Puppets aren’t really our thing. Well, at least I thought they weren’t. We kept hearing about the delights of the Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline, but we never understood the appeal. However, we’re up for almost any adventure this summer, so when a friend invited us to see Pinocchio last Friday, we said, “Sure, sounds good.” The kids were actually excited from the start, but I wasn’t sold until I heard the theater is air-conditioned. Little did I know, we were going to have the most fun we've had in ages.
Puppet Showplace Theater doesn’t look like much from the outside, just a storefront you can’t see into. But when you enter, you know you’re someplace special. The puppets soaring overhead and across the brick walls seem almost magical, and there’s a palpable excitement in the lobby. While you’re waiting to enter the theater, your kids can draw at a table covered in paper or check out the cool Folkmanis puppets for sale.
The theater is dark and cozy (yes, that’s code for small – it seats just under 100). If you’re a first-timer at PST, it’s good to know the seating rule: Adults sit on the sides and ends, kids sit in the middle. That way the kids aren’t spending the whole show standing on the benches or craning their necks, trying to see around the adults in front of them. The show was very entertaining – engaging, funny, suspenseful – and from what I’ve heard, you can expect the same from any of the shows at PST. They bring in the best puppeteers from all over the country; in fact, the current show, Puppylocks and the Three Bears, performed by Magical Moonshine Theatre, comes all the way from the West Coast.
While the show itself was great fun, our favorite part of the experience was when the puppeteers came out at the end and gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how the show was put together. In Pinocchio, for example, most of us didn’t realize that there were actually five different Pinocchio puppets used during the performance. The puppeteers’ passion for their work was obvious, and their enthusiasm contagious. And they had a wonderful sense of humor. We laughed as much (maybe more) during their presentation as we did during the comical parts of the story. Learning more about the work and skill that goes into developing the show gave us a much greater appreciation for the art and craft of puppetry.
After the show, we spent some time in Brookline Village, and discovered a wonderful independent children’s bookstore around the corner, The Children’s Book Shop. The selection and layout were nice, the booksellers knowledgeable and helpful, and the shop is very involved in the community: All good reasons to buy your kids’ books there.
There are plenty of little cafes around for the requisite after-show snack, like KooKoo Cafe, just a few doors down.
If your child is hooked on the world of puppetry after seeing a performance at Puppet Showplace Theater, you may want to find out more about the summer camps for ages 7-12, offered through the Brookline Recreation Department. In late August, when many camps are closed for the season, kids can learn all about puppet performance during PST’s Talk to the Hand! Puppetry and Performance Skills Camp. Or celebrate your child’s birthday puppet-style. PST offers private and public parties at the theater, as well as workshops and performances that come to you.
If you’re the one who’s hooked, you’ll be happy to know that there are evening puppet shows just for adults, called Puppet Showplace Slam. Looking for a new hobby, or maybe even a new career? You may want to try one of PST’s adult classes.
As for us, I don’t think my kids and I will become puppeteers any time soon, but maybe puppets are our thing after all.
Info to know before you go:
Visit PST’s online calendar for information about upcoming shows and to buy tickets in advance (recommended). In the summer (June, July and August) show times are Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10:30am and 1pm. During the school year, shows times are on Wednesday and Thursdays at 10:30am for 3-6 year olds and Saturday and Sunday at 1pm and 3pm for families. During the December, February, and April School Vacation Weeks there are two shows each day, at 10:30am and 1pm.
Tickets are $10 each for anyone over 12 months.
Shows are approximately 45 minutes long.
A word to the wise: When the good folks at PST say that the shows are appropriate for ages 3 and up, believe them. The marionettes performances are nuanced, highly skilled, and require a certain amount of patience to truly be appreciated. Plus, remember that the theater is quite intimate; everyone can hear babies crying and toddlers whining. You may not want to spend the entire show out in the lobby, trying to calm your baby. Or, in the case of the mom behind us with a very frightened two-year-old in her lap, having to talk through every scene, explaining every character and action. Age recommendations are usually included in the show descriptions.
There is metered parking right outside the theater. If you're taking the T, they are directly across the street from the Brookline Village subway stop, which is on the D Green Line.
The theater has two single-person bathrooms out in the lobby. They are small, but relatively clean.
Puppet Showplace Theater
Location: 32 Station Street, Brookline MA