Muppet fans looking to pull the strings of the ultimate puppet vacation look no further than Center For Puppetry Arts in Atlanta.
If the puppet world has a Mecca, this is it. Further cementing the fact is its brand-spanking new $14 million, 15,000 square-foot museum wing, “Worlds of Puppetry.” It’s where Miss Piggy, Gumby and countless other creations bunk behind glass.
The double whammy experience features two galleries: the Jim Henson Collection and the Global Collection. The former serves as an unprecedented ode to the career of Muppet maestro Jim Henson with more than 75 artifacts spanning his career. The latter proves to be a visual representation of how puppetry crosses cultural lines, featuring 175 puppets and artifacts representing five continents.
Yeah, it’s a pop culture sensory overload. So how do you hack this puppet-palooza? Keep on reading, Kermie.
Spring for the tour and a show.
Through May 22, the Center offers an all-inclusive ticket that includes admission to both the family series show and the museum. Now through March 10, you can catch “Space!” a sort of “Schoolhouse Rock”-esque trip through the solar system. Written and directed by the Center’s own in-house answer to Henson, Jon Ludwig, it turns a scientific lesson up to 11. Combo tickets cost $20.50 and also include a create-a-puppet workshop. If you wanna skip the show and just hit the museum, tickets are $10.50.
On the Henson side, take your time in the recreation of Henson’s office. The light-up, papier-mâché moose head, created by artist John D. Richards, that actually hung in his office is worth a photo op. Stop in front of the video monitor playing “Time Piece,” Henson’s psychedelic live-action short film. You’ll get a contact high.
Get to work.
After geeking out on the “Sesame Street” section, complete with the towering Big Bird, try your hand as a puppeteer in the mock TV studio. Grab a hand puppet and see what it takes to be a Muppeteer. Once you step behind the stage, lift your puppet into the camera’s view and watch your handwork on the TV monitor below just like the pros. See if you have the skills to pay the bills like Frank Oz.
Honor the Goblin King.
The recently departed David Bowie played Jareth the Goblin King in the 1986 fantasy flick “Labyrinth,” directed by Henson. Tip your hat to both Henson and the Thin White Duke by checking out puppets and props from the film.
Make a stop at the stop-motion exhibit.
Inside the Global Collection, you’ll find a section focusing on stop-motion animation. Get the camera ready. A pair of tall, lean and exquisitely beautiful stop-motion puppets from director Tim Burton’s 2005 film “Corpse Bride” —Victor Van Dort and the Corpse Bride— are jaw dropping. Gumby and Pokey hang nearby. And make sure and behold the beauty of the kitchen scene from “Coraline,” featuring the title character and her parents noshing at the table.
Make it special.
Schedule your visit around an upcoming special event. Valentine’s Date Night drops 7 p.m. Saturday, February 13. Peruse the museum and a cash bar with your sweetie in tow. Or opt for Jim Henson Trivia Night at 8 p.m. on March 19. Rock your Henson knowledge for prizes.
Center for Puppetry Arts, 1404 Spring St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-873-3391, puppet.org.