LAUGHLIN — For a little while on Monday, children at the library had the world on a string.
Fratello Marionettes brought their handcrafted puppetry to Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s Summer Reading Program.
“There’s more than one way to hear a story,” said Ermal Reinhart, children’s services assistant. “Reading a book is one of them; there are also songs and plays — today there is a puppet show.”
The marionette company presented its “Vaudeville Follies,” a variety show in the spirit of the old-time music hall. Handcrafted marionettes ranging in size from one to three feet tall included, among others, a juggling pig, an operatic impresario, a roller-skating alien and a ballet-dancing chicken named Crepe Suzette.
“Our shows are geared for families,” said Kevin Menegus, Fratello Marionettes founder. “Our variety show takes a different approach, the humor is quieter, but there. We include something fun and exciting for kids, like our knife-throwing marionette and our trained dog, Puddles. We also include technical ‘wow’ pieces for the adults, such as our trapeze artist and our balloon-blowing Pierrot.”
“I really enjoyed the dog, while both performers were on the stage,” said Reinhart. “They really brought the dog to life; you don’t see the strings attached, it’s just a dog attempting to do a trick.”
“It’s neat,” said Ily Hoskin, age 5. “I want to pet the dog.”
The West Coast-based company spends hundreds of hours developing and constructing each character.
“Each marionette is completely handmade, a process that takes two or three months,” said Menegus. “ That is after about six months of development.
“It takes a whole year to plan a show, make the marionettes, write the script and rehearse. We take pride in that we do everything, from the construction to our performance.”
The Fratello Marionettes began entertaining audiences in 1989. Both performers have spent years honing their craft, apprenticing with other puppeteers and companies and participating in touring performances around the world.
Menegus and Riley perform at venues as diverse as theaters, schools, community centers, libraries, cruise ships, art fairs and corporate events. The pair will perform 14 shows this week for Clark County libraries.
“We’re professional puppeteers, we do this full-time, all year long,” Menegus said. “I enjoy travel and finding a good audience. The Las Vegas area always has a good audience and nothing is better than that.”
Plans for the upcoming year include a major new work.
“One of the things we’re working on now is a string-based Mother Goose,” said Menegus. “We’re creating classic character marionettes like Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty and Little Bo Peep to perform with a symphony orchestra on the West Coast.”
“Most of the characters and shows are conceived by Kevin,” said Fred Riley, Menegus’ performance partner. “There is always something new coming up. What I like is that there is a lot of invention in each.”
Fratello Marionettes offers seven different shows, including works suitable for assemblies, symphonies, parties and private functions. The company has participated in Clark County Library District’s Summer Reading Program for 9 years.
The Summer Reading Program runs through Aug. 15 and offers children the opportunity to earn free books from Scholastic Books.
“Our next Summer Reading program event will be at 11 a.m. on July 2 and features children’s singer Steve Weeks,” Reinhart said.