Hi, I'm Liz McMath with the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre. This summer, our team has been working behind-the-scenes to create “Blueberry’s Clubhouse” with our friends at Arkansas PBS. Creating puppets and sets for television is a little bit different than building those same things for the stage – where we usually work. But working on this show has been an incredibly fun challenge for us!
We originally created the character of Blueberry for an “Arkansas AMI” lesson this spring. Now that Blueberry is headed to summer camp, she has a whole new look. Today, I’m going to take you behind the scenes to meet the AAC team and see what’s new with “Blueberry’s Clubhouse.”
Let's check in with puppet designer Erin Larkin from the Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) to see what's new about Blueberry.
My favorite part of working on this series is the challenge of figuring out how our designs look on camera versus on stage," Erin says. "Figuring out those answers has been the exciting challenge of turning the AAC costume shop into a creature shop for TV.
Erin wanted Blueberry's fur to have a natural dusty blue – the kind you would see on blueberries. So, she went back to her sketch pad, dying vats, and sewing machines and gave Blueberry a makeover. With new fur, feathers, eyes, and reengineered hand and arm functions, Blueberry is ready to jump into all the fun that Camp AR PBS has to offer.
The clubhouse has a new look as well. Blueberry has moved from the blanket fort in her house to the camp cabin for the summer. AAC technical director Frank Mott worked with the Arkansas PBS creative team to design and build the interior of the camp cabin. Although it is not much different from designing and building a stage set, there were new challenges when creating a set for puppeteering. The most important part of creating a puppet stage is making room for your puppeteers while still allowing the human cast to interact in a believable way. Challenge accepted! Frank made movable raised flooring platforms. This allows the puppeteers to work eight inches lower than the rest of the cast, and the flooring can be moved to wherever is needed for each scene.
Speaking of the puppeteers, meet Rivka Kuperman.
She is the voice of Blueberry and lead puppeteer. Operating a puppet for eight hours a day is not easy. Rivka had to build up her puppet strength by holding her arm up for several minutes at a time. Sometimes during meetings, we didn't know if Rivka had a question or if she was just working out her Blueberry arm!
And this is Mike Stacks.
He is Rivka's right-hand man. He puppets Blueberry's right hand as well as other puppets you will see on the series. "I've had to stretch myself physically and mentally like I haven't had to in years, it's inspiring and invigorating," Mike says. He is also the go-to puppeteer for the more difficult moves. “Mike is so good at the trick shots,” Rivka says.
We have had such fun working with Arkansas PBS to expand Blueberry's world beyond the quilt fort,” Rivka says. “Blueberry reaches far outside the Clubhouse walls, and everyone is so excited to bring this world to life.