People, Places & Things

As we travel around the country visiting and performing at various venues, we come across some interesting people, places and things.

We'd like to share some of our recent discoveries...

The Melikin Puppets at the Illinois State Fair - 2016

During the weekend of August 12-14 the Melikin Puppets presented twelve performances of “The Fabled Mr. Aesop”. On returning home, our Daughter-in-law, Kim Biske (Neal’s wife) informed us that friends of hers, the Ovalle Family attended the Fair. They took photos at the various venues they visited and put them on facebook. When Kim opened her facebook page, she discovered this photo of their son, Carlos and nephews, Michael and Paul, taking in the Melikin show. At the time they were unaware of the family connection and were quite surprised to discover that Neal and Kim were a part of the Melikin family of puppeteers.

"Mini Mr. Melikin"

Mel Biske, aka Mr. Melikin, was recently introduced to “Mini Mr. Melikin”. His son, Jeff decided to immortalize his dad by creating a polyfoam puppet complete with a miniature version of the melikin stage as a backdrop.

 

This came to be as a result of the Biske family’s long standing tradition in which each family member (now there are fifteen) randomly picks a name of a fellow family member. The idea is to have the person think of an idea and hand craft something specifically for that person. They have one year to complete their project. At the end of the year they gather once again to discover “who had who” and the gifts are presented one at a time. The results are always amazing. It is rewarding to family members as they discover hidden talents while creating their ideas and sharing the results with the entire family on one special holiday they call, “The Family Grab Bag”.

Daisy Scouts Visit The Melikin Puppet Studio

March 8, 2016

As many of you may already know, the interest in puppetry began while Mel was in scouting. It has been a tradition with the Melikin family of puppeteers, to welcome cub scouts, brownie scouts and daisy scouts to visit their studio to absorb the vast collection of puppets and puppet memorabilia To assist the scouts in earning various badges in theater and puppetry, Mel will demonstrate with the various puppets in the collection and pass along the history and the development of the art. It's always fun when it comes time for a hands on experience,when the scouts are taught to manipulate a marionette and then, in groups, present a musical number.

 

On March 8, 2016, a group of six daisy scouts, sponsored by Builta Elementary school in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and their parents payed the Melikin's a visit. Questions were raised and answered, puppets were demonstrated on how they were created and the Gooney Bird marionette parade came off without a hitch! The hour was up and everyone left happy with a little more information and a new interest in the art of puppetry. 

 

It is so rewarding, in that after a few days, we receive photos and thank you notes from the scouts we host. We save them and post them in our studio. Turns out that the scouts and their leader, Liz Redey, noticed the collection of Pinocchio puppets and posters scattered throughout the displayed items (a favorite character of Mels). The following Sunday afternoon we were surprised when the doorbell rang. When we answered, there were the six daisy scouts and their leader with their thank you poster and twelve hand made Pinocchio "cake pops"!  What a delightful surprise.

Tonti Elementary School

Chicago, Illinois

Once again, five years later to be exact, Kindergarten teacher, Jennifer O'Sullivan, applied to DonorsChoice.org and received funding to sponsor the Melikin Puppets. On February 17th, 2016, the troupe presented their production of "The Fabled Mr. Aesop" for her class. Three other classes were also invited to attend as well.  Again, we thank Jennifer for remembering the Melikins from her kindergarten days. 

Click on the photo to read the original story.

Using Puppetry as a Learning Tool

On one of our regular stops while on tour in Southwestern, Wisconsin, brought us to the Roche-A-Cri Elementary School in Arkdale. It was during our early morning set up that we had the good fortune of meeting Betty and Larry. They are rod puppets who were directing the behavior of the students at breakfast. We were curious about the construction method used and discovered they were made using rolling pins!

The teacher in charge that day was Mrs. Becky Oleson. When we inquired about how the idea came to be she explained it as follows:

 

“The staff at RAC School has implemented using Breakfast Betty and Lunch Larry to raise awareness of the voice level and to also promote good manners in our lunchroom. So many things our students already know, but it seemed we were constantly reminding them of the correct way to do it. Since Betty and Larry arrived it has made our job much easier.

Each day classes have the opportunity to win, once at breakfast and once at lunch. When the class receives 5 wins they will be celebrating with a special lunch. They will have table cloths, decorations and special foods the others will not receive as a form of celebration of good behavior. The entire class works as a unit to receive this privilege.”

Brittney (left) from the lunchroom staff (and the puppet creator) and Mrs. Oleson with Lunchtime Larry and Breakfast Betty.

Mattoon Elementary School
Mattoon, Wisconsin
April 10, 2014

On a return visit to Mattoon Elementary School in Wisconsin on April 10, 2014, the entire staff and student body paused after the show to share the spotlight with the puppeteers and the cast from "The Greatest American". The question was, "Who is the greatest American?" Now, after seeing the show, everyone knows ( even the great American with the rabbit ears).

Palatine Public Library

While performing at the Palatine, Illinois library in November 2013 we couldn't help but notice this original work of art suspended from the ceiling. The graphic artist employee of the library created this approximately 12 by 6 foot open book with storybook characters coming alive.

Mel, Jeff and the Melikin Puppets Joined the College Ranks with Performances on the Campus of

the University of Illinois, Urbana.

 

March 30th 2013

The Spurlock Museum, on the campus of the U of I, hosted the 2013 WorldFest of Performing Artist’s event. The Melikin Puppet troupe contributed with three performances of “The Fabled Mr. Aesop”.

The Melikin stage was positioned in the European Gallery. Mr. Aesop (seen here rehearsing) was surrounded by world famous statuary. Mr. Aesop was born on a little island off the coast of Greece and felt quite at home, to say the least.

Once the audience arrived, Mr. Aesop proudly represented the Art of Puppetry. Four additional performing companies were located in the auditorium and other galleries in the museum. They represented Dance, a Musical Trio, a Band and a Story Teller.

Between shows, Mr. Aesop had a chance to explore the museum. Of particular interest was the Ancient Mediterranean Exhibit - more specifically, Ancient Greece.

Mattoon Elementary School
Mattoon, Wisconsin
April 19, 2013

In our production of "The Fabled Mr. Aesop", one of the stories Mr. Aesop told was, The Lion and the Mouse. Scott Hamilton and Laura Palmer, who co-teach the second grade and their class, proved the moral that: Little friends can become great friends! - As demonstrated after our performance. Many thanks to the staff and the entire enrollment for a wonderful afternoon.

What A Coincidence!

The 2012 Summer Reading program theme in Illinois was, “Reading Is So Delicious!” So, we presented, “The Fabled Mr. Aesop”, with fables pertaining to food. The theme for 2013 was “Have Book, Will Travel”. We thought the “Book” to travel with would be a history book. So, we offered our production of “The Greatest American” which features Abraham Lincoln.

As you can see, Young Abe had a keen knowledge of classic literature.

Jeff, our Puppeteer and Graphic & Website Designer for the Melikin Puppets, in searching for photos of Mr. Lincoln came across a very pleasant coincidence.

Young Abe Lincoln on exhibit at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Mr. Lincoln educated himself by reading classic literature.

High school gym in Norway, Michigan
One entire wall was used to paint a mountain scene mural by a high school art class.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Once again, on April 29, 2010, the Melikin Puppets participated in the annual Career Awareness Fair held at the Technology Center of DuPage. In ten sessions over the course of the day, nearly 100 seventh graders from 10 area schools learned what it takes to work in the field of "Educational Puppetry".

"Merlin" presents a sampling of what the Melikin Puppets are all about.

Set up in front of our stage the Melikins (Mel & LaVerne) field questions from inquisitive students. (One comment was: "You can make a living doing this?")

Builta Elementary School
Bolingbrook, Ilinois

On May 26, 2010, The Melikin Puppet Theatre  presented their show based on poetry, "Shoes & Ships & Sealing Wax". It was the culmination of a study of poetry by three second grade classes at Builta Elementary School in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Teacher Ms. Maren Lipe organized the day.

 

Here's an interesting note: Ana (pictured on the left in right photo) is the grandaughter of Mr. & Mrs. Melikin (Biske) and the Daughter of Neal Biske, who is also a Melikin Puppeteer and worked the show that day.

 

After touring and performing for many, many years the Melikin Puppets had to travel only one block for this appearance!

Builta Elementary School, Bolingbrook, IL

Students Ana, Ally and Katie get to meet

the "Dream Peddler", the lead character from the production.

Tinley Park - Park District
Tinley Park, IL

In the Summer of 2011, the Village of Tinley Park presented a program involving local artists called "Benches on the Avenue, America The Beautiful!"  Over 21 benches were decorated each with a special theme.  Puppeteer Jeff Biske decided to rest on a (what else?) Muppet bench after a performance at the Tinley Park Park District.

Central Citizens Library
Clifton, IL

The Central Citizens Library Youth Department in Clifton, Illinois was transformed into a castle by Childrens’ Librarians’ Kerry and Jessica seen here with Mr. Melikin, Jeremy Jester and Merlin

Jeremy and Merlin were taken aback by a life-size Merlin stationed to greet young readers.

Detroit Institute of Art
Detroit, MI

The Detroit Institute of Art sponsored a Youth Theatre Show on the Road program for over twenty-five years. The Melikin Puppets were a part of their touring and in-house programming for twenty-five of those years. Due to lack of funding the program was dropped. Recently the program was re-started on a limited basis involving puppet companies from around the Mid-West to join in on Family Sunday Afternoons.

Pictured here is the Melikin stage set up once again in the 300 seat auditorium ready with their production of "Dragon Feathers!"

Glen Ellyn Public Library
Glen Ellyn, IL

The Glen Ellyn Library used photos from the Melikin website to advertise our production of "The Sword in the Stone" on closed circuit video screens throughout the library.  Our stage was set up in the community room near one of the screens.  Getting the word out made for a filled room.

Kindergarten Teacher Jennifer O'Sullivan of Tonti Elementary School in Chicago, pictured here with her kindergarten class after a Melikin presentation of "Fractured Fairy Tales" on June 13, 2011.

 

What makes this special is that Jennifer remembered The Melikin Puppets when she was a student at St. John Fisher Elementary School.  She contacted us after receiving full funding for a class visitor project from a website called DonorsChoose.org.  Three other classes were invited to attend as well. 

 

Thank you Jennifer for remembering us!

Tonti Elementary School
Chicago, IL
 
Roche-a-Cri Elementary School
Arkdale, WI

Second grade teacher Mary Neylon got her students at Roche-a-Cri Elementary in Wisconsin into the spirit of our presentation, "Totem Tales".  Under the direction of Art Instructor Mike Turok, they created not one, but two Totem Poles which were proudly displayed near our puppet theatre stage.

 

Great Job Kids!

"Going Green"

While on the road to the Fossil Ridge Library in Braidwood, Illinois we came across this patriotic tribute to America and our troops. Spare parts and pieces of scrap metal welded together and painted displays creativity and imagination.

Interpreters Nicol Low (standing) Andrea Gilkenson (seated left) and Andrea Benishek keep pace with the Melikin Puppets during a presentation of “Totem Tales” at the East Elementary School in Antigo, Wisconsin.

 

Scripts were provided two weeks prior to our performance to acquaint the “signers” with the story line.  Each interpreter assumed the roles of separate puppet actors working in a conversational delivery so all the students in the audience could enjoy the show.

East Elementary School
Antigo, WI
Pleasant View Elementary School
Antigo, WI

Making good use of study guides sent prior to our performance of “Dragon Feathers !" , Kindergarten Teacher Cynthia Tyler copied the picture of the dragon on the cover and used it as a class project. Each student colored the dragon and cut it out.  The montage was proudly displayed in the performance area for all to see.  We saw it! and what a great tie-in to prepare students for our performance at the Pleasant View Elementary School in Antigo, Wisconsin.

The Kindergarten Class of Pleasant View Elementary, Antigo, WI

They were a GREAT theatre audience!

On April 28, 2012 the Chicagoland Puppetry Guild celebrated the National Day of Puppetry held at the Irish-American Heritage Center in Chicago, Illinois.  Doors opened to a waiting crowd at 10 AM and were greeted by members of the guild with a variety of puppets in hand.


The Melikin Puppet Theatre was there to present their production of “Dragon Feathers !” to a large receptive audience.

 

The performance was followed by a series of “Hands On” workshops. As a result many youngsters left happy at the end of the festivities with their own hand made puppet.

The 2012 National Day of Puppetry

Click the link below to see some of the highlights of the day!