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The puppet master — The work of Aurora Valentinetti will be celebrated at Bremerton museum

A puppet from Japan is pictured at the Aurora Valentinetti Puppet Museum. Bremerton’s sister city, Kure, donated three puppets last year. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
A puppet from Japan is pictured at the Aurora Valentinetti Puppet Museum. Bremerton’s sister city, Kure, donated three puppets last year.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Aurora Valentinetti’s first puppet was a “self portrait” created in 1941 called “Melode” that was designed as a singer and was later turned into a ballerina.

“As often happens with the creative types — she converted it into something else,” said Stanley Hess, curator of The Aurora Valentinetti Puppet Museum in Bremerton.

The Aurora Valentinetti Puppet Museum and Evergreen Children’s Theatre in Bremerton will celebrate Valentinetti’s 90th birthday with a party at the museum from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24.

Valentinetti, who has a history in puppetry in the Pacific Northwest for more than 50 years, taught at the University of Washington, created puppets and performed as well.

Hess first took a class of Valentinetti’s in puppetry at the UW in 1963. He graduated the following year majoring in general art and minoring in anthropology.

“I’ve maintained my friendship since then,” he said.

Valentinetti, who resides in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, will be at the event that is open to the public. There will be light refreshments and musical entertainment.

Marshall Campbell, also a former student of Valentinetti, founded the children’s theater in 1993 as a means to have more art programs in Kitsap. His vision was to have theater performances locally for Kitsap residents, educational classes as well as a puppet museum.

And naming the museum after Valentinetti just seemed like a given since she has contributed greatly to the theater arts community, said Campbell, who now resides in Palm Springs, Calif.

“I found her very tough believe it or not,” Campbell said of his former professor. “I never got one ‘A’ out of her — no matter how hard I tried.”

Her toughness translated to her work ethic, said Campbell. Many of the puppets she has created include various intricacies.

Hess took on the creation of the puppet museum — many of the museum’s displays include those from Campbell and Valentinetti’s personal collections — and in 1999 it was housed in the basement of the Admiral Theatre.

“It’s been my baby ever since,” Hess said of the museum that is now located on Fourth Street and has a total collection of more than 1,200 puppets.

The museum includes puppets of different types from around the world.

Currently on display, there are “bunraku” puppets from Japan that are a rod-type puppet that require about three people to operate, said Hess.

The puppets were donated from Bremerton’s sister city, Kure, in April 2010.

Other puppets on display include mini puppets from Indonesia, a 6-foot shadow puppet, and Chinese marionettes from the late 19th century.

“It’s difficult to say who has the oldest records,” Hess said of the long-standing presence of puppetry in other countries.

The museum represents puppets from about 20 countries, he added.

Hess has always had an interest in puppetry because of the different aspects it incorporates into the art form.

One needs to think about the story line, how the puppets will represent feelings and the type of material to use to create the puppets, he said.

“It involves all kinds of creative endeavor,” Hess said.

For Campbell, he said puppetry is different from regular theater because the actual people are not acting to be specific characters.

“[For puppetry] you’re there but you’re not,” he said. “I like the fantasy of the great pretend.”

Eighty people have contributed to the museum’s collection, Hess said, adding that he changes the display about four to five times a year.

“My particular interest is the studying of different cultures,” Hess said of puppetry. “I’m not a performer.”

 

Handiwork

The Aurora Valentinetti Puppet Museum features Aurora’s 90th Birthday Celebration, 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24.

The museum is at 257 4th Street, Bremerton; see www.ectandpuppets.org for information.

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