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Puppet Figure Creation for Dolly Parton's Imagination Playhouse

Dollywood Train

This summer, Dollywood’s Heartsong Theatre will open its doors to a stunning event featuring the musical presence of Dolly Parton. In partnership with Penguin Group USA, Dollywood is showcasing the classic tale, The Little Engine That Could and two other award winning children’s books, bringing them from the page to the stage. These books are brought to vibrant life through Parton’s musical talents and the enthralling art of the puppet with dazzling creations from Artistree, Inc.

Workshop Basement

Artistree is a national theatre company based in Tennessee. With a collaborative team of designers and fabricators, they captured the “look” of the renowned storybook illustrations, bringing them into a three dimensional form, endowed with the ability to move. The remarkable design and engineering skills of Leon Fuller, with over 17 years experience in this specialized field, provided the characters with the ability to smile, blink, pout, and strain...not an easy feat for a train! Working with his partner Clarissa Lega and a team of artists - Brad Shur, and Alexandra Goldberg, graduates from the Rhode Island School of Design - along with veteran stage technician, Ted Geiger, they produced masterful puppets for all the train characters in The Little Engine That Could and Gloria the Dog in Officer Buckle and Gloria.

Dolly Parton and Train

The amazing success of The Lion King and several other Broadway hits featuring puppets has revived enthusiasm for the art form in live theatrical performances. Puppetry, a fusion of sculpture, engineering and symbolism, has proven tremendously effective in creating a unique impact. This becomes apparent in the “showcase” story The Little Engine That Could. As most people who have read the classic know, all the characters are trains. The challenge for the show’s producers was to build trains with human traits. How could they bring forth, from the colorful, yet static, shapes of the illustrations, qualities and emotions that would add depth to each character?

Producing Train

For Imagination Playhouse director, Brian Hull, the answer was obvious... puppets! Mr. Hull has been the coordinator and director for the Puppetry Program for the Nashville Public Library for over 6 years. He and a staff of talented performers have one of the most successful children’s library programs in the country. Their productions attract 7000 children a month. The program rotates puppet plays from the Library’s collection of productions designed by several artists. The most recent additions have been produced by Leon Fuller and Clarissa Lega, the team from Artistree. This previous collaboration prompted Mr. Hull to invite them to produce the puppets for the Imagination Playhouse productions.

Producing Train

In addition to designing and constructing puppets for production companies like Dollywood, the Nashville Library, and the Nashville Ballet, Artistree tours nationally with a performance group of their own. In the past 16 years, they have been presented in outstanding performing arts centers across the nation and produced festival events in South America. They have four main stage puppet productions, based on folklore, myths and legends from across the globe. Yearly, they do more than 300 performances and are seen by over half a million people. Some highlights of their performances to date:

Producing Gloria

The combination of talents of the amazing Dolly Parton, the versatile Brian Hull, and the animated sculptures by Artistree, in the Imagination Playhouse summer productions, create a spectacular experience. It is an event not to be missed!

Take a look at our new Walkabout Puppets!

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