Puppet master

Bernie Beauchamp

Photo By brad bynum

Puppeteer Bernie Beauchamp is a familiar figure to many locals. On summer afternoons, he can often be found in downtown Reno, usually along the river, onstage with his singing, dancing puppets. This summer, he plans to take his puppets (Blinky is seen in photo) out on a nationwide DIY tour. To help support his tour, visit www.kickstarter.com/e/kj7Cd/projects/

Tell me about your project.

My project is an extension of what I have been doing on the streets of Reno, mainly the Riverwalk, as well as special events for the last 10 years. It’s taking my puppets on the road on the way to a national puppetry festival in Atlanta, Georgia. Along the way, and along the way back, I will be stopping at random rest areas—random being judged by weather and daylight—and at these selected rest areas on the highway, I will be pulling out my puppet setup, my self-contained stage and sound system, etc., and performing for approximately one hour at each location, before closing the whole thing up, packing it back in the car, and continuing on to whatever next random stop pops up.

What’s the route?

My route is across the country from west to east on I-80, and intersecting with I-90 around Cleveland, Ohio, and heading to Rochester, New York, where I will visit family for a few days and then zig-zagging southernly along the random highways to Atlanta, picking up some spots along the way, such as Newton, New Jersey; Tacoma Park, Maryland; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Harrisonburg, Virginia. … I will depart probably June 29, and expect to be back probably the 20th of July.

And you’re using Kickstarter to raise funds? Tell me about that.

Kickstarter is a funding source for art projects, whereby artists—performers, painters, musicians, artists of all sorts doing projects—solicit funds for said projects to help them pay the costs of either travel, materials, research, production, that sort of thing, that they normally would not be able to pay for themselves.

How’s it been so far?

It’s been spotty. It goes in fits and spurts. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Part of my involvement with Kickstarter is sending out updates. Updates typically go to backers who have already pledged money for my project, as well as that I have to constantly network on my own behalf, sending information, posts, notices, announcements to various sites and message boards, announcing my intentions, announcing my trip, announcing my fundraising. So I spread the word on my own on an almost daily basis to make sure people know about it in cyberland.

Describe your puppet shows.

I use mostly marionettes. Marionette puppets in a musical variety format, which is basically just me and one or two puppets onstage at the same time, and it’s like vaudeville acts, song and dance numbers, where the puppets perform to prerecorded music which I broadcast from an iPod and a small PA system. And we just carry on onstage. I usually travel with seven or eight marionettes and go in a rotation order. Each puppet takes a different song, and as soon as we’ve gone through the order of puppets, we start all over again from the beginning. In terms of my schedule for the next couple of weeks, I will be on the Riverwalk weekends whenever possible—weekend afternoons usually, between noon and 5.