Morrie the Monster speaks in a gruff, but cheerful, voice.
“Hello. I think everybody should come to the Palooza. It's gonna be so much fun,” Morrie says. “You know you wanna come. You bring kids, you'll bring dogs, you bring all sorts of things. You bring puppets and maybe you take puppet home. Okay. I see you there. Bye. Bye. Yeah.”
Morrie is the bright yellow mascot of the Puppet Palooza, the brainchild of Katy Williams. Her show at Green Box last summer was such a success, she was invited to do it again, but this time as part of this year’s 14th annual Green Box Festival.
Just 25 minutes outside Colorado Springs, Green Mountain Falls is home to a unique arts enclave, Green Box Arts. The sprawling arts organization includes a variety of programs and venues across the picturesque town.
In addition to field trips, open studios, concerts, and masterclasses as part of a year-round program for artists in residence, Green Box also hosts an annual arts festival in the summer. The festival this year includes the Puppet Palooza.
“I started the Palooza because there was nothing like this for me when I was younger,” Williams said. “There was no place for children to explore that part of theater."
Williams says the combination of performance and art in puppetry – and the chance to share that with kids – drew her to create the show.
“So that was a really big pull for me to do this, is to give this opportunity to kids in Colorado and giving an opportunity also to puppeteers of Colorado.”
Green Box Executive Director Scott RC Levy said the show is a great fit for the festival, a multi-week, multidisciplinary showcase of visual and performing arts events.
“Here's an applied art technique. The puppet itself could be displayed in a gallery,” Levy said. “And I've seen such things, but then to have a live human make the puppet come to life really is an expression of the visual and performing arts coming together.”
Morrie is not the only puppet in the performance. There are also puppets that artists and festival-goers themselves make — brightly colored animals and monsters, each with their own uniqueness meant to stimulate the brain with wonder. But it’s not just for show: Williams said workshops also make it real for kids and adults alike.
“So there's an educational element as well, where folks can learn about puppetry and even take one home with them.”
This hands-on approach makes the Puppet Palooza a natural fit for the mix of outdoors venues and studio classroom spaces at the Green Box campus.
“This space is so wonderful because it has a huge outside lawn, but it also has all of these little studios,” Williams said. “So we were able to kind of take small groups into little rooms and things like that. And everybody felt safe.”
Levy said Green Box Arts wants to help people connect with what’s around them, not just the artwork and artists themselves.
“I like to say that Green Box is the place where nature and art collide and this combination of the natural arts and the creative arts is really what Green Box does best.”
And one of Green Box’s main goals is to make art and creation accessible to everyone. Many of the activities at the festival are free, just like Puppet Palooza. Others, like Ballet Hispanico, have low ticket prices to keep people coming without breaking the bank.
“This is very affordable, and even though we're potentially remote, [Green Box is] a very accessible place for all people from all walks of life,” Levy said.
The Green Box Festival includes theater, dance, music, hikes, classes, conversations and more.
The festival continues through the 4th of July holiday.
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