Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Artist and the Vent

 "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only", Is the story of my connection to Art Sieving, ventriloquist, artist, mentor and creator of my first vent figure "SQUEAKY". But Art is not the only person who has created puppets for me.
Kirk Thatcher
Long John LaFeat
Created by Kirk Thatcher
My act consists of puppets made by various artists, puppeteers and craftsman.  I believe each puppet character is as unique as the artists who created it. Recently I have been thinking about that relationship between ventriloquists and puppet maker. Like my connection to Art Sieving, I have a cosmic relationship with each one of those artists. For every "body" in my stage show there is an artist's saga to go with them. Here is one.

I was introduced to Kirk Thatcher by Brian Wright, a mutual artist friend. Kirk was still in high school, and I hired him to draw storyboards for a show I was pitching.  Artistically and creatively Kirk was three decades ahead of me even then.  Kirk was a wonderkin who could paint, draw, sculpt and animate just about anything his other worldly mind could conceive. He became my "go to guy" when I had some outrageous idea that could be visualized by Kirk's talents. He eventually would create three distinctive puppet characters for me.
The first was Log Chainey, a seven foot wooden monster and deranged psychopathic killer. Log Chainey was star of the Bubonic Players annual Halloween show presented at The Comedy and Magic Club. (I am looking for the pictures of Log Chainey and will publish them when I do.) To explain the illusion, Log Chainey is a body switch puppet that looks like a 7 foot tree monster in hospital scrubs and lab coat dragging me around stage like a rag doll.  The tree monster hates ventriloquists because they do wood jokes and breaks out of an asylum for the criminally insane each Halloween to terrorize me and the audience.
My second Thatcher creation was also constructed for a Bubonic Players Halloween Show, Long John LaFeat. Originally Long John was part of a beheading effect on stage with a very frightening guillotine. Long John was resurrected as a cast member of "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" on Broadway. Although the execution is imagined in "The Two and Only" for the Bubonic show we actually did it. Kirk played the "Torso" of Long John for this performance and became an honorary member of the Bubonic players.  I have always thought Long John bears a striking resemblance to his creator.
Lastly Kirk created Ruben "Hick" Hickory, who is again a very large vent puppet. Hick was featured in an NBC special called "Harry Anderson's Sideshow" as an obnoxious rube sitting next to me in the bleachers of the mythical sideshow. As executive producer and co-writer of that show Hick became mine at the end of the production. 

I have been fortunate to work with a lot of wonderful artists in my life and career. Kirk has gone on to become a producer/writer of wonderful projects some with the Henson group. I am continually amazed at how his talents have not just grown as he grew up, but have excelled in an exponential way.
I asked Kirk if I could publish this and he was gracious enough to let me.
Thanks Kirk for your talents and your friendship. A puppet maker and the ventriloquist will always have a bond that is unlike any other friendship.
As you were,

1 comment:

P. Grecian said...

Hope you find those pictures, Jay.