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Bil Baird's Pinocchio
Bil Baird's Pinocchio

I guess you can say I owe my career to this puppet.

It was 1973, and right in the middle of producing his all-new version of Pinocchio for his theatre on Barrow Street, when Bil decided he did not like the original design of the puppet's head. It was now weeks before opening night and there were 7 different versions of the puppet that needed to be remade.

I received a call from Frank Sullivan, Sully as everybody called him, asking if I could come down to the theatre to help with the Celastic* production work on the new heads.

I first met Sully and his wife Fania, earlier that year after I was invited to join Bil's summer course on puppet-making. Sully was Bil's artistic director for the theatre and he and his wife were responsible for mentoring me. I will be forever grateful to them.

Well, as the story goes, all the new heads were completed on time. A few literally going on wet before curtain time and the rest is history.

Oh, and one little aside here, only 6 out of the 7 new Pinocchio's were rebuilt. Because of time, Bil left one of the old designs in the show. It was the half-carved Pinocchio, seen in the first act, and no one was the wiser.J

Here are a few characters from the show:

Bil Baird's Pinocchio - Pinocchio & Mrs. Bluestone - Baroto


Bil Baird's Pinocchio  Pinocchio and Alex - Baroto

Based on the classic story with a modern twist Pinocchio goes through many adventures in Bil Baird's version of the tale, with book by Jerome Coopersmith, as the standard characters appear slightly offbeat and updated in the retelling of this tale. For example the Blue Fairy, appears as Mrs. Bluestone, a social worker, who patiently tries to get Pinocchio to see the error of his ways.

In the picture to the left you can see a little bit of that Bil Baird magic. Here Pinocchio is confronted by Alex, a con man who makes several attempts in the story to keep Pinocchio away from school and in constant trouble. What Bil did here with his staging was to recreate both Pinocchio and Alex, (played by his son Peter Baird, in a mask) in an alternate scale.

Alex is seen first talking to a life size Pinocchio in front of the puppet stage then enters backstage and crosses the stage as a marionette. Pure genius. J MB


Bil Baird's Pinocchio - Marionettes and Puppets - Baroto