Recording artist, comedian, engineer, sculptor, painter, writer, director, teacher, lighting technician, marketer, storyteller, actor, inventor – these are just a handful of the many hats Oakland County native Brad Lowe finds himself putting on as a talented master puppeteer who has the ability to turn almost any inanimate object into a charming comedic character.
As a child, Lowe was raised in a family filled with creativity and a deep passion for the arts. And it seemed only natural for him to develop an interest in and pursue performance art on a full-time basis.
“My mom helped me make my first puppet while dad made the stage,” Lowe says. “My first shows were in our garage for the neighborhood to watch. Pretty soon people were asking, ‘Hey do you do birthdays?’ And it snowballed from there.”
And it’s been snowballing for the past 35 years. Lowe works in film, theater, workshops, Fortune 500 conventions, the Ringling Brothers Circus, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. His television projects include the WXYZ-TV Channel 7 nationally syndicated show Hot Fudge Show, and a new family program called Aunt Molly and Friends, which is expected to air July 11 at 8:30 a.m. on Channel 20. All of this has led to a multitude of prestigious awards such as the “Seal of Approval” from Action for Children’s Television, a broadcast media award given for the highest standards in television broadcasting, Puppeteers of America’s 2006 Paul McPharlin Award, and two Emmy Awards.
With the film industry blossoming in Michigan, Lowe hopes to educate film companies on the versatility of puppets. From marionettes and puppet characters, to miniature set designs and special effects, puppetry has a magical ability of making anything possible, which fits perfectly with an industry whose very existence does just that.
Amidst producers hiring him to work on television, and casting agents offering puppet characters, Lowe is also a master at constructing the puppets.
“There are many types of puppets – marionettes, hand or pantomime, hand and mouth muppets, finger puppets, mascots-suited characters,” Lowe says. “There are so many different processes to their construction. It depends on what you want. Some puppets can be very expensive, using motors and computers. Foam, latex and clay are also used so the puppet is expressive — ears wiggle, eyebrows move. I worked on one that sold for $18,000. It all depends on what type of movements, expressions and durability the puppets need to have.”
Lowe describes the practicality of using puppets in film: “There are some misconceptions that puppets are just for children when they can also be used to achieve special effects that would otherwise be impossible with human actors and life size movie sets like building cities with people moving around in them, car chases, explosions,” he says. “They (film companies) don’t have to go to New York or California to get a good puppeteer, we have them right here in Michigan. Companies find me online and explain they had no idea there was a company like this in Michigan!”
The versatility and unassuming nature of puppets also make them ideal for helping out in the corporate world. Puppets can be used to help run meetings, interview CEO’s, break down communication barriers by saying things no one else would dare say, or they can be simply be used to draw in big crowds for a sales pitch. Puppets have the capacity to add humor and charm to otherwise dull events. Incorporating a wide range of topics into his act, Lowe is a comedic addition to any event for all types of audiences and is always well received wherever he performs.
Lowe loves to work with children and is passionate about keeping the arts alive by using live theater to promote it. This has led to his involvement with The Puppet Mobile, a part of Oakland County’s Mobile Recreation where the show is brought right to you. The Puppet Mobile is comprised of a team of puppeteers. At their mobile shows they’ll explain the different types of puppets, their origins and their history. The shows also include a variety of classic tales followed by a hands-on puppet workshop for ages 5 and up.
“Most of these kids are experiencing live theater for the first time and it’s not anything like television, it’s magical,” Lowe says. “If I have one show where a student is inspired, I have done my job, I’ve sparked that creativity allowing their imagination to take them somewhere.”
With funding for the arts diminishing, a program like The Puppet Mobile is a rare gem to have available to the community. To learn more about this program, or to make a reservation visit www.oakgov.com/parksrec/program_service/mob_red.html.
Lowe presents educational workshops that focus on basic skills such as moving the puppet with dexterity, teaching expression through movement and mouth sync. He also offers construction workshops that teach students how to make their own puppets. Each workshop is specifically tailored to fit the group’s dynamics factoring in such variables as the size of group, ages, experience, and skill level. Lowe also offers residencies where he brings his program to a school and covers various educational benchmarks that instructors need to fulfill, such as research, reading, writing, and other areas of development. To contact Brad Lowe directly, please visit his website at www.thatpuppetguy.com.
To sign up to receive Prosper in your e-mail box, click here. It’s free.