Curious Goods & Services makes costumes and puppets for Reno’s theater community
You may not have heard of Lady Hull and Allen Aston, but you may have seen their work.
Hull and Aston have only been in the area for a year, but they’ve been busy putting their creative hands and minds to work, particularly at Brüka Theatre. They’ve built and designed sets and created a variety of costumes for Brüka’s children’s theater as well as main stage and Sub-Brüka productions. Their creative touch could also be seen in the design of Frightmare, the annual haunted house held in the parking lot of the Reno Hilton.
But it’s puppets that really excite Hull and Aston, who each have an extensive resume that includes work with various theater groups and Renaissance faires across California as well as stints in the film and music industries.
“Puppets—we just are fascinated with them,” Hull says. “They’re like additional cast members. But you can totally create their whole [being]. When you dress an actor in a costume, you have that actor’s body shape and facial [characteristics], the hair, whatever, to deal with in the designing of the costume. … But when you make a puppet, you get to decide everything … you can totally create the entire entity when you are doing a puppet.”
The husband-wife team, with their business, Curious Goods & Services, has made puppets as small as rag dolls to large creations such as the man-eating plant, Audrey II, in a production of Little Shop of Horrors. Their latest creation appeared in Brüka’s Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You in the form of Misty, a camel puppet.
Hull dates her interest in puppets back to when she collected dolls as a child. An artistic child growing up in Southern California, she immersed herself in all sorts of art forms. She started creating jester sticks for Renaissance faires as a teenager and later learned how to make more intricate puppets.
Hull says the puppets that she and Aston construct aren’t always elaborate, expensive creations.
“The kind of puppets we do are pretty much found-object puppets,” she says. “In other words, when someone asks us to create something, we go out and find the least expensive, most malleable, most workable materials to work with to create that thing and that’s what makes it be what it is.”
For instance, she explains, Misty the camel puppet has a felt outer covering, instead of real fur, because it was an available and less expensive material. For Brüka’s Othello, she went to a thrift store and bought broken pieces of jewelry to use in costumes.
Hull and Aston moved to Reno last year after they lost their home and studio space in Sacramento. Hull had worked in Reno years earlier to redesign the costumes of the Hello, Hollywood, Hello casino show, and the two have family here. They began contacting local theaters for work and scored a job making costumes for the Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company’s production of Mame. Eventually, they hooked up with Brüka when they heard about that theater’s willingness to do unconventional theater pieces, something that Hull and Aston appreciate.
The pair also does theme parties, holiday installations and kids’ parties. Hull says they tailor their budget to fit that of their clients, and they particularly like to do children’s arts and theater projects.
Although the team’s bread-and-butter projects involve building sets and making costumes, they’re always excited to get a job designing puppets. Hull says that they plan to offer kids’ theater and puppetry classes next year, and they also hope that they can participate in the Artown summer arts festival.
“Have puppets, will travel," Hull says.