Creating opportunities with Marion's own master puppeteer

By Andrea Ray | Sep 11, 2017
Courtesy of: Vinny Lovegrove Vinny Lovegrove, incognito as one of his puppet characters, during King Richard's Faire.

Marion — In a rare case of inversion, the voice of Jasper, King of the Rag Dolls, arrived first, followed by his body.

"I always had his voice in my mind," explained Vinny Lovegrove. "It comes from somewhere in my cartoon childhood."

Jasper is Lovegrove's latest creation, a life-sized (and then some) puppet meant to entertain guests at King Richard's Faire in Carver. Lovegrove, a puppeteer and Marion resident, has been creating the huge puppets, which he controls from inside the costume, for the fair since 1994.

Lovegrove says he probably has about 100 puppets overall, and several were made particularly for the fair. He brings a new puppet to the fair every two years. Since Lovegrove has been at the fair since 1994, that's about eleven puppets that have graced the fairgrounds.

One, Bubbles the Fish, was one of Lovegrove's favorites. "She blew bubbles, and she had these big red lips," he explained. Another, Hodgepodge, was his own version of a beast from "Where the Wild Things Are."

Puppeteering was not Lovegrove's original plan when he went to college. The Old Rochester alumnus went to the Maryland Institute College of Art for illustration, but made friends with a number of students studying general arts. He then found himself working at the Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont.

"I just sort of followed the course my life took," he explained.

Voices are among the most important parts of puppet creation, which Lovegrove says that he begins about three months before the next fair season.

"Voices are very important with connecting to people," he explained. "I do a lot of improvising."

He reported that his most common experience inside the costume is finding that children visiting the fair look for him all day.

"At first they can be a little afraid," he explained. "But then they spend the rest of the day looking for me, wondering where I am. It's an element of masquerade—it becomes a game for them."

Lovegrove also performs for children with the Toe Jam Puppet Band, a group he founded with Tom Poitras.

"I love this job," he continued. "I get to have a career but I also get to explore my own interests and talents."

Lovegrove advised interested puppeteers to just get out there and find opportunities.

"You'll get more comfortable making mistakes," he said. "You have to love doing this and you have to be willing to make your own opportunities."

Lovegrove as Jasper, the King of the Rag Dolls, can be found at King Richard's Faire until October 22. For more information, visit www.kingrichardsfaire.net.

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