Collaborating with many artistic “hands,” Jane Henson developed vignettes for her “Nativity Story” at the 2009 Eugene O’Neill Puppetry Theatre Conference and premiered the full show at the Orlando Puppet Festival in 2010, partnering with daughter Heather Henson and Ibex Puppetry. She subsequently sponsored performances in Florida schools and churches, like Winter Garden’s Episcopal Church of the Messiah as well as St. Margaret Mary Catholic School and St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, both in Winter Park.
Jane passed away in 2013, but her very personal “Nativity Story” has continued to delight audiences. It has been seen at St. James Catholic Cathedral in Orlando, Florida; the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and New York City’s St. Paul the Apostle Church, motherhouse of the Paulist Fathers. There, several of its puppetry scenes were beautifully filmed for 2013’s nationally broadcast CBS Television special “A New York Christmas to Remember,” co-produced by Paulist Productions and hosted by Regis Philbin.
Jane Henson’s “Nativity Story” gratefully acknowledges the support and partnership of Jane Henson; the Jane Henson Foundation; Heather Henson and Ibex Puppetry; Cheryl Henson; the Jim Henson Foundation; Fr. Eric Andrews, the Paulist Fathers, and Chris Donohue and Marybeth Sprows of Paulist Productions; Fr. Gilbert Martinez and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, NYC; Fr. John Geaney and the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Pinocchio’s Marionette Theater of Puppet Celebration, Inc.; and The Jim Henson Creature Shop. For the creation of the 2013 television special “A New York Christmas to Remember,” in which “Nativity Story” vignettes were featured, thanks are due Scott Mirkin and the team at ESM Productions as well as John P. Blessington and CBS Television; television director Leslie Wilson; Joan Payden and the William R. Payden Philanthropic Fund in memory of Bill Payden.
Set Design is by Vandy Wood, with set painting by David Jordan and backdrop fabric dyeing by Jason Weber. Puppets were created by Jane Henson and the Jim Henson Creature Shop including Andrea Detwiler, Ulysses Jones, Camille Labarre, Tim Lagasse, Amanda Maddock, Anney McKilligan, Connie Peterson, and Mari Tobita, under the supervision of Jason Weber with production manager Melissa Creighton. The script for Jane Henson’s “Nativity Story” is by stage director Sean Keohane. The director of the puppetry vignettes for the TV special was Amanda Maddock. Amanda also puppeteered, along with Chris Green, Ulysses Jones, Yoko Myoi, Erin Orr, Amy Rush, and Eric Wright. Heather Henson performed in the TV special with heavenly “Angel Kites” flown by herself, Curtiss Mitchell, and Vandy Wood.
At the O’Neill Puppetry Conference under Pam Arciero and Bart Roccoberton, Jane worked with Sean Keohane, Stefano Brancato, Ron Binion, Sarah Probst, James Jackson, Carrie Chapter, Artie Poore, Miguel Romero, photographer Richard Termine, shop supervisor Fred Thompson, and musicians Hillary Zipper, Otto Muller, Josh Senick, and Ernest Adzentovich.
The premiere at Orlando’s St. James Cathedral featured actor-puppeteers Sarah Lockard, Anthony Bolante, Jenny Weaver Barbieri, Curtiss Mitchell, Russell Nauman, and Heather Henson, with set and lighting by Vandy Wood, direction and dramaturgy by Sean Keohane, and music by the Olde Noyse Trio: John Rata, Cecie Catron, and Craig Thomas.