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Meet Lee Bryan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lee Bryan.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I guess puppetry sort of discovered me since I never planned on being a puppeteer. Sure, I checked out all the puppet books in elementary school and experimented with making puppets and lip-syncing to records in my bedroom. But then, didn’t every kid? Then I got a puppet ministry started at my church and soon graduated high school.

I moved to Richmond, VA to live with relatives and volunteered for a short time with the now defunct Children’s Theatre of Richmond. They had this huge marionette production they would mount every year with gorgeous marionettes that were manipulated from 12ft scaffolding. It was an exciting time in my life and I wanted very much to perform but the manipulation was reserved for some pretty seasoned performers. After a series of dead-end jobs, I found myself (on my parent’s advice) considering the US Army. I had been in JROTC in High School at my father’s insistence and I found the transition relatively easy.

I signed up for a quick two-year tour-of-duty, which was immediately followed by an additional three years more. I found I could continue my musical theatre education by performing at the local Little Theatres that were located on every post. I learned musical theater pretty much, on-the-job since I had little formal training. I discovered an immediate passion for live theater and began taking acting and voice lessons. I got out of the US Army in 1987 in Columbus, GA and worked for a short time with the Springer Opera House and Columbus College Theatre.

But, the lure of the bright lights in the big city proved to be too much and after auditioning for Six Flags Over Georgia in 1988, I soon found myself strapping on a big smile while performing five shows a day, five days per week. And if that wasn’t enough, I stayed on for two more seasons! Three years total…and I think I might have been the oldest performer in the history of Six Flags because I was 27 at the time and was singing and dancing with teenagers.

Finally, after an especially frustrating round of auditions and too many waiting table jobs to mention, I read about auditions for the Center’s production of Gulliver’s Travels. They were looking for an actor to play the lead with puppets cast as the little people. I auditioned and though I was not cast, I was offered an internship position for their next production of Just So Stories. And to think I almost turned them down! Peter Hart was in charge of the internship program at the time and he and Bill Yates convinced me that this was a golden opportunity for the right person. Indeed it was. After that, I was Peter’s production assistant on a brand new production of Charlotte’s Web, which proved to be an invaluable education.

Looking back, although I never chose puppetry, now I’m not sure what else I would do. It seems that everything I’ve ever learned comes to play in being a puppeteer. All the movement, acting and voice lessons, not to mention the countless puppet, theatre and magic trick books I checked out from the library as a kid…all had a part in helping me become a puppeteer. Even the self-discipline and communication skills I learned in the military have helped me build my solo business.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
Celebrating 25 years, Lee Bryan “That Puppet Guy”, specializes in exceptional school assemblies and extraordinary library programs. He strives to entertain the imaginations of the young and the young-at-heart with innovative puppets, original scripts, and zany adaptations of classic tales. Lee’s solo performances are often featured at the internationally acclaimed The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta.

He is a two-time grant recipient of the prestigious Jim Henson Foundation, INC. In 2003 he received a Project Grant which helped produce his original found-object production of PINOCCHIO.
(http://www.hensonfoundation.org/index.php/grantawards/2000s/2003)

Then, Lee received a Seed Grant in 2006 for to further his production of THE SUITCASE CIRCUS a/k/a “Le Cirque du Suitcase.”
http://www.hensonfoundation.org/index.php/grant-awards/2000s/2006

Professional film credits include work with the Muppets® on the feature film, “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.” Recently, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored Lee with a Southeastern Regional Daytime Emmy® nomination for his work with Public Broadcasting on the award-winning Spanish language series, ¡SALSA! Current video projects include the role of Hardy Heart for The OrganWise Guys and most recently the role of Captain Cruller to help celebrate Krispy Kreme’s TALK LIKE A PIRATE promotion.

Professional puppetry affiliations include memberships with UNIMA-USA, The Puppeteers of America, Inc., and The Atlanta Puppetry Guild.

What were you like growing up?
Born in Virginia, I spent most of my youth in various part of coastal North Carolina. As for siblings, I have one brother a year older, and a sister 15 years younger.

Growing up in rural North Carolina, we had to make our own fun. I was very much into make-believe, theatre and magic all which I studied furiously in the few books I could find in our library. Other than talent shows, I never really had much opportunity to do these things until I graduated High School.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Thom Stanley

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