2014 ended with the loss of a dear friend.
I know that many of you, and the puppetry community around the world share this loss. It is with deepest sorrow, that we say goodbye to Nick Barone
One of the things that formed the basis of my friendship with Nick was I learned that Nick began his puppetry career by building puppets for television, video, and live theater. We spent some long hours in the PuppetFest Midwest raffle room sharing stories about film and puppets while selling raffle tickets to hopeful festival goers.
As well as being brilliantly creative Nick was also one of the funniest people I have known. I first saw one of Nick’s shows at a puppet festival in Arizona. It was T-Rex Thunderlizard’s Wild West Review. The show was hilarious. The puppets were beautiful and very different than any I had seen. I didn’t introduce myself then, as I was a little shy and rather in awe of this amazing artist.
Later, I attended Peter and Debbie Allen’s festival, Puppetfest Midwest in Missouri. Puppetfest Midwest was a wonderful little festival where participants were immersed in puppetry, with performances from the masters of their craft and got to take weeklong workshops from world-class puppeteers. Nick was one of the workshop presenters, as well as emceeing the late night and running the raffle room. After the first, I was hooked and attended for 5 consecutive years. As often seems to be the case I had to travel thousands of miles to meet someone who is practically a neighbor. It turned out that Nick and Rose lived just a short drive away from me. My friendship with Nick and Rose began there and grew over time. Two years ago when Ray and I got married, Rose was our minister.
I loved visiting Nick and Rose at their home. To walk into Nick and Rose‘s house is to walk into a gallery of wonder and magic. There are puppets everywhere built by Nick, their friends, and artists from all over the world. There are toy theaters, artwork, Dr.Who artifacts and a whole room dedicated to LEGOs. Walk into the bathroom and you step into the world of Indiana Jones.
Nick generously taught many students his unique style of building the big mouth puppets that were his trademark. Many of those who learned from him are performing now and every time they do, I believe they continue to carry on Nick’s legacy. Thousands of people all over the world have seen Nick’s performances. Nick was terrific with children. His shows never talked down to them. At the same time that children were enthralled, their parents shared in the humor and magic. I believe that some of the children (and probably some adults) who watched him may turn to performing themselves, passing on what they learned watching Nick.
Nick was very generous with his time and with sharing his knowledge of materials and the techniques he used. He left a great store of information behind for other artists to share. This is a link to Nick Barone’s web page where you can find out more about Nicks work.
I believe that some artists leave a big part of themselves behind through their work and through the art that they shared. I know that Nick’s legacy lives on. I was very privileged to share, even for such a brief time what he so generously shared with friends, with artists and with the world. Nick Barone was one of the most courageous and truest people I have ever met.
The last couple of years I watched him battle the illness that took his life. The illness was cruel, but it never took his spirit. I mostly remember his optimism, his artistry, his generosity and his courage. And to the end he kept his caring nature and that slightly wicked and so funny, dry wit. I am grateful to Nick for all he shared. I continue to treasure Rose’s friendship and hope that in years to come I can give back a small part of what was given to me.
This is a wonderful video interview with Nick about his puppetry.
Interview with Alan Olsen:
I want to leave you with the words that Rose quoted from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet when she wrote to notify friends of Nick’s passing
“Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”