Eulenspiegel brings puppet shows home with live streams
by Margaret Hurlbert
November 16, 2020

WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–After postponing their 45th birthday celebration in March, founder Monica Leo and everyone with Eulenspiegel Puppetry Theatre missed having opportunities to perform for live audiences. Though the troupe has opted to wait on hosting performances with audiences until a later date, they have devised a live stream schedule to delight audiences from afar all summer long.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, puppet theatres in many places debated the benefits of having live streamed performances. “This has been a subject of discussion among a lot of puppeteers I know,” shared Leo.

When early social distancing guidelines made hosting in person performances impossible, Eulenspiegel decided the time had come to experiment with live streaming. “It’s what we’ve got–I’d hate to not perform at all,” stated Leo.

At the beginning of April, for the first time, they streamed one of their shows for an audience in Grinnell. Though different from any of their past performances, they felt encouraged by the experiment. “We did feel a little of the crowd energy,” Leo said. “It’s the next best thing to performing live.”

Ready to expand their live streaming repertoire, Eulenspiegel put together a schedule for their summer season. Set for the last Sunday of each month, the shows air at 2 p.m. on Eulenspiegel’s Facebook page. Free to the public, Leo hopes many people of all ages will tune in and enjoy some puppet fun.

Eulenspiegel’s public live streaming began Saturday with a performance of “In the Mirror: Three Tales From Asia.” A retelling of three folktales from different Asian countries by Leo, the show delighted audiences with the clever thinking and wisdom of its female main characters. July 26, Eulenspiegel will continue their live stream season with “Kate Shelley’s Train Rescue.” Written by Eulenspiegel’s own Stephanie Vallez (who will also debut a new show this year), the show tells the true story of how Kate Shelley, an Irish immigrant who moved to Iowa as a child, kept a train from going off a washed out bridge. Finally, on August 30, Appleseed! recounts the adventures of Johnny Appleseed and his travels across the United States.

Depending on the number of recent COVID-19 cases in the county and the weather, Eulenspiegel may have opportunities for small outdoor live audiences at their upcoming live streams. Leo also reports, “we are in the earliest stages of planning a drive in puppet show,” and will provide more information about the event as Eulenspiegel finalizes it.

In tandem with its live stream performances, Eulenspiegel has developed an online workshop for children to participate in. They offered their first workshop in partnership with the West Liberty Public Library in June, with kids collaborating with Eulenspiegel to write a script, create puppets, and perform their show over the course of three afternoons. Different from all their previous youth workshops, Leo found the experience enjoyable and rewarding for all: “It went really well. I was really gratified by how the kids did.” Leo looks forward to hosting a similar workshop with Musser Public Library this week.

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