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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 12: Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head

Ravana!

Ravana, the evil demon king who kidnapped Rama’s wife Sita in the Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic of ancient India.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

When we first began vacation brainstorming months ago, the Center for Puppetry Arts was among the top choices on my half of our list for a number of reasons. It’s a modest museum packed with puppets from around the world and across centuries, many of which you’d recognize from beloved movies and TV shows of your youth and mine….but not all of them. Their collections extend to every continent except Antarctica, where they haven’t yet figured out how to export artisanal snowmen or to make their stick limbs move around without yanking them out.


Center for Puppetry Arts!

The Center for Puppetry Arts, a few miles from our hotel. After braving Atlanta’s rush-hour traffic, we early birds may have been their third and fourth customers of the day.

Orlando!

Among the first puppets in our path was Orlando Furioso, a 1950s marionette based on a Renaissance-era Italian tale inspired in turn by The Song of Roland.

Mignon!

Ritter Adelhof aus Schwaben and the title character from the French opera Mignon as adapted for German television in 1980.

Primorosa and Gris!

Princesa Primorosa and Principe Gris, hailing from Spain.

devil from Guignol play!

A Devil from “Guignol”, a French staple in the Punch and Judy tradition.

Ghana puppet!

A puppet from Ghana, no other details provided or known.

Limberjack!

From 19th-century North America comes this Limberjack, or “jig doll”. Mostly they danced.

Shadow Puppets!

Shadow puppets, when executed by skilled craftspeople, make your junior high attempts to make a bunny shape in your classroom’s overhead projector lamp look pretty sad.

Kathputli!

Kathputli, string puppets from northern India.

Kkokdugaksi!

Kkokdugaksi, a Korean art form dating back 2000+ years.

Hisamatsu and Osome!

Hisamatsu and Osome, star-crossed lovers a la Romeo and Juliet, via 1870s Japanese bunraku.

Mua Roi Nuoc!

Múa Rối Nước — Vietnamese water puppetry, once performed in 11th-century village ponds.

Indonesian puppets!

From 20th-century Indonesia, these were labeled Satria Gongdrong, Buta (“ogre”), and Rahwana.

Karetao!

Faithful recreations of Karetao, puppets of the Maori of New Zealand.

If you’re still with us at this point, please enjoy this radical gear-shifting as we wrap up with faces a bit more familiar to Westerners, especially those who happen to be our ages.

Madame!

Madame! She and her ventriloquist Wayland Flowers frequented 1970s variety shows and were practically series regulars on The Hollywood Squares.

Gumby!

Gumby! Art Clokey’s low-key Claymation classic, this one is from 1962.

Corpse Bride!

Also in stop-motion, Vincent and Emily from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.

Scar!

We saw The Lion King on Broadway on our 2011 road trip and vividly remember the show’s complicated, bedazzling puppet work as well as the face of Scar.

Mufasa!

For contrast, here’s Mufasa. Other versions are coming soon to Disney+, I presume.

Mr. Rogers merch!

The Center has one of the most tempting gift shops I’ve ever walked into on vacation. Relevant merch options include Mister Rogers, whose treasured puppet neighbors we visited last year in Pittsburgh.

Crow and Servo!

The Center’s headliners of my heart: Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Anyone who knows me closely could’ve guessed.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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