Partner’s passing challenges Portland Puppet Museum plans

It appears as if this labor of love will continue on. Read on learn more about the passing of co-founder Marty Richmond …

During a visit by East Portland News to the Portland Puppet Museum in February 2015, partners Steve Overton (left) and Marty Richmond (at right) shared a joyful moment together.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

All was quiet in the usually-lively Portland Puppet Museum on Tuesday, November 22nd. Weeks in advance of this date, East Portland News had planned this visit to talk about the museum’s upcoming season of presenting “The Nutcracker Cracked”, their Holiday kids’ comedy puppet show, which usually runs through December.

But the solemn tone of our photo-and-interview session resulted from the unexpected passing of Marty Richmond, the man who animated and gave voice to so many Portland Puppet Theater characters, who had died in the early hours of the previous day.

Not long after the Portland Puppet Museum opened in 2011, partners Steve Overt

“It’s a time of transition here, because we’ve lost one of our beloved partners, creators, and owners, when Marty died peacefully at about 1:00 a.m. on Monday morning,” said his partner Steve Overton, holding back tears. “Marty has had problems with this heart for the last six years, and it finally just gave out.

“Marty has always been a supporter of this museum, and helped so much in curating all of the 53 exhibits that we’ve put on here since we opened in 2011 – amassing 2,700 puppets,” Overton told East Portland News. “Since moving to Portland from San Francisco in 1992, Marty and I became known for creating puppets and ‘puppet theater’; but this man – Martin Dow Richmond, born in Washington D. C. on April 23, 1945 – was a man of amazing talent and experience.

A man of many talents
“Marty did so many things well at different stages of his life, including working in the live concert and recording industry for Elektra Records and Nonesuch Records, being an airplane pilot and an airline vice president – and even a volunteer fireman,” continued Overton. “So, Marty had quite a life in music, theater, and film – and now here, in the Sellwood community, giving 11 years of community service as he worked to keep this museum free to the public. His desire was to help people learn about puppetry, and come see shows, and attend workshops.”

Preparing for their 2012 exhibition of puppets on television, Steve Overton and Marty Richmond make Ed Sullivan’s favorite mouse, Topo Gigio again come to life.

The Portland Puppet Museum is attached to a house on S.E. Umatilla Street built in 1870 as “Campbell’s General Store”. It’s located along what has been called the first commercial district in Sellwood.

“Since we moved here in the early 1990s, we’ve used the space to build 3,000 puppets that we’ve used in productions here in Portland – but which have also appeared on television – and in live stage shows, from Broadway in New York, to Boston, to a major Florida theme park.

“His brother is a great supporter of this endeavor, and believes that Marty’s gift to the community – one of the very few puppet museums in the United States – was the right thing for Marty to do,” Overton disclosed. “So, upon Marty’s death, the family is meeting, and we’re going to see how we can continue to keep this little museum vital.

“People from the community are also stepping in to see about new programs, to help with fundraising, and perhaps to get the museum 501c3 nonprofit status [with the IRS], to help keep this a Sellwood landmark.”

In the doorway of the Portland Puppet Museum, Steve Overton reminisces about the good times with his husband and partner Marty Richmond, holding his beloved puppet, Ping Pong, the Panda.

Hearing the news of Marty’s death, Sellwood Community House Manager Erin Fryer responded, “This community has lost one of its shining lights.” She told East Portland News she’d seen Marty shortly before his passing.

The night he died, Overton said, he and his partner were talking about the future of the museum. “He knew his time was short; one of the last things he told me was, ‘Steve, let people help you keep our work alive!’ So, I am relieved, thrilled, and excited that even though Marty is gone – his work will continue.”

The show goes on…
With Portland puppeteers performing with Overton, “The Nutcracker Cracked” – a show featuring more than 84 dazzling and transforming rod puppets – is still on in December and into mid-January, in honor of Marty Richmond.

Fulfilling his late partner’s wishes, Steve Overton is preparing the stage for the 2022 season presentations of “The Nutcracker Cracked” at the Portland Puppet Museum.

Like the original “Nutcracker” story, which is loosely based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann fantasy, the show tells of a girl named Clara who receives an unusual gift from her Uncle Drosselmeyer, which brings the entire house to life. Unlike the ballets and stage productions, this whirlwind puppet presentation is only 38 minutes long – just right for even little kids and their families.

Tickets to attend are $15 for all ages, from age 3 on up. Shows are on Saturdays and Sundays through January 15; all performances start at 2 p.m. Note: These shows are selling out! Call (503) 233-7723 for tickets or more information. And, if you haven’t been there, the Portland Puppet Museum is located at 906 S.E. Umatilla Street in Sellwood.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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