The lights darkened, the curtain opened, and out sauntered a prince. Children laughed and squealed happily, and then fell silent. He was dashing in his velvet clothes, and striking with his enormous eyes and chiseled nose. You could barely make out the strings that held him up.
From the moment the first puppet appeared at the onstage, the children (and adults) in the theatre were entranced. There was lots of gasping and giggling. My 6-year-old said she actually forgot that these were marionettes on stage, and not real people.
It's a remarkable art form that isn't very common in the U.S., and one of the very few dedicated puppetry theaters in America happens to be right here in our state capitol! The Columbia Marionette Theatre
was founded in 1989 by Allie Scollon, and the tradition continues today with shows almost every Saturday of the year.
The group makes all its own marionettes (or puppets controlled by strings), as well as all the sets and other, smaller puppets used in the plays. Some of the puppets are up to five feet tall and are controlled by puppeteers who stand almost 10 feet above the stage.
Make sure to get there early enough to spend some time getting an up-close look at the big marionettes from previous production that are on display in the lobby. Mary Frances reports that this was actually her favorite part of the afternoon.
The theater also writes all the scripts and music used in the shows. The plays are based on classic fairy tales as well as new stories. We had the great luck to see "Beauty and the Beast," which closed on June 1. Now we’re getting ready to go back to see "Dinosaur Tales" which began its run on June 8.
The Columbia Marionette Theatre is located at 401 Laurel St., Columbia
. (803) 252-7366.
Shows are most Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. (check the website to make sure the shows are running that day). Tickets are $5 per person, and children younger than 2 are admitted free. The theater also offers birthday party packages, including a show.
The theater is very dark during the performance, and this might scare some younger children. If you know your children are scared of the dark, plan to sit with them, instead of letting them sit in the kids-only rows near the stage.