Time exhibit from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults, $1.50 for children under 16.
    The exhibit features old Pinocchio books, old Italian postcards, posters, a night light, a bird house, pencil sharpeners, puzzles, comic books, puppets, a Japanese Pinocchio, a Russian postcard, a Christmas ornament, a paper Pinocchio, stuffed toys, records, a story book doll, a music box, clock and much more.
    Call the Puppetry Arts Institute at 816-833-9777 for more information, or visit www.hazelle.org.

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