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The Order of Oddfish

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Help Kickstart Saving These Marionettes

Joseph Lewis is a friend of mine, one of the masterminds behind Chicago’s own Emmy-nominated Elephant and Worm Educational Theater Company. Longtime readers of the blog and fans of our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival will remember Elephant and Worm’s excellent movie-musical adaptations of The 21 Balloons and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

A few days ago Joseph asked me to tell everyone about a Kickstarter campaign he’s promoting. Joseph wrote:

In late June of this year, I discovered what may the largest collection of marionettes in North America. These Lost Marionettes had been abandoned in a vacant building in my neighborhood here in Chicago. Incredibly, I was able to track down the man who made them.

The artwork was created by Ralph Kipniss, the last surviving member of a family of marionette makers stretching back to Czarist Russia. Due to a series of personal and financial tragedies, Ralph was forced to abandon his life’s work and is now living near destitution in Michigan City, Indiana. The entire story of his life and losses was covered by Dave Hoekstra in a cover story of the October 27, 2013 version of The Chicago Sun-Times (with video!) and was also covered by NBC5 Chicago here.

Joseph goes on to say,

You can help save an art legacy for future generations. But time is running out.We need to reach our goal of $25,000 by 9am November 13, 2013 in order to save this collection from destruction. Please help us share this story with those that care about the future of puppetry in America. You can be part of the miracle of reinvigorating the art of marionette puppetry to a new generation of eager minds and apprentices waiting to be inspired by the magnificent work of Ralph Kipniss.

So go do it! The Kickstarter page is here. Thanks, Joseph, for letting me know about this, and what an amazing story!