West Virginia University theater professor Joann Siegrist and several of her puppetry students performed at the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh recently as part of an event honoring Caroll Spinney who performs as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch in the Muppets and Sesame Street.
Spinney was in Pittsburgh for the ToonSeum’s annual fundraiser, “Ka-Blam! The Return of Saturday Mornings” and also for the opening of the exhibition “The Art of Caroll Spinney,” which will be on view at the ToonSeum through Jan. 30.
Attending the event on Nov. 6 were theater students Sam Waggoner, Bobby Eure and Krista Whites, as well as Christopher Williams, an MFA student in art education; Ben Levesque, who graduated from the Division of Theatre and Dance last spring; and Jason Lee, a prospective puppetry graduate student who joined the group for the evening.
“It was a magical night, to say the least,” Siegrist said. “As we were loading the Puppet Mobile in the parking lot in downtown Pittsburgh, one of the students said ‘This is the best night of my life.’
“It does not get better than that for me.”
The Spinney exhibit explores the alternate career of one of the world’s best-loved puppeteers and offers insight into Spinney’s life and work.
Spinney pursued his passion for cartooning and for puppetry equally, with great excitement and persistence. In the 1950s, he created the animated program “Crazy Crayon” and in the 1960s he was Mr. Lion on the “Bozo the Clown” show.
In 1969, Jim Henson approached him after a puppetry performance and complimented his work and later hired him for the iconic characters of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
Spinney has been with Sesame Street for more than 40 years.
The WVU puppetry program is one of only three puppetry degree programs in the United States.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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