Today is the birthday of one of my heroes: Jim Henson. From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a puppeteer. I made silly puppets out of my mother’s padded bras, made incredibly detailed faces out of my brown paper lunch sacks, and at the end of the day I turned every dirty sock into a character. I loved the idea of something coming from nothing.
When I was five or six, my mother started buying me actual toy hand puppets and I was over the moon with happiness. For Christmas, Santa brought me a puppet theater. By the time I was in middle school, I was working at the local PBS station doing small bits as a puppet artist. I saw every Jim Henson film, every TV special, and studied every movement.
Soon my passion for puppetry was replaced with a passion for theater, and I ended up putting down hand puppets and picking up scripts of Shakespeare and Ibsen. But I have always felt the connection of theater in both arts and have been thankful for the stepping stones.
Jim Henson introduced so many of us to new worlds. Through him, it was possible for frogs to not only ride bicycles but to also fall in love with pigs in haute couture. It was possible for dogs to play the piano and bears to tell jokes. It was also possible for people to interact in this world. I remember thinking: “Well if I don’t end up as a puppeteer on The Muppet Show, I could be a special guest star!”
This summer I took my son to see his first live puppet performance. Jim Henson’s youngest daughter, Heather, was in town for a Puppet Festival and I wanted him to experience the magic, beyond what he knows from episodes of Sesame Street or reruns of The Muppet Show I show him on You Tube. I will confess to getting weepy when Heather introduced herself. It was a two degrees moment for me. My son was in total awe watching the performance of Ibex puppetry, and while I have no idea if he will ever take an interest in the craft the same way I did, I am thankful that such special theater exists.
Jim Henson passed away suddenly on May 16, 1990. Today I celebrate his birth.
Celebrate Jim Henson’s Birthday With a Look at My Favorite Muppets and Beyond:
More Posts From Dresden
• Stars Count Down to the Emmys With Pre Show Parties
• Award Show Fun: BINGO for the Emmys
• The Evolution of Miss America Winners
• J.K. Rowling To Write Film Based in Potter Wizard World
• Is Idris Elba an Oscar Lock for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom?
• 25 Movies You Didn’t Realize Started as Books
• Smell Like the Biebs! 16 Unusual Celebrity Perfumes
• Hot for Teacher! 30 Teachers and Professors in TV and Film