Puppet Kitchen is one of those cool, off-the-beaten path places that we love to discover. Its studio is in the old kitchen of the Lower East Side Girls Club, unmarked except for a small paper sign, and the puppet making workshops aren't listed in any of the places you usually find classes. But I'm hoping that will change because something's cooking at Puppet Kitchen that more people need to know about.
Emily DeCola, Michael Schupbach and Eric Wright—three veteran puppeteers who perform, design and make puppetry magic—created Puppet Kitchen. They've made puppets for shows you've probably heard of like the Off Broadway musical ImaginOcean and PBS Kids' LazyTown as well as operas and more esoteric projects. To say that they are puppet masters is not an overstatement, so learning how to make puppets in their workshop is an incredible opportunity, not because they are famous, but because it's a super-fun, creative, awesome thing to do—and you get to go home with your own amazing puppet.
Puppet Kitchen offers a few different workshops for kids ages 6 and up. The Design & Make Your Own Hat Puppet class for ages 8 and up looks great, but my family tried the Pup-It Workshop. During the two-hour long class, we made our own furry hand puppets, gluing in the mouthpieces and sewing up the sides, and then we used our creativity and the wide selection of materials to turn them into unique characters. It was amazing to see how many totally different puppets came out of one class thanks to each creator's vision. My kids both made awesome puppets that they couldn't wait to show off to their friends.
Puppet Kitchen classes are not strictly for kids. In fact, there tend to be more adults participating than children. The Pup-It Workshop is technically for ages 10 and up because it involves sewing and hot glue guns, but they sometimes allow younger kids as long as the parents understand that they will have to help with those parts (they teach you the stitches). In the end, my eight-year-old son did a lot of his own sewing and I think I'm the only one who burned themselves with the glue gun. None of the adults seemed to mind a few outbursts of enthusiasm from their younger classmates.
Maybe that's part of what makes Puppet Kitchen workshops so cool: They aren't dumbing down the craft for kids. Children get to make pretty professional looking puppets that are similar to the Muppets they see on TV. Plus getting to work with such great (and nice) puppeteers and seeing all the different puppets they've made is really inspiring. It's amazing what kids come up with for their puppets when you unleash their creativity. I love that Puppet Kitchen gives families this opportunity.
Puppet Kitchen workshops are held on Saturdays and Sundays at 220 East 4th Street between Avenues A and B. The classes cost $50 per person, which includes all the materials to make your own puppet to take home. Reservations are required and booking at least a week in advance is recommended.
Kids too young to make their own puppets? You can still enjoy lots of great puppet shows for kids in NYC.