Next Tuesday at The Connelly Theatre puppetry meets philanthropy as some of NYC’s top puppeteers perform a “one-night only puppet variety show” in support of Matt and Nora Brooks, who some might recall lost their entire livelihoods in the March 26 gas explosion. The performers are all friends and colleagues of Matt Brooks, a former Jim Henson master puppet maker.
“They all just wanted to help out,” said organizer Craig Mingus, a seasoned fundraiser, talking with us over phone about the performance that will see all proceeds going to the Brookses. Mingus got involved after Emmy nominated Noel MacNeal and James Wojtal, both former Henson puppeteers, reached out to him for assistance. “In total we’ve got a cast and crew of around 28 people, all donating their time for free,” said Mingus.
Mingus noted the show will be a “true variety performance,” with the puppeteers given ample room to decide on their bits. “It will be stuff the puppeteers have done in the past, be it solo or group acts,” he said. “Some will be done to tracks, some live, some serious, some comedy – it’s kind of all over the place but all highly entertaining.”
The Brookses initially received generous support from a GoFundMe campaign set up by Nora’s friends that proved essential to their day-to-day living since the explosion.
“Whatever Matt and Nora were wearing that day, whatever ID they had in their pocket, that was all they had to their name,” said Mingus, commenting on the challenges the couple has faced returning to their former lives.
With Tuesday’s fundraiser, it’s the puppetry community’s turn to rally support for the Brookses and help Matt return to what he does best, making puppets. The money raised will prove essential in replacing Matt’s cameras, professional lighting, hand tools and puppet making material lost in the blaze.
Beyond the performers’ generosity, the venue is also joining the cause, offering itself free of charge.
“The Puppet Kitchen inside The Connelly just happened to have their Tuesday nights in August free, which was great as it’s pretty expensive to book a theatre here in New York,” Mingus said.
To top it all off and give an extra little boost to the Brookses, there will also be a raffle auction. Among the donated prizes Mingus listed are two tickets for Sting’s Carnegie Hall concert, a year membership to the Museum of the Moving Image and a tour of the National Geographic headquarters.
Mingus added that “towards the end of the show, Matt and Nora will come out to greet the audience, say thank you and give an update to their situation.”
The show takes place next Tuesday, August 4th, from 7-10pm at The Connelly Theatre, 220 E 4th St. Tickets are $40 and are available at the door or online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1996042