Puppets bring a children’s tale to First Night
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Artists put their talents to work in myriad ways to pay their rent and put food on the table without resorting to day jobs.
As an actor, Charlotte Anne Dore has appeared on theater stages, at corporate events, at murder-mystery dinners. She records audiobooks and hosts storytelling events and leads ghost tours of Boston. She also gets in front of the cameras as an extra and a stand-in for movies and television. She plucked chickens in a Pilgrim costume for a public TV documentary. She operated the feet of an animatronic gorilla for a scene in the Kevin James movie “Zookeeper.”
“I do a lot of things so I can make a living as a performer, basically,” Dore says. “I love all of them.”
But she’s found her niche in puppetry, and her alter ego is a marionette named Rosalita. Dore and Rosalita’s Puppets will be lighting up First Night on Dec. 31 at the Hynes Convention Center, Room 206, with family performances at 1:15, 2:30, and 3:45 p.m.
Rosalita “says all the things I would love to say,” explains Dore, 45, who lives in Somerville. “She’s just friendly and outgoing. She’s sometimes cheeky.”
That includes making a cultural reference or a joke that will go over the heads of the kids in the audience, straight to the adults in the back of the room.
“I’m an actress, so sometimes I don’t quite know who I am,” Dore says with a giggle. “When I’m Rosalita, she is confident and ready to speak her mind and tell a story and be fun and bubbly. But then, all the other puppets are kind of the other parts of my personality, too, I guess.”
“Rosalita and the Giant Bugs” is the show she’ll present at the Hynes. It finds Rosalita shrunk down to the size of the insects in her garden and trying to find her way back to normality, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” To get there, she has to look to some of the bugs for help. The ultimate moral for the 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds who are the entertainment’s primary target audience: One good turn deserves another. That kind of lesson wrapped in fun makes Dore a popular hire for day cares, schools, and summer programs.
“We love her because she just has the ability to mesmerize the children,” says Judy Conway, executive director of the Wesley Education Center in Dorchester, where Dore performed her version of “The Nutcracker” for preschoolers on Monday.
“I think it’s her ability to change her voice to each character and make the characters move in such a way so that they look absolutely real,” says Conway. “In ‘The Nutcracker,’ Clara is bowing and dancing and waving. All those little minuscule movements that a marionette can make, she’s extremely skilled at doing that . . . and I think that’s what makes it come alive for the children.”
Dore’s journey began in her native England, where she studied visual arts and performance at what is now Nottingham Trent University. In 1988, she landed a spot in an exchange program at the Art Institute of Chicago and picked up a gig at a summer camp in Vermont to help pay her way. One of the counselors at the camp was musician Paul Fudin. Within a few years they were married, and Dore came to America for good.
“The biggest thing about Rosalita is she was the first puppet I built on American soil, so she’s American-born,” Dore says. Onstage, puppeteer and marionette look somewhat alike, both long-haired and dressed in red. Their first regular gig was at King Richard’s Faire in Carver. “They asked me what my role was, and I wrote down ‘Rosalita’s puppeteer.’ And it ended up in the program as ‘Rosalita’s Puppets.’ And that just sort of stuck.”
The many plays in Dore’s arsenal can involve marionettes or hand puppets, and tend to be gently funny takes on fairy tales and other traditional children’s stories. “Sea Story” involves a mermaid and pirates and sea creatures; “Goldilocks and the 3 Dragons” switches out the bears for some fire-breathers; “Rosarella” puts a distinctly Rosalita spin on the Cinderella story.
Most of Dore’s shows can be customized depending on the age group of the crowd, and most also involve audience participation, as the young ones help Rosalita and other characters make the right choices to get them to a happy ending.
Dore builds her puppets and marionettes herself, mainly from recycled materials. She says she’s happy to be a full-time performer, and takes a lot of outdoor jobs in places like parks, not usually a puppeteer’s favorite.
“I am used to working in the dust and heat and cold,” she says, and she sounds quite cheerful about it.
Joel Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.