Playing with Puppets

rifo and brett

Brett DeBruyn received a puppet for his tenth birthday.  It was a marionette puppet-- a farmer, made by Pelham, a company that's no longer in business.  Brett fell in love with the simple puppet and he began to put together impromptu shows to entertain his family and friends.  Soon he had a collection of puppets and made props to go with them.   One day, he put together a show for the neighborhood kids.  Late that evening, there was a knock on his door.  Two little kids, about four and six years old, stood in front of their parents.  "We missed the show, can you do another one?"

"I was floored that they would go to all this trouble just to see a puppet show," said Brett.  "I did the show and they gave me four cents--two cents per kid.  That was an 'aha' moment-- they liked it enough to come over at night. I gave back the money, but that's the moment I knew I wanted to do it professionally!"

scarecrow puppet

Brett continued to do neighborhood shows and then began to perform at a local church during his high school years using hand puppets.  He became the head of a puppet group at the church.  The youth pastor purchased an old, 1963 bus, painted the windows black and installed a stage in the back.   They toured North Carolina, giving shows all over.

College beckoned, and Brett found himself taking puppet classes at the University of North Carolina.  He worked at the Charlotte Nature Museum to pay for his degree in psychology. Soon after graduating, a professor who taught puppetry classes  suggested that he interview for a job with the Vagabond Marionettes in Atlanta, Georgia.  After a few years, he moved to Iowa to be near family and the shows were few and far between. "For a few years, I stopped," said Brett. "Then it called me-- I had to do it again."

mouse puppet

Big Bear Puppets was born, a business where Brett could entertain his heart out.  During the day, Brett puts his psychology degree to good use by working with mentally-challenged adults.  The rest of his time is spent pursuing his passion-- designing new puppets and creating shows for entertainment.  "I love both jobs," said Brett. "And of all the puppets I have, my favorite is still the farmer puppet that I got when I was ten.  He's retired now-- hanging on a wall downstairs."


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