Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Steamboat Springs Master puppeteer Jim Gamble is a busy man during the holidays.
Gamble performed 200 shows in the last six weeks of 2005, and his puppet production company typically presents almost 2,000 shows throughout the year.
Gamble will be in Steamboat Springs on Thursday to perform "Peter and the Wolf" at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort as part of Strings in the Mountains Youth Concert Series.
"It's a musical classic by Prokofiev with music and narration and is a good example of music education," he said. "I've won several national awards for the show."
Nine instruments are represented in the production, and Gamble uses three hand-made puppets for each character.
"The puppet I sculpted to look like Prokofiev was made out of a lot of latex," he said. "People have been confused that is was not a real person."
Gamble's puppets typically look like Disney-style three-dimensional characters. He began making puppets when he was 10 years old.
"I wasn't just making small hand puppets," Gamble said. "I was also making marionettes and making them do all kinds of tricks. In some cases they take off their own head and juggle it."
Gamble did not plan on being a puppeteer when he grew up. He got his bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering and was a pilot for the Air Force and Continental Airlines.
He retired in 1983 to do puppetry full time.
"My approach to puppetry has been more technical and innovative," he said.
Gamble has designed special theaters for specific shows and has worked on many large-scale projects like "The Muppet Movie."
He typically travels to at least 11 countries each year and books shows three to four years in advance.
"I can do my shows in Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese and English," he said. "I've done a lot of shows in Japan, Korea, the Pacific Islands, Singapore, Guam, Bolivia, Guatemala, Europe and the Middle East."
It is not unusual for Gamble to perform a marionette show in New York in the morning and one in Los Angeles in the afternoon.
"I have five different Christmas shows and have 20 people working for me," he said. "I can have my staff in eight or nine places at the same time performing as many as 25 shows a day."
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