His name is Fredistaire—not Fred. It has syl-uh-bols, get it straight. With a snazzy (miniature) pinstripe suit and hair that can only be described as “fly-a-way” Fredistaire has been working the stage for two years—the puppet stage that is. Nestled close to his “handler” and alter ego, Gordon Kangas, Fredistaire always charms his audience—well, most of them.
“Kids always hit puppets,” Gordon explains. “It’s a universal phenomenon.”
Kangas started the Smiling Duck Puppet Troupe at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor in 2002, when the church received a large donation of puppets and supplies. At age 14, Kangas saw it as a challenge.
“I studied all of the best puppeteers—I was determined to make something of the opportunity,” said Kangas.
Within only a few short months he was able to build a team and create a ministry. The group, now going on its eighth year, has performed in a variety of settings from Vacation Bible School to schools in Costa Rica.
“Puppets are great for missions—they create a stir.” said Kangas. “People open up to them and they cut through language barriers to make connections that can be difficult, person-to-person.”
Well, the person, to puppet, to person approach seems to be working. Aside from mission trips, the group has recently performed at Eastern Michigan University in a show called “SaturQuack,” and can be seen around town on “personal missions” in the form of puppet grams.
“We created the puppet grams to raise money for Costa Rica,” said Kangas. “It was so popular we kept doing it.”
At the request of a patron, a puppet (accompanied by a person, of course) will come to your home or place of business and deliver a customized message. The group has done puppet grams with topics ranging from “happy birthday” to “I’m sorry you broke your leg.”
“I’ve always wanted to do a break-up puppet gram, but it hasn’t happened yet.” Kangas laughs.
Joking aside the group is really all about getting a point across.
“Puppets are great for delivering a message,” said Kangas,
“The message that is…” said Fred… er…Fredistaire. “Ne-VAH hit a puppet.”
Type: Feature Article
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 1
AnnArbor.com (print and online)
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