Did you know that puppets need to breathe?
At least, according to Joshua Holden they do.
Joshua is an award-winning puppeteer who made his debut at Puppets Up! in 2015. He is passionate about making puppets come alive in a realistic way, and he’s going to share some of his tips and tricks at a workshop on August 5.
by Ilana Reimer
Joshua loves working with new puppeteers, and has taught many puppetry workshops at various colleges and universities. He is looking forward to bringing these same skills to Almonte. “It’s less about making sure the mouth moves along with what you are saying,” he says. “And more about making this little inanimate object breathe and come to life.”
Ever since 2012, he has been using The Joshua Show to tell important stories or highlight topical issues that he cares about. Last year, his show at Puppets Up! was about celebrating what makes you different and how those differences are what make you authentic and unique. “I think the world needs those messages,” Joshua says. “Especially in my country. In the United States, there is so much unrest because of people who are different from you. And I think we need to break those boundaries and have those conversations. We need to inspire children and remind adults that being different isn’t a bad thing.”
It is important to Joshua to tell stories that challenge people. “It’s my way of getting political, I guess,” he says. “It’s my way of having a hand in trying to make a change in this country and this world in a way that is accessible.”
Those who attended The Joshua Show last year will remember it’s key character: the sock puppet, Mr. Nicholas. Actually, the current Mr. Nicholas is the second puppet to bear the name on the show, as the first Mr. Nicholas was stolen out of Joshua’s bag in New York’s Chinatown, not long after the show was developed. “I spent two hours running around Chinatown retracing my steps, looking in garbage cans,” he says. “I was devastated.”
Fortunately, the current Mr. Nicholas is alive and well. “I have to wash him every once and a while, but he’s holding up,” Joshua says. “I suppose I should eventually make some more, but I am so attached to him I can’t imagine making another one.”
Today, The Joshua Show is highly successful, and has been all over the world. It’s also pretty much Joshua’s full time job. “Yeah. I pay my rent off of playing with puppets,” he says. “It’s so cool.”
But he wasn’t always able to do so. In fact, when Joshua took the leap and moved to New York in 2009 he had no job and not much money. He was living on people’s couches. “It was terrifying. Absolutely terrifying,” he says.
Never having had any jobs besides creative ones, Joshua made fake resumes to apply for serving jobs. He got fired from two jobs in three months, and quickly ran out of money. Forced to move back in with his parents, Joshua auditioned for the Broadway musical Avenue Q right before heading back to Massachusetts. Fortunately he got the job, and only ended up back home for about a month and a half. “I love my parents,” Joshua says. “But somehow laying in bed at night and looking up at the glow-in-the-dark stars from when you were a child does not fill you with a lot of hope for your life.”
After being on Avenue Q’s national tour, Joshua continued taking on side jobs and working for different companies. He had been a performer since he was young, and had studied theatre, musical theatre, singing and dancing all the way through high school and college. He had no interest in puppetry, even after he was approached by the Chicago Children’s Theatre and asked to audition for master puppeteer, Blair Thomas.
Despite his lack of experience in the art form, Joshua got the job, and continued landing similar gigs after that. “It was really strange. My big secret was that I was worried someone would find out I had no idea what I was doing,” he says, laughing. But the more Joshua learned about puppetry, the more he found that his own skills as a performer could be applied to this way of storytelling as well.
As for coming back to Almonte for Puppets Up! Joshua says he’s so excited to perform here a second time. “It feels like a really fake, over-the-top movie set,” he says of Almonte. “You need to tone it down a bit. No one’s going to believe it, because no place actually looks like that.”
Joshua’s workshop, titled “Expressing Emotion with Hand Puppets,” is open to adults, ages 16 and over, and costs $30 per person. It runs from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Almonte Old Town Hall on August 5, and promises to be a fun afternoon. “We’re going to be learning how to make your puppet come to life – really come to life,” Joshua says. “So that when an audience looks at this puppet, they believe it’s alive.”
Click here to get your tickets through EventBrite. Please note that space is limited to 20 people so purchase your tickets soon!