Puppet Shows at The Westmoreland Museum

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, located in Downtown Greensburg, Pennsylvania opened its spectacular, newly renovated museum to the public on Sunday, October 25th, 2015. The Westmoreland has nearly doubled its exhibition space, part of which is a massive cantilever wing walled with windows at its farthest end. The museum has a great variety of historical painting, folk art, bronze sculpture and work by self-taught artists. Mike Cuccaro and I were commissioned to create a series of four puppet shows inspired by the museum collection to present at the public opening. The shows were based on the popular Washington Irving character Rip Van Winkle, featured in a prominent museum oil paining by George Frederick Bensell. Shows happened in four separate galleries of the museum. The first show reviewed the Irving story and imaged his famous character traveling to destinations pictured in museum works. The second show is set in a steel mill, with Van Winkle meeting the millworker Mike Kessel, pictured in a painting by Francis Komperda. The third work is inspired by the carnival paintings at the museum, specifically Carnival at the County Fair, by Dorothy Lauer Davids (1939). Puppets and set for the third piece featured carnival goers, carnival workers and a working wheel of fortune for audience members to spin. The final show happened in the ship-like cantilever wing of the museum. Titled A Nautical Adventure, it was a final furthering of the Van Winkle story, with Rip and his sidekick Cubby the dog setting setting sail for a journey of fishing and exploration.

A carnival character inspired by the sculpture The Great Speckled Bird.

A carnival character inspired by the sculpture The Great Speckled Bird.

Rip Van Winkle and Cubby the dog puppets in progress.

Rip Van Winkle and Cubby the dog puppets in progress.

Van Winkle puppet snoozes next to a tree with his crazy quilt covering in Part 1.

Van Winkle puppet snoozes next to a tree with his crazy quilt covering in Part 1.

In Part 1, a toy theater scene features miniatures of main characters.

In Part 1, a toy theater scene features miniatures of the main characters.

Part 1.

Part 1.

Rip and Rip.

Rip and Rip.

Rip's sidekick, Cubby.

Rip’s sidekick, Cubby.

Steel mill setting for second puppet show.

Steel mill setting for second puppet show.

Hand puppet of steelworker Mike Kessel, operated by Mike Cuccaro.

Hand puppet of steelworker Mike Kessel, operated by Mike Cuccaro.

Hot Puppetato!

Hot Puppetato, yeah!

Mike Cuccaro with Mike Kessel puppet, under the Portrait of Mike Kessel.

Mike Cuccaro with Mike Kessel puppet, under the Portrait of Mike Kessel.

The singing eagle.

The singing eagle.

Part 2. Mike Kessel:

Part 2. Mike Kessel: “I take a potato and put in next to the furnace…”

Rip visits a steel mill.

Rip visits a steel mill.

Carnival Time!

Carnival Time!

"Bird's Beards! Best fun on the midway! Everyone's favorite game!"

“Bird’s Beards! Best fun on the midway! Everyone’s favorite game!”

A young baseball player at the carnival.

A young baseball player at the carnival.

Statue of Peace with the infant genius strolling at the carnival.

Statue of Peace with the infant genius strolling at the carnival.

The set for Carnival Time!

The set for Carnival Time!

Part 4, A Nautical Adventure.

Part 4, A Nautical Adventure.

Rip's dog Cubby retrieves his lost possessions, to be repurposed as a sail, ropes and tiller for a ship.

Rip’s dog Cubby retrieves his lost possessions, to be repurposed as a sail, ropes and tiller for a ship.

A toy theater scene in the final act of the puppet show. Rip and his dog set sail on a final adventure at sea.

A toy theater scene in the final act of the puppet show. Rip and his dog set sail on a final adventure at sea.

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