A Conversation With Liz Joyce

Photo by Tim Lee
Photo by Tim Lee

Liz Joyce is the founder of Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre, and she spoke about its upcoming move to Bay Street Theater while she was on her way to the National Puppetry Festival this week.  

So when is the big move from the parish space of Christ Episcopal Church to Bay Street Theater?

We’re having an introductory show at Bay Street on August 20. We thought we should make an announcement in the summer when a big crowd is here. We’re bringing the Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers all the way from Bar Harbor, Maine, and they’ll be putting on “Everybody Loves Pirates.” We still have programming at Christ Episcopal through August. And then what we’re doing is that on Saturday, September 12, we’re going to be having a moving party and yard sale. I have a bunch of old hand puppets, puppet supplies, toys—all the stuff that won’t be moving to Bay Street with us. It’s a good way to clear out and find good homes for those things. Then we’ll have a Minky the Monkey puppet show, which will be all about growing up—it’s a tearjerker—and after the puppet show we’re going to have a musical stroll down to Bay Street, where workshops will be set up and people can check out our new home.

After 14 years in the same location, is it sad for you to be moving somewhere else?

 The thing about Goat on the Boat is that I used to be a touring company. When I opened the theater it was really sweet, and it was going to be just during the summer. But a group of moms got together and told me I had to stay open, because at that time the children’s museum wasn’t open and the library didn’t have the programming it does now. I started going to playgroups, which I’ve been doing for 14 years, and I’ve watched those kids grow up. It’s just been really enjoyable to watch the community grow up. We made a very sweet, intimate space and I’ll miss that, but I think it’s exciting that we can bring bigger shows out here. There are only 50 puppet theaters in the country, and I think it’s time to do something different.

Why do you think Bay Street’s a good fit?

 It’s a really nice fit because we introduce theater to children—it gets them in the door and they start to cultivate a love of the performing arts. Every show is so very different. It’s a very sweet art form, and it’s not just for children. I hope we can do some adult shows next year—there are some adult performers who are really amazing. It just opens the door to a lot of programming changes, and I think it’s great that Sag Harbor gets to keep puppets.

What shows do you have scheduled before the big move?  

On August 14 and 15, the Théâtre de Deux Mains, a group from Montreal, will be doing a show of “The Ugly Duckling” at 11 a.m. I hope a lot of people come to that; they’re a really wonderful group and it’s a great show. We’ll also have a marionette variety show in August, and the show “Lollipops for Breakfast.” Lots of stuff is happening.

And right now you’re driving up to the National Puppetry Festival, is that right?

Yes, it’s at the University of Connecticut, where they have a puppetry program—you can do an undergraduate degree, masters or Ph.D in puppetry there. There will be puppeteers from all over the country, and there will be lots of workshops, and talks on the history and philosophy of puppetry. It’s exciting for me, because at Goat on a Boat I’m a puppeteer, but I’m also a presenter. It’s really great to get to see what’s happening in the world of puppetry, and, I hope to bring it to Sag Harbor.

For more information about Goat on a Boat, or for tickets, visit goatonaboat.org .