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Monday, January 18, 2010

Populating Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Swazzle creates 19 puppets for Pee-wee Herman’s triumphant return


Populating Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Swazzle creates 19 puppets for
Pee-wee Herman’s triumphant return

LOS ANGELES, CA – January 18, 2010 – Glendale, CA-based puppet company Swazzle has re-created many of the classic puppet characters from Pee-wee’s Playhouse and built a handful of new puppets for The Pee-wee Herman Show, now playing at Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles. Directed by Obie Award winner Alex Timbers and starring Paul Reubens, Lynne Stewart, John Paragon and Phil LaMarr, the stage show reunites Pee-wee Herman with many of his puppet pals from the hit television series Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

That show was appointment television for Swazzle Creative Directors Sean and Patrick Johnson as kids, so when they learned of plans for a stage show, the brothers jumped at the chance to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime production. Swazzle’s team worked with design consultant Jimmy Cuomo and puppet producers The Chiodo Brothers to build Clockey, Randy, the Flowers, the Fish, Pterri, ShamWow and Cowboy Curtis’ horse, Ginger. “Working on this show is a dream come true. When I was 9 years old watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse, I never dreamed that I would get to work with Pee-wee Herman one day,” says Patrick.

The Pee-wee Herman Show features hand puppets, rod puppets, marionettes and walk-around costumes, and each posed unique building challenges. Sean, Patrick and fellow puppet builders Russ Walko and Artie Esposito worked round the clock carving foam, dyeing fleece, and stitching Spandex to complete the puppets on a demanding schedule.

The marionettes proved to be particularly challenging. For example, Pterri the Pterodactyl has to fly in from the ceiling, swoop around the room, and crash-land—a vertical distance of more than 20 feet. Swazzle relied on the advice of UNIMA-award winning puppetry consultant Basil Twist, whose idea for a split controller was essential to pulling off the stunt.

In addition to building 19 puppets for The Pee-wee Herman Show, Swazzle provided all of the puppeteers. Working as Puppeteer Coordinator, Sean assembled a team whose combined credits include work for The Jim Henson Company, The Walt Disney Company, the Muppets and the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. “The puppetry in the show is challenging,” says Sean. “I worked from the top of my list to pull in the most talented puppeteers in Los Angeles.”

Because so many different forms of puppetry are employed in the show, puppeteers are hidden everywhere—behind, beneath, on and high above the stage. Several of the characters are performed by multiple puppeteers, who trade off or work together depending on the puppet’s location and method of operation. At one point in the show, five puppeteers work together to perform Pterri as he crash-lands as a marionette and pops up as a hand puppet.

In addition to Sean Johnson (Pterri, Randy, ShamWow, the Fish, Mr. Knucklehead) and Patrick Johnson (Globey, Pterri, Mr. Knucklehead), the show features the puppetry of Artie Esposito (Chairry), Russ Walko (Conky), Carla Rudy (Pterri, Randy, ShamWow, Mr. Window, Mr. Knucklehead), Victoria Johnson (Magic Screen), Haley Jenkins (Ginger, Pterri, the Flowers, Mr. Knucklehead, Magic Screen), and Erik Kuska (Clockey, Mr. Window, Mr. Knucklehead).

Swazzle’s team members have spent years honing their puppet-building and performing skills in live puppet shows for libraries and schools, along with stage and screen projects for clients like Patton Oswalt, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, W!ldbrain/The Dan Clark Company, and Overbrook Entertainment. The Pee-wee Herman Show is the next leap forward for this young puppet company as it continues to develop and expand.

About Swazzle

Founded in 2004 by twin brothers Sean and Patrick Johnson, Swazzle is a Glendale, CA-based company specializing in puppetry for film, television and the stage. Together with their troupe of professional puppeteers they have performed hundreds of shows in venues across California.

Sean and Patrick have worked with leading children’s entertainment companies including The Jim Henson Company, PBS Kids Sprout, The Walt Disney Company and The Baby Einstein Company. They also teach puppetry technique to actors and comedians from The Groundlings for The Jim Henson Company.

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Media Contacts:

Sean Johnson

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Swazzle Puppeteer Auditions


Thursday, April 30th, beginning at 10am

4525 San Fernando Rd., Unit F
Glendale, CA 90035

Swazzle is looking for puppeteers to perform live puppet shows at libraries across Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

These 45-minute puppet shows will be presented during the summer as entertainment for the libraries’ summer reading programs.

The puppeteer will be required to transport the show to the venue; interact with the client and the public in a professional manner; and set up, perform and break down the show. There may be multiple performances per day.

Performers will be paid a flat fee per show.

To schedule an audition time, please call 866-792-9953 or e-mail and put “Audition” in the subject line.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Swazzle Workshop Episode 7

Tiger, Mayor Mole, and Mousedeer

Episode 7 of the Swazzle Workshop is now online. In this episode Mayor Mole stops by to show Tiger and Mousedeer how to make a Garbage Monster puppet. Please enjoy and pass it on to your friends.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Swazzle Awarded Grant by Puppeteers of America

The Puppeteers of America Endowment awarded Swazzle a grant to produce a new school puppet show, The Swazzle Workshop Live. The grant was announced at an award ceremony at this year's Puppeteers of America festival, Puppet Rampage.

The Swazzle Workshop Live is based on Swazzle's popular web series, The Swazzle Workshop. It will be a departure from their story based puppet shows. The new show will guide the audience through the puppet show creation process. Children will see behind the scenes of puppet design, puppet building and performance.

Swazzle will begin work on the new puppet show in September 2007, and plans to book into into schools for the 2008 school year.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Call for Puppeteers

Swazzle is looking for two puppeteers for a new live puppet show that will tour Southern California. The show will be bilingual and performed for Spanish speaking audiences at community events, so at least one puppeteer must be fluent in Spanish. Auditions will be held on Friday July 13, 2007 at the Madilyn Clark Studios, 10852 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA. For more information, or to schedule an audition please e-mail Sean Johnson,

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Swazzle’s 2007 Summer Season

On Tuesday June 12 Swazzle kicks off it’s 2007 Summer Puppet Show Season. For the first time ever the popular puppet company will be touring California libraries with three puppet shows. A third production was added this year to meet the growing demand for Swazzle’s live puppet shows - they will be performing 160 library puppet shows, a record for the company. Each of the puppet shows are mysteries, based on the state wide library summer reading program theme, “Get a Clue’. Like Swazzle’s previous productions, they feature hand made puppets, painted back drops, and live performances from their talented team of puppeteers.

Rex and Boots Super Sleuths will play in Northern California, and Bugsy Brown Private Fly and The Case of the Elephant Trunk will both play in Southern California.

Rex & Boots Super Sleuths
Lady Fromage, the richest mouse in England, discovers that her prized Gold Fish is missing. She calls on Rex & Boots, Super Sleuths to solve the crime. Is bungling greyhound Rex barking up the wrong tree? Is shady sheepdog Sherman presenting questionable evidence and false leads? Can the curious and clever cat Boots follow the clues and solve the mystery?

Bugsy Brown, Private Fly
Hard-working private eye Bugsy Brown is spending his birthday on the job when a beautiful black widow winds her way into his office. Little does he know, she has a mysterious assignment for Bugsy that will lead him on the
most surprising investigation of his life.

The Case of the Elephant Trunk
Mukesh Mongoose thinks his financial troubles are over when a mysterious trunk with a note promising unlimited wealth turns up on his doorstep. But his son Ravi isn’t so sure. With the help of his pet cobra, Ravi solves the Mystery of the Elephant Trunk.

Please visit Swazzle’s online schedule to see when they are touring your town.

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