During these unpredictable times, finding ways to make it day after day has become immensely strenuous. However, while the world watches and waits for issues “like COVID-19” to resolve themselves, a Titusville resident is making quality use of over 40 years of art, puppetry and story telling.
Charlotte Randall, a former teacher at Villa Maria College in Buffalo, and the founder and former president of Heaven’s Loving Hands, the puppet ministry team based out of the First United Methodist Church in Titusville, has been spending her free time organizing and recycling decades worth of characters.
At the Randall home, Charlotte has maintained a vast collection of intricate and entertaining creations in the heart of the basement. Some of her work includes tiny rod-puppets to larger walk-around puppets that performers would wear over their heads to go along with vivid costumes. Moreover, Randall also boasts an impressive display of “moving-mouth” puppets, similar to the style of “Muppets” creator Jim Henson.
Additionally, another fascinating highlight of Randall’s collection is an assortment of finger and hand puppets that were created in 2007 as part of the Peace Through Puppets program. The program was introduced by United States soldiers positioned in Iraq in an effort to ease the fears of Iraqi children. With Randall at the helm, the Heaven’s Loving Hand’s team sent over 300 puppets to the Middle Eastern country over a three-month period. Randall also noted the convenience of the puppet’s small size, making them easier and cheaper to ship, and less of a hassle to dispose of, if need be.
Now, some of Randall’s works have emerged from her basement to take center stage as garden ornamentation in front of her home. The display features several child-sized puppets, most of which come from The Rod Puppet Theatre’s production of “The Story of Oil History,” a play presented by the theatre at the Drake Well Auditorium and directed by Randall in 1991. She explained that the puppets played a significant role in speaking to the array of emotion and excitement felt by the children when their families moved to Titusville to work in the oil fields.
Joining the children in the garden, standing strong at 6-feet tall, are Cinderella and her fairy godmother, both of whom were also utilized in a Rod Puppets Theatre production in the mid-1980s and have survived the test of time.
Randall, who still designs puppets today, says most of her creations, like Cinderella and the Oil History children, take about a week to complete. She detailed how her projects begin with the sculpting of the head and hands, and with the help of wood and other styrofoam-based material, the puppets really start to come to life.
She added that the puppets permanence is preserved through the use of a clear flex seal material that utilizes a rubberized liquid to help create beautiful garden decorations. Randall said she also uses Gorilla Glue products to help keep accessories intact. All this preservation allows for the creations to survive even the harshest conditions, according to Randall.
Over the last three decades, Randall has not only provided characters for the local theaters, but has also created amusing personalities for WQLN Television. Additionally, she has also been featured in magazine articles for her novel methods of recycling just about anything to make a puppet.
Community members young and old are invited to witness the amazing exhibit for themselves at 42557 W. Central Avenue across from Betts Bros. Collision on state Route 27 West in Titusville.
Joel Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.