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Willoughby Living

January 28, 2017

John Lewis, Castle Cove Puppeteria

“I’ve been passionate about puppetry since I saw my first puppet show at the age of five – which was 60 years ago. After serving a ten year apprenticeship at Clovelly Puppet Theatre with Edith Murray, I started performing professionally with my own company Jeral Puppets. I met Jackie, my wife and partner in Jeral Puppets, at University where she was doing Arts and studying to be a teacher, and I was doing Architecture. We were married while still at University, and worked on early morning children’s TV during the last years of our degrees. Jeral Puppets’ first professional season was at Grace Bros in 1967. So we have been operating for 50 years and are arguably Australia’s longest running puppet company. We now have over 1100 puppet characters and 123 stories. Jackie’s a children’s writer and she writes and directs the shows often adapting children’s classics and fairytales as well as original stories. Our most popular show is “The Dinosaur Show” and it’s been in our repertoire for nearly 25 years. Our most popular characters are our signature characters Murgatroid and his dog Fleabag, both created over 40 years ago. They still introduce and compere all our shows. Apart from 27,500 live performances, we have done over 600 TV show appearances, more than 40 commercials, and made over 20 corporate and educational videos. In 1975 we did the ‘Grosby Dog’ shoe commercial with famous Hollywood actor John Wayne. We still make and design all our own puppets and scenery. I’ve made nearly 1700 puppets during the past 60 years. We’ve also been working with Life Education’s Anti-drugs Campaign since 1992, making their signature character, Harold the Happy Healthy Giraffe. Our son Nicholas also works with us, both doing shows in the Theatre and performing virtually every day in preschools. People were always requesting us to find a centrally located North Shore location and our Puppeteria Theatre at Castle Cove is ideal because it’s next to a lovely children’s playground, and has lots of free street parking. 2017 will see us doing shows each week during term time for preschoolers and daily shows during school holidays.”

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