That Puppet Guy

Carnegie brings back puppeteer Lee Bryan

by Bradley Hartsell


Lee Bryan performing “Travelin’ Tales” has puppets of a lion and a frog to tell an Indian folktale about not bullying and the importance of being honest. 

The Carnegie Library capped its summer-long children’s events last Thursday with storytelling by Lee Bryan, also known as That Puppet Guy.

In the upstairs room of Carnegie Library, Bryan performed “Travelin’ Tales” to a roomful of kids and their parents. With a treasure chest full of his puppets, a few goofy props and his interactive stage, Bryan delivered another successful show. With more than 20 years working with puppets, Bryan is a dutiful traveling puppeteer, but he’s just as engrossed with it as he ever was.

“I have one of the best jobs in the world,” said Bryan. “Traveling and performing puppet shows all over the southeast.”

In “Travelin’ Tales,” Bryan took the local kids on a worldwide adventure, from India to America to China. In the first stop, India, Bryan told the folktale of how a frog got the best of a lion that was being a bully to everyone around him.

“It’s the story of not being a bully and of being honest,” said Bryan, giving the children not only a positive message, but one from halfway around the world he hopes they’ll take to heart.

“Not only was the show entertaining, but it was also educational,” said Beverly Jarvis, whose son, Brice, participated in Bryan’s story from China. Brice and two other kids were given hats to represent their respective animal – Brice was a wolf.

“He is an animal, always jumping around anyway,” joked Jarvis. “Anytime they get to participate and not be afraid of doing things in public is great. You never know how those few little moments like that will take them.”

In the folktale from China, Bryan used the kids to represent how a fox outwitted a tiger who thought because he was the biggest, he was also the most powerful creature in the jungle.

After Bryan performed his Native American folktale of the rain and sun personified, who each think he’s the most important resource before both realize they need each other, he explained how he made all his puppets. For the Indian story, he used baskets to make his animals, in honor of India’s basket weaving culture. The Native American story was made from shadow puppets, using only light to manipulate the puppets. The Chinese folktale centered on baseball caps and the animal faces Bryan paper mached onto them.

“I liked him explaining how he made his puppets. It lets the kids explore their own imaginations, which he challenges,” Jarvis said.

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