There’s a pretty good chance at some point this year you have seen the Puppet Mobile parked in front of the Creative Arts Center.
This vehicle is the main source of transportation for the puppetry program, which was started over 30 years ago by Joann Siegrist, a former WVU puppetry and theatre professor. It is now being helped in part by Mary McClung, who is a professor of costume design and puppetry as well as the director of costuming at the College of Creative Arts.
After 2015, when Siegrist retired, the use of the Puppet Mobile was carried on as best as it could be.
According to McClung, the Puppet Mobile is continuing to follow the mission to “bring live performance and puppetry specifically, to schools all over West Virginia, because there are so many students, young kids and adults, even, who don’t see live shows.”
The main areas of West Virginia that are served are schools in the southern part of the state.
“We definitely get a lot of attention when we’re driving on the interstate, I will say,” McClung said.
The class Theatre 464, called Children’s Theatre, is associated with the use of the Puppet Mobile.
McClung says the Puppet Mobile is “oriented to where it was only going out in the spring and associated with [this] specific class.”
“We have some good shows like Three Little Pigs, Aesop’s Fable, we’re working on a Sleepy Hallow. We want to take them out to have the kids see them, so we’re really excited,” McClung said.
Shows like these create big reactions in the children.
“The kids are so responsive,” McClung said. “They’re like telling you stories about the cocoa that they had that helps them, because one of our stories we have is the Three Little Pigs. Based on a short story about the wolf that’s got a cold looking for help getting chicken soup and is looking for the pigs to help him. Not to eat them! But to get cold remedies from them… And sometimes kids will pipe in and say, ‘I use cocoa sometimes.’”
In light of the puppetry program’s recent probation, McClung is hoping to bring back the Puppet Mobile better than ever. She says the first step is “tweaking a couple courses and increasing enrollment just a little bit.”
McClung says the Puppet Mobile has been used more and more and more.
"So, I’m optimistic. I think we can increase enrollment,” she said.
Due to the attention the van draws, it is a moving display of what you can do in the puppetry major.