5 Questions with Puppet Artist and Spectacle lover, Raymond Carr

Raymond Carr Headshot3
Do you know those people that you want to meet, and you’re in the same room with, but by the time you get to where they were just standing, they’re gone?  Those people that you know online and have corresponded with on the most tangential level, but have never said anything meaningful to?  Those people that you know, but you don’t at all know, and you are acutely aware that you should know to the point that it’s maddening?  That is my relationship with Raymond Carr.  We have orbited around each other for years.  I have read his bios and applications for projects, but yet never worked with him directly.  Oh that silly universe. So, a few years ago at the Center for Puppetry Arts, when I saw Raymond across the room, I quickly excused myself from the conversation that I was in with a colleague and brusquely busted in on the conversation that he was in.  We only spoke for a few seconds as the event was about to begin.  But, the in-person introduction was accomplished.  Ever since that momentary encounter, we’ve again been dancing around each other again and fanning each others work from afar.  It took Covid-19 to bring us back in touch directly.  I reached out to Raymond directly about one month ago and we’ve been looking for a way to collaborate since.  Who knew it took a global pandemic to bring artists together?  But that’s what it took.  I’ve really enjoyed my conversations with Raymond Carr. He has an interesting perspective things, is a total puppet nerd and frankly, a good guy.  So, I’ve asked this veteran puppeteer, artist and filmmaker to participate in “5 Questions Fridays”, so that you could be a fly on the wall.
JMK: Raymond, I know that you are a puppeteer and obviously, I believe that this is a badass career choice.  If you weren’t a puppet artist, what would you want to be instead and why? 
RC: I’d probably focus on filmmaking. I went to film school in college but dropped out because I got a job on Lazytown for Nick, Jr. But honestly, the most filmmaking education I got was from just making movies with my friends. I stood out from that group of friends because I always made the puppet movies. 
 
JMK:  My friends and I used to make a lot movies together as well.  They weren’t puppet movies though.  You were lucky to discover that in your youth. In challenging times like these, many turn to or begin a spiritual practice.  What tools do you use to keep yourself moving forward, or heck, depending on the day, functioning?
RC: I try to keep a lot of projects on my plate to keep me going. Whenever I feel bored or discouraged with one project, I have others to keep my interest. I think I have creative ADD because I always have to jump between projects to keep my interest. I try to go to my shop quite a bit just to get my body moving, so i’m not just working on projects at home. I also have several screenwriting and filmmaking podcast I listen to weekly, so I sometimes go on walks to listen to them.
JMK: Who has been the most influential presence in your life and how so?
RC: I have a handful of very tight friends whose opinions I value. We all came up together as artists and know where we’ve been and where we’re going. Some of them are filmmakers some are puppeteers and some are improv comics. But there are only a handful who I go to with my problems. That being said I try to get information and influence from a lot of different voices. My mom always said “chew the meat and spit out the bones”. Meaning that you can get words of wisdom from a lot of conversations even if you don’t agree with a lot of what a person is saying. I try to find the value of any advice or criticism. And also my amazing girlfriend influences me a lot.
 
JMK: I love that.  Where I come from it was, “take what you like and leave the rest.  As an artist, you are likely acutely aware of how design influences you.  Can you share a moment where design, a piece of art or maybe a piece of music deeply moved you and shifted your perspective?
RC: Being on Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular made me realize how powerful giant spectacle can be. Seeing audiences be completely blown away by all the dinosaurs helped me witness the power of spectacle first hand. 
Also we use to do monthly puppet slams for like 11 years at a local improv theater in Atlanta called Dad’s Garage. Writing that many sketches really opened my mind up to be inspired by a lot of random things in the world. I find that inspiration is a muscle that you have to exercise.
JMK: It would be irresponsible of me not to address the current discussions around diversity and lack of equality in this country today.  I’d like to say that the discussions and charging.  They’re moving in the right direction.  I hope and pray that they are. But, depending on the day, I’m just not sure. Would you please share positive influences that you are following that may be of use to others?  And, where appropriate, would you please share why they are moving you?
JMK: In the past year I’ve met more Puppeteers of Color than ever. I think the fact that we’re all connecting virtually these days opens doors to realize how diverse our community really is. In the past year or so I’ve been on multiple puppet shoots that were more diverse relatively, which is saying a lot. I think black people and people of color are allowing themselves to get weird and try new stuff. I truly believe the next generation will be more diverse than ever before.

Raymond Carr is a Jim Henson Company trained puppeteer who has been performing for more than 20 years. He has traveled to every major city in North America and parts of Europe working on multi-million dollar productions. He is skilled in state of the art animatronics, Muppet-style puppetry, motion capture digital puppetry, and traditional theatrical puppetry. In addition he serves on the board of Film Impact Georgia which is a non profit organization designed to empower independent filmmakers. 

Joyriders
IG: @joyridersmovie
**On a personal note, I really enjoyed Raymond’s interview on the new “Puppeteers of Color Podcast”.  Check it out here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncaY81Q6Pkw

5 Questions with Activist, Artist and NYC Poll Worker, Lindsey Briggs

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Lindsey “Z” Briggs is most known, internationally and domestically, for her work in the world of puppetry.  But for me, the most interesting thing about Z has always been her passion for activism.  I can’t think of a conversation that I’ve had with Z, where she didn’t talk about service, doing something for others, or what she thinks could be done to make the world a better place.  In trying times like these, seemingly small acts of volunteerism, like becoming a poll worker, makes Z a role model for me, and so many others.  Anyone who walks the walk, and talks the talk, is always worth my time and consideration.  (A side note: We had a different blog lined up for this week, but after the specific acts of hate that took place in my own borough last night, I decided we needed to take it up a notch.  Thank you to Z for making time at the last possible minute).  Here are “5 Questions” for advocate and activist, Lindsey Briggs.

JMK:  At this moment in time, it is impossible not to see how crucial it is to vote.  As a young voting citizen of this country, what made you volunteer to be a poll worker, and what have you learned from the experience?

LB: Following the 2016 election I wanted to be more involved.  Because I have two young kids at home, I can’t show up to meetings or rally’s in the same way that I could before kids.  It occurred to me that helping with the election might be a good fit, and I looked into being a poll worker.  I want to be a friendly face that can help to make the voting process a positive one.  I have learned quite a bit about the election process, and the work that goes into being a poll worker.  I had no idea that all New York state poll workers must arrive at the polling site at 5am and are not dismissed until at least 10pm, but sometimes much later.  We receive two, one hour breaks throughout the day, but it is a very long day.  If you see a poll worker, be sure to say thank you.

JMK:  Z, when I think of you, I think of you as an activist first.  How are you giving your time to your current primary cause?

LB: There are many causes that are very important to me.  Black lives matter and educating others about institutional racism and common sense gun legislation are both topics that I feel very strongly about.  As I said above I don’t have time to attend the meetings and rally’s that I wish I could be at, but instead I make sure to have conversations with people about these topics and do small things in my own way to help promote positive change.

JMK: You are a parent of two young, beautiful and imaginative boys in NYC.  What active measures are you engaging in to teach them compassion?

LB: We talk a lot about empathy and trying to see things from others perspectives.  Everyone’s feelings are important.  I feel very lucky to be raising a family in New York City, as it is so diverse and a wonderful example of so many different people living and working together.

JMK: Anti-Semitism is on the rise again globally and in this country.  Just last night, a synagogue in Brooklyn was vandalized with disgusting graffiti.  The words written on the interior walls of that house of worship makes one’s chest tighten and heart sink.  As an artist and activist, what do you do when you hear of such horrific hate crimes?

LB: I think about what must have happened in that person’s life to make them feel such anger against others.  It makes me sad.  I have hope that the next generation will be an example of understanding, peace and tolerance.

JMK: Agreed!  We must keep hope alive for our children.  On a lighter note, at this time of year, families are gathering around the table to share time together.  They’re also sharing food!  Would you please share what your favorite family dish is and how it makes you feel?  

LB: We have spaghetti and meatballs every single Monday night.  You are all welcome to come.  It is everyone’s favorite meal, and we will likely still be making it every Monday night in 20+ years.

JMK:  You’re awesome.  Thanks for this.  I now officially feel hopeful for Tuesday’s vote. 

Lindsey “Z.” Briggs is the Foundation Manager of The Jim Henson Foundation.  She has been working as a professional puppeteer since 2004 and has had many opportunities to perform in television, internet shorts, pilots, live theater, and independent films.  She studied at the University of Connecticut Puppet Arts masters program for 3 years and has attended and worked as staff for the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.  Z. lives in Astoria, Queens with her husband and 2 children, and performs live puppet theater for families throughout New York City as co-artistic director of WonderSpark Puppets.