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Fun Things To Do in Brookline: Featuring Feet of Clay Pottery and Puppet Showplace Theater

By Kristen Bosse

There may be a million things to do and see in the Big City of Boston, but if you are stuck in the surrounding suburbs for the weekend it can be a bit tough to find something to cure your boredom. After the mall, movies, and bars are exhausted, residents find themselves searching for something a bit more unique and adventurous. Each town always seems to have a few great spots that simply take a bit more of a search. For Brookline, it is Feet of Clay Pottery and Puppet Showplace Theater. Both locations will no doubt become a favorite stop for years to come.

Feet of Clay Pottery

Feet of Clay is a cooperatively run pottery studio with a large and well-equipped studio space that is shared by a diverse group of ceramic artists and potters. Whether you're an experienced potter looking for studio space or a beginner interested in learning how to hand-build or wheel-throw, Feet of Clay has everything you need to start off your work with clay. They offer classes for all experience levels, as well as affordable membership complete with wheels, kilns, clay, glazes, tools, a photo booth, spray booth, a slab roller, and more. The studio has always been a friendly place for customers to experiment with clay.

Beginners are encouraged to try the Friday Night Wheel Class. Since nothing is taken home during these classes, people are encouraged to experiment and just enjoy getting to know how to use the pottery wheel. As far as the difficulty of learning the wheel, it is quite awkward for the beginner. Once the basic concepts are learned, small pots can be made with ease, although they may be heavy or asymmetrical.

For those interested in learning more, the studio offers consecutive classes where the student is taught extensively how to work with clay. This is a wonderful way to learn the many steps involved in the process, and will give anyone a true appreciation for how lengthy the subject of clay is, and how long it takes to master. If you'd like the chance to complete a piece from start to finish, they have a new class called the Clay Sampler, a three-session Friday evening class, where the student will have a chance to make their own creation. The studio also hosts events every month, from workshops about throwing large forms with Artist-in-Residence Mark Mancuso, to a Woodfiring workshop with Nancy Mangusson.

Those contemplating taking a visit should not underestimate the meditative powers of working with clay. "Clay is often used as an outlet for most, just like painting or playing music, that serves to balance their lives", says Owner Jennifer Wyman. "Clay is a wonderful medium that has so many possibilities. The material is flexible and encourages the user to think abstractly, mainly because it flops and twists and simply does not behave. While making it perfect is often the goal for most craftsman, once it is learned it is the imperfections that make it inspiring to use."

**Staff members encourage those interested in the Friday Night classes (and others) to register sooner rather than later, as it can often take weeks before a spot opens up!

Puppet Showplace Theater

The Puppet Showplace Theater was founded in June 1974 by visionary educator and puppeteer, Mary Churchill. Mary's company performed shows featuring a cast of crocheted characters. She was known for her witty adaptations of children's stories that featured strong female protagonists. She was a regular performer, tireless administrator, and generous benefactor of the theater until her death in 1997. The theater owes most of its productions to former puppeteer Paul Vincent Davis, and current Artist-in-Resident Brad Shur. Under Paul's mentorship, Brad has trained in the art of glove puppetry and learned to perform three of the master puppeteer's classic shows. He also began developing original productions that incorporate numerous styles of puppetry, from elaborate shadow puppets to full-body puppets. Puppet Showplace Theater has become New England's favorite puppetry destination, serving an astounding 24,000 patrons last year alone.

Each year, the theater presents over 300 performances by professional puppet companies at their Brookline Village Theater. They also offer workshops, classes, summer camps, and training opportunities to both children and adults. "The uniqueness of what we offer is a large draw to the audience", says Communications Director Brenda Huggins. "The space is very intimate, only seating about 95 for family audiences and 85 for adult-only audiences. The performers are very generous with answering questions and giving post-show demonstrations, and the audience becomes very engaged in this process."

A couple of their more popular programs include "Puppet Playtime" and "Puppet Slam". Puppet Playtime is a weekly fun, interactive performance experience designed for very young children. In each hour-long session, two friendly performers guide children (and their grown-ups) through free play, sing-a-longs, stories, and imagination games. Puppet characters appear throughout to introduce the theme of the day and to join in the fun, and each session ends with a short puppetry performance. Puppet Slam is a monthly program geared towards adults, where each piece is performed by a different artist or artists, and the content can be wide-ranging; some are elegant or poignant, others are satiric, irreverent, or humorous, and still others can be passionate, political, or spiritual in nature.

Other services offered include their mainstage show, a variety of adult classes, summer camps, and multiple touring shows that frequents schools and libraries in the area. No matter what aspect of Puppet Showplace you experience, you are sure to feel the passion of each staff member to engage audiences of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. They support the use of puppetry for entertainment, in education, and as a means of creative self-expression. After 40 years of operations, the theater has without a doubt become a treasured cultural institution. "A puppeteer's job will revolve around the magic of making an inanimate object come to life. "

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