Brian has been the head of Wishing Chair Productions Puppet Theater at the Nashville Public Library for 25 years where he is also the Artistic Director of their International Puppet Festivals. He is a former board member and President of PUPPETEERS OF AMERICA and is currently on the board of Korczak USA and The World Association of Puppetry and Storytelling Arts.
He is the Emmy Award-winner and is renowned for bringing compelling original ideas with arresting visual style to fruition. In 1991 he created and performed “The Professor”, which became a children’s section for Opryland USA. In 2005 he became the writer/director for the Imagination Playhouse at Dollywood Theme Park, adapting children’s books to stage from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
In August 2012, Kaytek the Wizard, the second book of Janusz Korczak was translated into English and he spotted it in the Nashville Library. He was so moved by the story, the man who wrote it and the messages behind the story, that his creative juices burst in full force and together with his talented partner Mary Tanner Kaytek the Wizard multi-media puppet show was created. They travel the country with the show to introduce the teachings of Janusz Korczak to children and adults in the US.
Here is what Brian has to say about his trip to Seattle in 2018.
“In August, we took our puppet play Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak to Seattle for the 2018 Korczak Conference. It was a 36-hour drive both ways from Nashville, TN, and back, and worth every minute, every mile. Our puppet troupe of four was received warmly, and has learnt more about the great man who taught us so many things. And it was great to finally meet the wonderful and kind Mariola Strahlberg, the person who made this trip possible, after talking with her about the show for almost two years. It was also great to meet others I’ve previously connected with through Korczak: Jerry Nussbaum from the Canadian Korczak association, and Elizabeth Gifford, the author of the book Good Doctor of Warsaw.
How inspiring to see everyone speak with such passion for Korczak and his teachings. Every person, who was presenting, seemed that could go on and on, well past their allotted time. There was music and fellowship between people from many countries and cultures: a glimpse of what a good world can be, working together for the good of all children. What an inspiring few days, and much too short. The idea is to get the word out as much as we can about the Good Doctor Korczak. And that is what we are determined to do in our own way with this show.
At the closing ceremonies, Mariola called the puppet troupe on stage and presented us with a beautiful award that reads:
For the flame of inspiration
And your commitment to the Children of the World”
I was completely overwhelmed and humbled by this. What more could one ask for? It inspired us to move forward and keep going, to tell the story of Kaytek, and introduced as well as we can the author and his lessons. From the Seattle conference, we took the show to the Great Plains Puppet Festival in Iowa. No surprise that people truly appreciated learning about him. So onward we go!”
Notes from Mariola Strahlberg:
Brian wrote the script and lyrics for the show, based on the Korczak’s play. Sarah Hart, an extraordinary musical artist, worked with the lyrics and added her marvelous music. When the show is presented to schools, students and teachers receive a guidebook with various lesson plans.
My wish–yes, another dream–is to have a movie made from the Brian’s show with puppets, live action, and animation. What a treat that would be when adults–teachers and parents–see the movie and understand a bit more about lives of children and life lessons from Korczak, so deeply felt by all of us while watching the show.
If you have any suggestions on how to bring the movie idea into reality, visit www.kaytekmovie.com or email Brian directly at email@example.com.
And if you would like to bring the live puppet show to your community, please email Brian directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.