Brittaney Talbot was doing her homework when the phone rang. She was stitching together a kangaroo.
The foam-and-fleece creation is on its way to becoming a puppet Talbot hopes to use in performances at children's hospitals, as part of her independent study.
The project is one of countless ways her life at the University of Connecticut differs drastically from most students'. As an acting major pursuing a concentration in puppetry, she is privy to the mysterious, misunderstood world puppetry students inhabit.
UConn is one of only three universities in the country that offer a bachelor's degree in puppetry, and the only one that offers a master's degree. Few students even realize UConn has a puppetry program, said Matt Turner, a senior majoring in puppetry. Those who do know about the program probably don't recognize that puppetry is consuming, complex work that touches all of our lives.
Even some students in the School of Fine Arts tend to discount puppetry, according to Turner. "We're like their dirty little secret," he said. "I guess it's not art to them."
Many people mistakenly view puppetry as simple, or just for kids, Talbot said, but, "It's not just wiggling your fingers and going to kids' parties."
Puppetry classes are "intense," he said. Three-hour lab periods are devoted to performing and getting feedback, so students spend much of their time outside of class building puppets, Talbot said.
The puppet lab at the Depot Campus has a lecture hall, computer room, movement studio with mirrored walls, sewing room and wood shop. It is has a kitchen – so students can make food during the long hours they spend there, Talbot said.