Kevin Clash, the master puppeteer from “Sesame Street,” whose characters include “Elmo,” “Hoots the Owl,” and “Baby Natasha,” will visit Morgantown Friday (April 15) where he will appear with Elmo to present the annual Dan and Betsy Brown Lecture at West Virginia University.
Clash will speak at 7:30 p.m. at The Metropolitan Theatre on High Street in downtown Morgantown. Titled “My Life as a Red Furry Monster,” his lecture will share what he has learned about love, joy, creativity, friends and more from this most unlikely of teachers—and how all of us can benefit from acting a little more like Elmo.
Clash is the subject of the Sundance 2011 Special Jury Award-winning documentary, “Being Elmo; A Puppeteer’s Journey.”
“Kevin Clash is one of the leading creators of children’s programming today,” said Dean Bernie Schultz of the College of Creative Arts. “We are most fortunate that he will be with us and share his professional insights.”
“Kevin Clash is very entertaining, a consummate performer and an expert in the puppetry field,” said Theatre Professor Joann Siegrist, head of the Children’s Theatre and Puppetry program at WVU.
“His work has impacted millions of children and adults, not only nationally, but globally, because ‘Sesame Street’ is broadcast in countries around the world.
“We are very excited in the Division of Theatre and Dance and in the college,” she said. “This is going to be a wonderful day and evening for our students and also for the University and the community at large.”
WVU has one of only three puppetry design programs in the United States and is very involved in puppetry on a national level, especially through Siegrist’s involvement with Puppeteers of America and in Union Internationale de la Marionette, the world’s oldest theatre organization, that is dedicated to the art of puppetry.
Siegrist also has a very special relationship with the Hensons and the Muppets.
In 1997, Jane Henson, wife of the late Jim Henson and co-founder of the Muppets, visited WVU’s puppetry program and gave a campus-wide talk on Jim Henson’s legacy.
Over the years, WVU puppetry students have had opportunities to meet the entire Henson family, as well as other Muppet legends, including a visit last fall to the Toonseum in Pittsburgh, where they met and performed with Carroll Spinney, who portrays Big Bird.
This will be the program’s first meeting with Kevin Clash, who is senior puppet coordinator and Muppet captain at “Sesame Street.” He will visit a WVU puppetry class in the afternoon prior to the lecture for an informal chat and to view student puppetry performances.
Clash became involved with puppetry at a young age. He began building puppets at the age of 10 and performed on Baltimore’s Harbor Front and on local television as a teenager.
According to Clash, after spending so many years by Elmo’s side, he has been able to see beyond his alter ego’s obvious cuddly charms to the real way the puppet connects with those around him. This led him to write a book, also titled “My Life as a Furry Red Monster.” He will be signing copies of the book following the lecture at the Metropolitan Theatre.
Clash came to Sesame Street after attracting the attention of Muppet designer Kermit Love. His film credits include Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy film “Labyrinth,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (I and II), “Muppet Treasure Island,” “Muppets from Space” and “Elmo in Grouchland.” His television work includes “The Great Space Coaster,” “Captain Kangaroo,” “Dinosaurs” and “Muppets Tonight.” He also was co-executive producer for “Elmopalooza,” “CinderElmo” and “Elmo’s World”; co-producer for “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland”; and also directs “Sesame Street” episodes and other projects.
Most recently Clash directed and co-produced the home video series “Sesame Beginnings” for Sesame Workshop. He won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series for his work as “Elmo” and “Hoots the Owl” in Season 21 and Season 35, and in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 for his work as Co-Executive Producer for Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Series.
This is the second time the College of Creative Arts has hosted the Brown Lecture.
Dan and Betsy Brown, natives of West Virginia and 1959 graduates of WVU, endowed the Dan and Betsy Brown Lecture Series in 2002. Dan Brown is retired from The Capital Group Companies, Inc., in Los Angeles, and Betsy Brown is a professional photographer.
At the College of Creative Arts, they have funded the Computer-Assisted Design Lab in the Division of Theatre and Dance, the Photography Studio in the Division of Art and Design, and the new Band Tower at the practice field for the WVU Marching Band.
The Browns’ generous support of WVU has also included establishing The Brown Family Faculty Development Fund, a Guest Room at Blaney House, and gifts to the Mountaineer Athletic Club.
For more information about the Brown Lecture, contact the WVU College of Creative Arts at (304) 293-4359.
For more information about the award-winning documentary, see BeingElmo.com.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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