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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Puppet Happenings of 2015

It’s the last day of 2015. Time to look back at the puppet happenings of this year!

Although I haven’t been writing here all that much, it’s actually been a year of firsts for many things. (I will write longer blog posts about some of these later.)

Puppet Karaoke


Puppet School put together this fun outing of Puppet Karaoke. Basically, we went to this karaoke bar called Dimples in Burbank (which, unfortunately, after 33 years is now closed… but supposed will be back open after remodeling) with our puppets. I mostly just hung out with friends, but did go up with the group at one point.

In this picture, you see Laura, Jared, Krista, and I in the front. We were singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Yeah, I know, one of the most over-done song in the history of karaoke, but it was fun. The lyrics actually cut out in the middle of it. Good thing we all knew the words well enough to just keep going. Puppets and karaoke always make for a fun night.

Singing Happy Birthday


One of my puppet sang Happy Birthday for a lovely girl on FaceTime. She said it was the best birthday FaceTime call ever. I’ve actually toyed with the idea of doing this regularly for people I know, and people I don’t. More of this next year, maybe?

Skirball Puppet Festival


For the past few years, Skirball Center has been doing this puppet festival. Usually it’s a family event that takes place on a weekend. There would be multiple shows performed in different rooms and also outdoors in the quad. Parents can bring their kids to watch, and also create their own puppets.

Due to an alumni event that took up most of the day, I was just going to go, say hi to my friends and hang out for an hour or two before it ended. But then I ran into my friend Jared, who was just like his usual enthusiastic self, saying to me, “hey, I have a spare puppet! Put it on and talk to kids!” So I did. Kids are so full of imagination. You can really just talk to them about anything and they go along with it. Fun times.

When I was leaving, I ran into Heidi Hilliker, who was a classmate for many of my puppetry classes. It was nice to see her. It turned out that I already saw her earlier that day… sort of. She was inside that elephant in the picture. She tried to get my attention because I was one of the people that helped the elephant off the ground. I didn’t notice her though. This kind of stuff happens in puppetry, you know… “Hey, good job… whichever puppet you were. I couldn’t tell.”

Tech for Puppet Slams


In the beginning of the year, I volunteered to run audio cues for the local Puppet Slam. I’ve performed in the slams before, and figured that I would still help out if I was not performing. And after that, I’ve been doing that for all the slams the rest of the year. My tech background made me quite reliable when I do this job. And I’ve also done enough theater to have a good instinct on how to make quick decisions on the spot during the show. One day I should get back on stage, though!

Jim Henson Company Diversity Workshop Audition


The Jim Henson company was auditioning puppeteers for a diversity workshop, the reason being that the industry has been white-male dominant, like the entertainment industry in general. It was an admirable thing that they were consciously working on introducing more diversity. They were auditioning males with ethnical minority backgrounds and females of all ethnicities. It wasn’t for actual jobs, but if you made in, you got several weeks of free workshops from Henson puppeteers.

I did not make the cut, but it was still a really fun experience. I got my reel done. I got to see the inside of the studio that’s usually not open to the public. What’s more, I got to do some puppet improv in front of some puppetry legends and had them laughing at my jokes. I was happy to have done it.

It’s also funny to look at my Facebook feed that weekend. Several of my friends posted basically that same picture with Kermit in the background just like I did, and I know exactly what that was about.

National Puppetry Festival


I’ve wanted to go to one of these national puppetry festivals or conferences for a number of years now. This year, I finally decided to actually do it. A few reasons: One, it had been some time since I used my vacation days at work and I could no longer accumulate more. Two, it was the 50-year anniversary of the festival, which made it extra special. Three, it was at University of Connecticut, the only place in the U.S. that offers graduate level program in puppetry.

And it was a lot of fun. For the entire week, I was immersed in puppetry. It was also a lot like going back to college. I stayed in a dorm room. Every morning, I went to puppetry workshops. I ate at a college dining hall with fellow festival participants and talked puppets. In the afternoon and at night, we watched one puppet show after another. Did I say puppets? Puppets, puppets, puppets! It was great to spend an entire week doing just what you are passionate about.


One of the things I looked forward to the most at the festival was finally meeting David Manley of Up in Arms. We’ve been corresponding on Facebook a lot, but have never actually met in person since he is in New York. When we met for the first time, it felt like we were old friends that just haven’t seen each other for a while. That was definitely one of the highlights of the festival for me.

Guild Winter Holiday Party

The Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry puts on a winter holiday / Christmas / end-of-year party every year. And what do puppeteers do when they get together for a party (you know, besides eating)? They put on little shows for one another. Earlier in the year, the guild hosted a backlight puppetry workshop and it was a lot of fun. (Blacklight puppetry was when you turn off all the lights and just have glow in the dark puppets perform. It’s really cool to see.) I was part of the class so we did a number we learned in the workshop at the party. It was interesting that you want to do everything well, since you are performing for fellow puppeteers, but at the same time, they are also the ones that are going to be the most understanding when things go wrong. I had fun performing, and had fun hanging out with fellow puppeteers and enthusiasts.

R.I.P. Michael Earl


My first puppetry teacher, Michael Earl, had been battling colon cancer for some time now. On December 23, we got the news that he had passed away. At that point he had moved into a hospice, so we knew it was sooner or later. We were just waiting for a miracle. Well, since my Facebook was full of people that knew Michael (according to Facebook, we shared 110 connections), my feed was flooded with memories and stories about him. He was definitely loved by the community. He was a great mentor to many, a dear friend to more, and one of the kindest soul you would meet. He will be missed.

Another Christmas Video!

CaliforniaChristmas End

I’ve made Christmas videos the past three years. Now there are people expecting it, so that’s more reason to keep it going. This year’s video was a first of many things: composing and arranging the music myself, sketching all the backgrounds, animating a character, etc. It was a ton of work but I am pretty happy with the outcome.

The fact that I haven’t blogged too much made me initially think that I didn’t do all that much. But now that I took a closer look, well… that was actually quite a 2015! 😀

It’s a California Christmas

I’ve made Christmas videos the past three years. Guess what? Here’s the 2015 video, making it four years in a row!

This one was… quite a lot of work. It was also the first of many things for me. It was:

1) The first of my Christmas video where, in addition to the lyrics, I also wrote the music myself!
2) The first time using a keyboard controller in Garageband to arrange and record music.
3) The first time using a sketching app on the iPad to draw all the backgrounds instead of building them out of construction paper.
4) The first time to include an animated character.
5) The first time to use swipes, and lots of them, because, you know, Star Wars is on my mind.
6) The first time to have (fake) camera panning instead of cutting back and forth.

I have a lot of fun bringing these projects from just an idea in my head to a complete video. I enjoy having a chance to delight friends with a video around Christmas. And some even told me that it’s become something that they look forward to each year. I am glad this annual project is still continuing! 😀