One of the most fun interruptions for the middle of kid’s party chaos is a live entertainer who can get your crew of little ones to pause, perhaps even sit, and giggle their tummies off for 30-45 minutes. Add some fluffy characters on strings and – bonus! Luckily, as one of the country’s most thriving performing arts communities, the D.C. area is loaded with great artists who can help parents create an amazingly memorable bash for their favorite birthday girl or boy, whether at home or at a rented venue. Prices usually range from $250-$450 depending on total time, custom options and add-ons such as themed crafts or favors. Here are some of the best puppeteers we found for private parties in the D.C. area.
Bob Brown Puppets
One of the most popular choices for booking birthday puppet shows in the DMV is Bob Brown Puppets. Based in Oakton, Virginia, Bob performs for about 300,000 children every year. After being puppeteer for Mister Rogers’ King Friday, Bob came to D.C. with his wife Judy to found Smithsonian’s puppet theater in 1969. He has since been a regular headliner at Glen Echo Park, Frying Pan Park and Wolf Trap, as well as performing with life size marionettes in his Peter and the Wolf production with symphony orchestras around the country. The most popular birthday show packages from Bob are Clowning Around and Baby Bear’s Birthday, and shows can be customized for your particular party. He performs right in front of the kids on the floor so that they can be up close to the marionettes, have the puppets sit in their laps, or even kiss their nose! Children giggle with delight from the antics of Bob’s silly and goofy puppet characters, including Dolores and Bennie Bird Brain, Dizzy Delaney, Bongo and Marco Polo Bear — all of which he designs and creates by hand. Bob offers a free printable booklet on his website for making puppets with your kids, which can be a super fun craft project to add to the puppet show birthday party before or after the show.
Carousel Puppets are based in Sterling, Virginia, and owner Susan Wall is one of the most sought after puppeteers in the area for private shows. She has been a master puppeteer for over 25 years and creates delightful puppet shows by introducing fun, colorful characters in the form of large marionettes as well as hand puppets, and blending that with upbeat music and exciting show elements that engage children of all ages. Susan performs publicly around the D.C. area at community centers, malls, libraries, schools and parks. Trained originally as an actor in New York, she uses these skills adeptly in portraying interesting and often-zany characters as part of her puppet show creations. Susan’s main two birthday show packages are Teddy and Friends, which is suitable for all ages including babies, and Bob the Bunny Show, which is more suitable for kids 6 and up. Characters include singing frogs, a disco-dancing dog and juggling clowns all in upbeat, interactive shows. For an additional fee, Carousel Puppets can also add a puppet-making workshop to any birthday party and create customized puppet favors so the kiddos can take home a little part of the experience.
Kaydee Puppets of Fairfax, Virginia, are a three-generation family of puppeteers. Started by a husband and wife team in 1972, today the shows are performed mainly by their daughter and granddaughter. Kaydee Puppets performs publicly throughout the DMV area at community centers, schools and libraries, and they have performed at the Library of Congress. They specialize in moving mouth puppets, that they say are best for children two and older. For birthday parties, parents get to choose two shows from a list of about 15 children’s classics as well as Kaydee original stories, including shows such as Animal Tales, Peter Rabbit, Princess and the Pea, Little Red Hen’s Wacky Week, Nursery Rhymn & Rhythm and Sheepdog Detective. They bring an eight-foot stage and can set up anywhere for your indoors parties. Following the show, the kids get to meet and mingle, going nose to nose with one of the softer puppets, which make for some photo ops.
Pam the Kinder Singer
For more than 20 years, Pam Minor has been a professional singer, songwriter, television actor and recording artist specializing in educational children’s entertainment. She is a based in Maryland and performs publicly around the DMV area, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia, including at Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore, Maryland’s Inner Harbor. Her shows combine music, dance, story telling and feature a chipmunk puppet character named Rascal, who follows her everywhere and even has his own web page. For private bookings, she offers seven productions to choose from that range from those designed especially for babes in arms (ages 6 to 18 months) up through older kids. Shows are educationally focused and include titles such as Get Up and Go, Let’s All Get Along, and Go Green with Pam and Rascal.
Blue Sky Puppets
Based in University Park, Maryland, Blue Sky Puppets has been performing since 1974. They have a team of puppeteers that produce shows for schools around the Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania areas throughout the year, and are available for booking private shows. Blue Sky collaborated with the Title 1 Office of Montgomery Co. Public Schools to create one of their newest shows, “Sand Castles” that promotes how fun, vital and important math can be for both boys and girls. One of their most popular birthday shows features a fuzzy, funny dog named Rufus, and he also often is accompanied by characters Bucky, Bananaman, a walrus named Dr. Tooth and a dragon name Gorga. As part of your birthday show package, Blue Sky Puppets can also develop and create a workshop for building puppets with the kids.
Have you seen any great puppet shows in the area? Tell us about it in the comments below.