East Portland puppeteers release locally-produced movie

These are the fellows who, for years, provided marionette shows at Mall 205. Read how people around the world will now get to enjoy their most beloved tale …

Steven M. Overton and Martin Richmond of Olde World Puppet Theater Studios in Sellwood show two characters from their motion picture, “Witch Key; a Prince’s Adventure”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Motion pictures, like “Team America: World Police” and live theatrical productions such as “The Lion King” show that fascination productions played by puppet actors hasn’t waned in these technologically-oriented times.

East Portland based “puppet makers to the stars” Steven M. Overton and Martin Richmond of Olde World Puppet Theater Studios have been building hand puppets and marionettes for professionals all over the world.

Not only do Steven Overton and Martin Richmond enjoy being puppeteers, they also create puppets for other performers worldwide.

“We’ve built about 800 puppets from this building, here on SE Umatilla Street,” Overton said.

“We build all kinds of puppets; I am a master puppeteer.  I’m trained to build all different kinds including the new electronic and remote-control figures for motion pictures and stage work. One of the largest robotic puppets that we built was a 9 foot octopus for ‘Wee Sing Under the Sea’ video series.”

Quite an achievement, Richmond pointed out, noting that their museum, workshop d soundstage is a 16′ x 30′ space that once was a neighborhood grocery store connected to a 100-year-old farmhouse.

However, Overton and Richmond’s real passion is performing marionette puppet shows. “Yes, these are the puppets operated with strings,” Overton pointed out. “When we moved to Portland in the 1990s, we performed shows regularly in vacant stores at Mall 205, as well as touring Olde World Puppet Theater shows up and down the coast.”

“I’ve been primarily performing with marionettes, since I was nine years old,” Overton explained. The difference between the 14 other kids who performed with their family troop, he said, is “I kept working with puppets.”

In addition to the movie, Olde World Puppet Theater Studios also produces color books that accompany the show.

Realizing the live shows can be enjoyed by a relatively small audience, the duo looked into distributing their shows to a wider audience by filming or video taping their puppet shows, with lesser degrees of success.

“But, with the cost of technology dropping over the years,” Richmond noted, “getting good video cameras and editing software came down in price. It made the idea of producing our made-for-television movie something that we could afford.”

With their workshop turned into a movie studio, complete with sets, the puppeteers created their first title: “Witch Key; a Prince’s Adventure”.

“It’s the most popular of our ‘Tales of Belvuria’ series of interlocking stories we’ve performed for 30 years,” said Overton. “It’s definitely a family-oriented story. And, after the movie, there are additional segments showing how the move was made. Then, kids can go online and work with their parents to build puppets with their movie.”

Witches and dragons are some of the original, colorful marionettes on display at Olde World Puppet Theater Studios.

We watched several scenes from the movie. The care they used when lighting, creating scenery and shooting every scene brings the story to life with incredible realism one would expect to see in a multi-million dollar production.

“America is as fascinated with puppets as ever,” Overton said. “We’re really excited to launch this kind of program.”

Olde World Puppet Theater Studios is located at 906 SE Umatilla St. But families can learn all about this fascinating project at their websites: www.Belvuria.com or www.puppetmuseum.com.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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