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Sellwood's Puppet Museum expands projects and influence; does commissioned work

Sellwood's little puppet museum is now drawing attention from far and wide

DAVID F. ASHTON - The Portland Puppet Museums Steven M. Overton shows the mink stole and Bob Mackie gown that will be used in an upcoming touring production of Avenue Q. As the Portland Puppet Museum in Sellwood celebrates its fifth year, artists and proprietors Steven M. Overton and Martin Richmond find themselves busy with projects well beyond simply creating new exhibitions.

"The exhibit open in May is called 'Legends'; featuring historical puppets from United States, Indonesia, Myanmar, China, and India," Overton said.

But, when folks come to visit the museum, they shouldn't be surprised to see Overton and Richmond hard at work, refurbishing puppets and creating costumes for stage plays.

"We've started building puppets for Don Horn and Triangle Productions in 1995, and now, we're creating characters for the musical show 'Avenue Q' that they're bringing back to the theatrical stage," Overton explained.

"Avenue Q" is a Tony Award winning show, with adult themes, that imagines what it might be like when magical Sesame Street characters "grow up" and find themselves in a very mundane world.

"One of the characters, Lucy, will be dressed in a genuine Bob Mackie dress lace overcoat that was found in a Sellwood vintage clothing shop," Overton remarked. "Another character will be costumed in a genuine vintage mink stole."

They've also recently designed puppets for Don Horn's production of "Pageant", a spoof on beauty pageants; and refurbished marionettes "The Colonel" and "Miss Judy" will also be returning in to the stage for their third season in Horn productions.

A unique project the duo has tackled, commissioned by Bruce Chessé, is restoring 14 two-inch high sugar pine heads used in the 1932 production of "The Mikado" in San Francisco. "It took me hours sewing each of the miniature Japanese wigs, working under a magnifying glass," Overton recalled. "They're going on display at the famous deYoung Museum."

And, the pair's puppeteering company will be touring this summer, after staying put at their home base for the past five years. They'll be presenting their version of "Pinocchio" at the Seattle Italian Festival.

"Since we started the Portland Puppet Museum, it's been used as a template for museums in Brussels and in Santa Cruz; so our little shop on S.E. Umatilla Street is now a trendsetting smaller museum, with a small performing arts building!" exclaimed Overton.

The Museum is still open four days a week, is still offering live shows, and is still hosting public workshops.

For more information, visit their website – www.puppetmuseum.com