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Pulling the strings to enhance local theater

Grassroots Tehachapi

 

Photo provided

David SteeleReed, the new Executive Producer of the Tehachapi Community Theatre, stands on set of the current show, "The Importance of Being Earnest".

David SteeleReed was drawn back to Tehachapi by the community arts and friendly faces in town.

The Tehachapi native moved to Seattle for two years, but found the cold, wet climate not to his liking. He is back in his hometown now and was recently named Executive Producer of the Tehachapi Community Theatre. His first production, "The Importance of Being Earnest," is playing now.

"I'm enjoying being back in the Tehachapi theater scene and back home at TCT after a two year absence. I took two years off to get married and spend time with my husband Dalton, travel and enjoy life," he said. "TCT turns 50 next year and I wanted to be a part of that celebration. It's quite an accomplishment for a theater to make it to 10 years, much less 50."

When I started writing this column, several people mentioned SteeleReed to me because of his dedication to local performance art and because of the puppet theater he produces. The "String Along Marionette Theatre" is a passion that SteeleReed has just barely begun to discover, though his love of puppeteering began in childhood.

"I'm known for working in our local theater, but it was puppetry that got me started in showbiz. My brother and I used to give shows to the kids in our neighborhood out of our bedroom window that happened to have a draw curtain," he said. "That was my first stage. Shows were a nickel and my mom took care of concessions."

His uncle, Chuck Smith, was also a major influence in his puppet passion. He worked as a puppeteer for Sid and Marty Krofft Productions, the company behind H.R. Pufnstuf.

"[He had a] marionette bird he would bring out and entertain us with. I loved that funny bird," he said.

SteeleReed and his puppets perform classic fairy tales like, "Goldilocks and The Three Bears", "Cinderella","Sleeping Beauty" and "Jack and the Beanstalk".

"These classic tales are not told as much as they once were - and are mostly identified with Disney films today, but these classic fairy tales have been told for hundreds of years. I hope we can continue the storytelling tradition of these classic works," he said.

SteeleReed fell in love with a collection of puppets he found on eBay called Pelham Puppets.

"This line of puppets were designed for children's play, so they are easy to control and colorful and fun. I do buy the ones that have been loved to death and restore them to their original look or I rework them into new characters. It's the ultimate in recycling," he said.

He currently owns more than 100 puppets, which include a witch, black cat, a disjointed skeleton, an enchanted tree hand puppet named Mr. Oaken (who often serves as narrator) and a hedgehog finger puppet. He hopes to try building his own in the future and introducing some original characters to his productions.

Photo provided

David SteeleReed performs with the "String Along Marionette Theatre".

Last year, SteeleReed performed at the Apple Festival. He hopes to start performing with his troupe of puppets at local schools and the library, as well as make the BeeKay Theatre a permanent home for regular shows.

"Indeed someday I hope to leave the puppet theater and its sets, props, stage and the currently over 100 puppets to the theater, so that the art of puppetry doesn't die out in our community. But of course that will only happen when I can't pull the strings anymore," he said.

Do you know an inspirational group, individual or program that should be featured in an upcoming Grassroots Tehachapi? Email me at jcrisalli@gmail.com.

See you next time!

 
 

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