EASLEY — All hands were on deck, literally, last week for The New Adventures of Brer Rabbit put on by visiting Master Puppeteer David Stephens at the Kimberly Hampton Memorial Library.
The 40-minute program was filled with storytelling, songs and plenty of good humor and, like all of Stephens’ shows, featured his hand-made cast of colorful characters.
“I wear all the hats,” Stephens joked after the show last Monday. “It’s a one-man production team.”
Stephens is the founder, owner and puppeteer of All Hands Productions, an award winning company that has been entertaining audiences of all ages for the past decade. But if you ask Stephens, his love of puppets really began in early childhood.
“I was a huge fan of the Muppets,” said Stephens. “Obsessive, really. It never left me.”
In addition to being self taught, Stephens also mentored under Sesame Street’s Jimmy Nelson (who is probably best known for Sesame Street’s The Count) and he holds a master’s degree in Puppetry from the University of Connecticut. (Yes, that’s a thing.)
Besides his original works, Stephens has also been a puppeteer for The Jim Henson Company and has been a Muppet performer on Sesame Street.
“I was what we call a ‘utility puppeteer’ for Season 39,” said Stephens. “That basically means any background characters and if a tail of something of one of the lead’s needs an additional controller.
“I was Telly’s left hand once.” Stephens said and laughed, referring to the classic fuchsia Sesame Street monster who is constantly worrying.
Unlike Sesame Street, All Hands Productions doesn’t have an entire cast of puppeteers, writers and set builders. It all falls to Stephens. Even his main attractions, the puppets themselves, are hand made by the puppeteer himself.
“It’s all about having a different perspective,” Stephens said about building his cast of characters. “I like to just wander around hardware stores and see what grabs me. I’ve build facial features out of things like ping-pong balls and plastic spoons — whatever’s handy.”
As for the main structures, Stephens puppets are constructed out of a foam rubber and then covered with either fleece or fur.
Currently, All Hands Productions has six non-seasonal shows, each with its own cast of seven to nine characters. Although some shows feature as many as 15 to 18 puppets.
“I was in Mobile last week, here this week and then I’m off to Columbia, followed by Roswell. Yeah,” Stephens laughed, “I travel a lot.”
All Hands Productions will be back in the Upstate in mid-July performing the award winning show “Billy Goats Gruff and Other Stuff” at the branches of the Greenville Public Library System.