Celebrating (almost) 40 years of Crabgrass!

We recently had the opportunity to talk about our puppet roots as part of the Meet Our Mentors series for Puppeteers of America. We had the chance to talk about some of our earliest influences and experiences with moderator Art Gruenberger.

You can watch it here! Meet Our Mentors: Crabgrass Puppet Theatre


Crabgrass: then and now


Hi! It's Bonny Hall and Jamie Keithline here.

We met in 1978 at the University of Connecticut and became friends when we were cast as father and son (Bonny played the father) in "Laughingstock," a commedia dell'arte production using puppets and actors. When we moved to San Francisco in 1982, we decided to create a show together. Our first show, "What a Clever Idea!" used life-sized puppets and masked actors to bring to life two classic folktales. The show was so much fun to create and perform and audiences were so enthusiastic that we decided to create another show in 1983 called "Crabgrass Uprising!" Another show followed, and another, and another. . .

From the earliest years, we knew this wonderful ride would have to end someday, and we vowed that we would stop performing when we were still near the top of our game. After much discussion and deliberation over several years, we decided that 2020 would be the final season for our touring performances.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

Suddenly, everyone was in the same situation; how can you have performances if it isn't safe for people to gather together? We applaud the ingenuity and creativity of our fellow artists and performers who are creating new ways to connect with their audiences. We considered whether this would be a way for us to continue performing without the rigors of being on the road, but ultimately decided to hold to our previous decision and stop performing our touring shows, so that we can focus on growing our skills and art in other ways and areas.

What's next for Bonny and Jamie and Crabgrass?

For the past few years Bonny has been creating one-of-a-kind felted beasts and birds created in wool. Her work has appeared in numerous galleries and at some of the most prestigious craft shows in the US. The COVID-19 pandemic has given her the time to go even deeper into her art (and wool). She looks forward to having new creations available later on in 2021, and to return to the craft show circuit in 2022. You can see Bonny's beasts and birds and get all the info at www.bonnysbeasts.com!

Jamie wasn't sure how he'd feel when his life on the road ended, but as it turns out it's great! He's enjoying his first extended period of having no schedule since he was 5 years old. While he's leaving the touring life behind after 40+ years, he is definitely NOT done with theater. He is looking forward to returning to the stage as an actor and to continue collaborating with other performers and creators on special projects.

Our next project: a history of Crabgrass!

Jame has been spending much of his time digitizing old video tapes and combing through the Crabgrass archives, preparing the definitive history of Crabgrass Puppet Theatre. In the meantime, though, please enjoy these articles from Puppetry Journal editor Steve Abrams and from our dear friend and frequent collaborator David Regan, which were published in the Summer 2020 Puppetry Journal! Click on either photo link to reach a pdf version of the articles.

Puppetry Journal

Jamie Keithline and Bonny Hall formed the award-winning Crabgrass Puppet Theatre in San Francisco in 1982 and have delighted audiences across the nation with their whimsical humor and puppetry. Now residents of Halifax, Vermont, they continue to tour throughout the U.S., performing in schools, museums and theaters. Their performing venues have included the Detroit Institute of Art, the Smithsonian, Paper Mill Playhouse, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and dozens of regional and national puppetry festivals. In 2001 Jamie and Bonny were honored by their peers when their production Anansi, Spiderman of Africa! was awarded an UNIMA-USA Citation of Excellence, the highest honor in American puppetry. This honor was repeated in 2005 with the receipt of a second UNI award for The Bremen Town Musicians. In 2008, Bonny received a Commendation for Design in the Puppet Theatre by the Arlyn Award Foundation for The Day It Snowed Tortillas. The Pirate, the Princess and the Pea was awarded "Best Performance" at the 2015 Puppeteers of America National Festival.

Crabgrass Puppet Theater has been funded in part by the National Endowment of the Arts, the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Vermont Arts Council, the Jim Henson Foundation, the Endowment Fund of the Puppeteers of America, and by wonderful audiences everywhere we go. Please support these organizations, who bring art and entertainment to audiences who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate.