Puppets portray a classic holiday tale

The Puppet People's version of "A Christmas Carol" differs a little from what families might be used to seeing on stage. There's the obvious: the characters are puppets instead of real people. But beyond that, Carrigan and Smith-Carrigan had to pare down the cast since there are only two of them controlling the puppets, and they had to condense the story to about 50 minutes to accommodate kids' attention spans.

"A Christmas Carol" as it's written has a lot of characters, Carrigan said. Bob Cratchit, for example, comes from a large family. To portray those relatives, the Puppet People rely on shadow puppets. Instead of creating elaborate puppets for each person, they use simple puppets whose shadows give the appearance of a crowd.

The show also features a 9-foot-tall parade puppet that wades into the audience -- "People really go for that. They think it's really neat," Carrigan said -- and a slew of traditional marionette puppets that Carrigan and Carrigan-Smith control from above with a series of thin strings.

The pair have been manipulating puppets for more than 20 years. Carrigan has a degree in sculpture from the University of Massachusetts; his wife has a degree in theater from the University at Albany. After graduation, both landed jobs with the now-defunct Bennington Marionettes. They traveled with the troupe and put on puppet shows, falling in love along the way.

When the Bennington Marionettes went out of business, Carrigan and Carrigan-Smith got what he called "regular jobs." But they kept putting on puppet shows on a part-time basis as a two-person team.

The Puppet People were so successful that Carrigan-Smith eventually made it her full-time job. About eight years ago, they had the financial footing for Carrigan to do the same.

They have performed at churches, theaters, festivals and schools. Their offerings include "The Elephant Child," Rudyard Kipling's tale of how elephants got their long noses; an anti-bullying program called "Bully Busters" and a variety show called "Puppet Potpourri."

"We like to use a lot of different puppets," Carrigan said, and "Puppet Potpourri" lets the couple do just that. The show includes hand puppets, mouth puppets, rod puppets and trick marionettes.

"A Christmas Carol," meanwhile, is a special show to perform because he and his wife have both loved the story since they were young. In addition, it's a fun way to introduce kids to a classic author like Dickens, he said.

Tickets for the Old Songs show are $10 for adults and $5 for children 15 and younger. Call Old Songs at 765-2815 to purchase tickets.""

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