Dallas Children's Theater Blog

Astonishing Kids And Families With The Fun of Broadway-Like Plays and A Lot More!

Kathy Burks’ Senior Designer Gives Hansel and Gretel Puppets Brand New Heads

IMG_3193This year, the senior designer and technical director of Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts along with other team members spent 120 hours designing and sculpting new heads for the title characters of HANSEL AND GRETEL. As the senior designer, Sally Fiorello oversees all designs, construction and physical aspects of this show. She is also an actor and Master Puppeteer with the Kathy Burks troupe and she previously co-directed many of their shows.

Once the design process is under way, every puppet, set piece, prop, costume and lighting design needs her approval. In order to comprehend the design process for the new character heads, we caught up with Sally, who explained it all.

When we first created the heads several years ago, the design process wasDSCN0974 under various time constraints that come with producing a new show, so it was impossible to make two new stars at the last minute. After all, it’s not just a matter of firing a couple of human actors and hiring two replacements. As difficult as that is, it’s not as hard as creating them from scratch.

 Troupe member Beck Schlabach was the main creator of these heads during the design process; other than a few finishing touches, she created them by hand. Using a plasticine clay, we first IMG_3191sculpt the overall shape of the head. Once we’re satisfied with the look, we create a “negative mold” using a silicone, rubber-like material. After the mold has dried, we pour (or cast) the heads using a Polyurethane casting resin. Once the casting has cured, we remove it and sand and repair any imperfections. Then we prime, paint and add hair or fur as the character demands. Many moreIMG_3190 steps happen even after the hair has been added before we finally complete the finished (full-bodied) puppet.

It might have taken 60 hours per puppet, but Sally said the whole troupe is satisfied with the look of each new head. You got a closeup of each work of art in this blog, but don’t miss out on seeing this art in action!




Come see the new heads onstage while HANSEL AND GRETEL runs from Now through April 3, 2016. For tickets call the Box Office at 214-740-0051 or visit dct.org.



Hansel and Gretel lets kids nibble at opera

humpWhen I heard that DCT’s Hansel and Gretel was using the music of Engelbert Humperdinck, I immediately wondered how the Las Vegas pop singer’s music lent itself to the aesthetic of a classic fairy tale. I quickly learned something I didn’t know. Turns out the stage name of the 70’s icon came from the composer who crafted the opera Hänsel und Gretel in 1890. That made a lot more sense.

I also learned that Humperdinck first crafted some of the music for a small puppet show for the children in his family. Perfect!

DCT’s B. Wolf created her own play with music, which is the Hansel and Gretel your kids will see, so she told me more about her process of developing this show and incorporating Humperdinck’s rich assets.

Humperdinck’s opera, Hänsel und Gretel, is his most famous work. He wrote other operas, but I don’t believe they are performed today. His Hänsel und Gretel is performed often. It is full of gorgeous melodies, great material for songs and underscoring.

My process in using this material is difficult to describe. I first had to decide BWolfwhat would be better conveyed in song, as opposed to what would be conveyed in dialogue. Two of the songs, The Dream and The Sandman, are not taken from Humperdinck; they are original melodies of mine. The songs sung by the Witch have my lyrics set to Humperdinck melodies, sometimes switched into minor keys. The prayer song which the children sing is Humperdinck’s melody, my lyrics.

The scene where Berta, the goose, flies all about the cottage with the children chasing her is underscored with Humperdinck’s melodies, in a humorous arrangement. Using these same melodies, I created foreboding underscoring to convey the fearful forest at night. In underscoring the Witch’s scenes, I alternated between foreboding and humorous (don’t want to scare them too much!)

 I think these melodies complement the story perfectly, and that is one reason the opera is still so popular today.

 Of course I hope the children (and adults!) will respond by being transported into the long ago world of this fairy tale, and that the music will be the mystical means of transporting them there (along with the great sets, gorgeous lighting, and masterful artistry of the puppeteers!)

275x275_hanselDCT is so fortunate to have Kathy Burks, B. Wolf and their team who continue to reinvent some of the most beloved stories for our children. Hansel and Gretel runs March 4 – April 3 at DCT, and is definitely something you’ll want your family to sink their teeth into!

For ticket information, go to dct.org


By Sherry Ward

See you at the theater!