Bonnie Jakubos and Kristin Fletcher met in Pocatello, Idaho in 1998 where Bonnie worked as the Curator of Education at the Pocatello Zoo for many years. Kristin was a natural history consultant with an itch, like Bonnie, to share her knowledge and inspiration of the natural world with children and adults. As Bonnie recalls, “Kristin was one of the first people I met in Idaho and we have been friends and colleagues ever since.”
The two friends quickly discovered a shared love of laughter, writing and puppetry and soon began writing scripts and performing their popular puppet shows at Zoo events, local classrooms and other local venues. In 2001 they were invited to offer a session on puppetry in education at the National Association for Interpretation‘s national conference in Des Moines, Iowa.
They have performed puppet shows throughout Idaho and recently founded the Idaho Puppet Theatre! LLC, bringing puppeteering to audiences young and young at heart in the Pacific Northwest.
What was your first puppet?
Bonnie: Lamb Chop – you can remember Shari Lewis if you are my age – I must have been about 2 years old. I had my own Lamb Chop and I was absolutely enchanted with that puppet.
Kristin: I didn’t have any puppets until I met Bonnie, but as a child I spent hours and hours breathing life and personality into a vast collection of stuffed animals and plastic horses, telling their stories on my bedroom floor.
How long have you two been involved with puppets and putting on puppet shows?
Bonnie: The years go by fast! It’s been about 15 years.
Why do puppets matter?
Bonnie: Puppets have been around for thousands of years throughout many cultures. They communicate on a different level than other forms of education and entertainment. They evoke a positive response from the child within us. They can “say” things that actors and real animals cannot, but they are also “real” in their own way.
Kristin: Right. They’re both real and not real. It’s amazing to watch kids, and adults, too, pick up a puppet and suddenly become that puppet. Their voice changes. Their body language changes. Suddenly they are that lady bug or mouse or lynx. Since it’s theater, it’s all about imagination. So they play around with their voice and are curious to learn more about who that animal is and how it lives in the wild. Puppets make a lot of different connections between the sciences and the arts, and just personally.
Why a natural history orientation?
Bonnie: With my background as a wildlife biologist and environmental educator, natural history is an easy subject – I tend to write what I know and am most interested in. Kids see the animals as real and, unlike real animals, the puppets don’t poop on you.
Kristin: For me the natural world is a place of beauty, wonder and inspiration. It’s a place where I am reminded that I’m part of this dynamic, mysterious world. My greatest joy is sharing this with others.
What you hope puppet shows will accomplish?
Bonnie: Most of all, we hope that they will bring joy to both the audience and the puppeteers. The natural history information and life lessons they convey are secondary.
What is your background?
Bonnie: I grew up in Michigan, moved west almost as soon as I could drive, and have been in Idaho for 16 years (Pocatello, Salmon, and now Sandpoint). I’ve moved around a lot, both physically and professionally. I graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado with degrees in both biology and art and have spent most of the years since trying to figure out how to tap both interests at the same time and actually get paid for it. In the meantime, I have wandered from wildlife biologist to illustrator to education coordinator, volunteer coordinator and even a short job in retail. I have been married to Ken Thacker for 17 years and he still puts up with me, even when I draft him as a “volunteer” to put up stages and give voice to various puppet characters. I have three absolutely great stepchildren, as well as Stella the Springer Spaniel and three crazy cats (sorry Colin, Kohl, and Ceder for putting you in the same sentence as the pets!).
Kristin: I moved to Idaho when I was 2 and although I lived in Utah, Hawai’i and California and traveled overseas for 2 1/2 years as an adult, I was always pulled back “home.” I was one of those lucky kids whose dad loved the out-of-doors. Summers were spent riding horses, hiking, car camping, fishing and horse packing in the Idaho and Wyoming wilderness areas; winters were spent skiing. Weather, rocks, birds, critters, stars…everything, just worked into my bones in ways I can’t explain, but which inform me deeply. I graduated from Idaho State University in Pocatello with a degree in natural history and a writing emphasis. I’ve had a rich and diverse work history as a fire fighter, interpretive naturalist, native plant gardener, wildfire education coordinator, museum educator, creator of a NPR radio series, director of a statewide environmental education nonprofit and more! These days I live with Rubinka, a rambunctious Airedale Terrier, and a calico named, appropriately, Callie in the the lovely central Idaho town of Hailey.