I had big plans this summer. Plans that included trying two new places every week with the Princesses. Two weekly adventures we had not yet experienced in Denver. Essentially, checking off things to do with kids in Denver on my list that I had been wanting to do but the girls just hadn’t been ready for yet. Things that didn’t happen. At least not two a week. Reality set in.
While we didn’t pack in as many things as I had hoped, we did get to several on my Things to do with Kids in Denver list. And the one that made the top must do again was The Denver Puppet Theater.
After the Princesses and I saw Jack and the Beanstalk this summer I was disappointed I hadn’t brought them sooner – and more often. Think Simple. Fun. Inexpensive. Not only did the girls watch the marionette show but they created their very own puppet in the art center (for free), created their own real puppet shows following the performance but they also got to run around outside and picnic in the outdoor courtyard. (We brought our own sack lunch but there is a cafe onsite with sandwiches and coffees.) My youngest, who was a new four could barley sit still during the performance BUT that’s ok. It’s a kids theater so little ones can sit in chairs, the floor or stand to the side. She did all of the above AND loved the show.
The Denver Puppet Theater has been around since 1996 and is the brain child of Annie Zook, owner and puppeteer. There is a reason why it’s lasted nearly 20 years – kids love it! Annie does six productions each year with most being familier fairy tales and folk tales, but she changes them a bit to be relevant to the times and the kids. Her work hasn’t gone unrecgonized, not only by the kids and parents who love The Denver Puppet Theater but through a slew of awards: “Best children’s theater in Colorado”-Denver Post; “Best kids outing”-5280 Magazine; “Best kids b-day party”-Westward.; Favorite Kid’s Outing – Colorado Parenting.
I had the opportunity to have Annie answer a few questions for me regarding The Denver Puppet Theater and what makes it one of the best things to do with kids in Denver.
Things to do with Kids in Denver: The Denver Puppet Theater
An Interview with Annie Zook from The Denver Puppet Theater
What or who inspired you to start The Denver Puppet Theater?
My husband and I bought this delapidated empty building in the spring of 1996. We always wanted a tourist trap. After six-months of remodeling we ferreted out a puppet theater and a place to live upstairs. My husband continued to remodel homes for a few years, while I began the puppet theater. I had a nice trial run at what used to be University Hills Mall for three years in a mall that was slated to be torn down. This experience gave me an opportunity to see if there was business, and from where it would come in order to make ends meet.
How did you get involved in the world of puppeteering and marionette shows?
As a child I spent way too much time playing with dolls and paper dolls. My mother and I would make an entire wardrobe of clothes then act out some fun scenes with the dolls. As an adult one of the art creations I made were stuffed batiked creatures. When my child was born I still did this for a living, but found myself waving the hands of the creatures to buy time as I was sewing them up. This seemed to entertain my son and his friends. I had a house many kids came to so it became a day care home when my kids were young. Puppets just seemed like a good idea and it grew from there.
Who is the main puppeteer at the marionette shows?
I am and have been the one and only puppeteer at the Denver Puppet Theater. Occasionally I am sick and my husband, daughter in-law and son step in to help. I broke my wrist in a car accident awhile back and had help from two puppeteer/good friends for a month.
Have you studied or trained in puppeteering? Where and when?
I haven’t really studied or trained formally. There is an organization nationally, The Puppeteers of America. The group has teaching and performing festivals, which I have attended. Also, the puppeteering community is very wonderful and is always sharing information.
The Denver Puppet Theater is truly a family affair. Can you tell us a little bit about how the family is involved with The Denver Puppet Theater?
I began with the puppet theater. As my son finished college he took over the back upstairs for his music recording studio. Then my husband began the coffee shop, and finally my daughter in-law has created a hair salon off the courtyard. My husband and I live up over the coffee shop, while our son and daughter in-law live in a space out back. I guess we have the family farm in the middle of the city.
How many shows do you do a year? How often do they change?
I perform six different shows every year. These shows will repeat about every four years. It takes me about a year to develop a new production. And I perform about 400 + shows a year. The Denver Puppet Theater is open year round save a little time off in late August and early September. Four shows a week are open to the public. Then there are private birthday parties and private large school showings.
How do you select the stories you perform? What shows are you gearing up for this Fall? What are the show times?
Of the six productions usually one is a Christmas show, one a southwestern/Mexican show (in English), most of the others are world fairy tales and folk tales….often changed up a little to be relevant to the times and kids. I will often combine stories I know and put them in a different setting and time frame. This year’s shows are:
- Rumplestitlskin in the fall
- The Elves and the Shoemaker in December
- Cricket ( the southwestern tale) January and February
- Rapunzel in March and April
- Pinocchio in May and June
- Silly Jack in July and August (tentative)
What is unique about The Denver Puppet Theater? Why makes it one of the best things to do with kids in Denver?
I think the best part of being here is it is low key and interactive. The Denver Puppet Theater uses the kids imagination and encourages the children to play and come up with their own stories. I also am keen on creating shows, which empower the children. They solve the situation/problems in the performance. Life with the puppets might be a bit scary but all will end happily ever after. We are the only puppet theater for many miles…Phoenix to the west and south, Kansas City to the east…I know of nothing north.
Things parents should know before coming to The Denver Puppet Theater – or any puppet theater for kids? (Tips help ensure a good experience).
Children should be at least three. The shows are targeted for the 5,6,7 year olds. A few years on either side works fine. Some older children love it here….especially as it has become a favorite outing with a grandparent. If the children are on the younger side, come early so the child can become familiar with the puppets before the show. For everyone, please stay after the 45-50 minute show for hands on child created performances in our eight kid sized stages. This is a lovely time to enjoy and encourage the creativity of your little one!
Any thing else you’d like to add?
We do have a yummy garden that people are encouraged to relax in and enjoy…and Dave (the husband) makes some wonderful sandwiches, salads, soups, treats, coffee, tea, wines and beer for all’s eating pleasure.
Denver Puppet Theater Location:
3156 W. 38th Ave., Denver
I’d love to hear about your thoughts on The Denver Puppet Theater and some of the best things to do with kids in Denver in the comments. They might just make it on to my 2014 summer list. (I’ll try to be a bit more realistic with what we can make happen next summer.)
Have you been to The Denver Puppet Theater?
What are some of your top things to do with kids in Denver?