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TheaterWorksUSA’s The Pout-Pout Fish – SOLD OUT

April 25 | 10:00 am

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Turn the poutiest of frowns upside down in this new musical featuring whimsical puppets and live performers in a sweeping oceanic adventure. When Mr. Fish sets out on a quest to find Miss Clam’s missing pearl, he discovers there is more to him than his permanently plastered pout.
This colorful adaptation of The New York Times bestseller is co-conceived, directed, and designed by the acclaimed puppeteers of AchesonWalsh Studios, whose work was featured in Broadway’s The King And I, On the Town, and Radio City’s New York Spectacular. Writing team includes New Victory LabWorks Residency recipients Christopher Anselmo, Jared Corak, Matt Acheson, and Fergus Walsh.

Pictured l-r: Kelly Grago, Mukta Phatak, Emmanuel Elpenord, Leannue Brunn; photo by Jeremy Daniel

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 | 10am

STUDY GUIDE: Click HERE for printable pdf
THEATRE PROGRAM: TBA (a printable pdf will be available)
Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts
RUN TIME: Approximately 60 minutes
Christy Chenausky
Director of Arts Education and Outreach
828-262-6084 ext. 109


$3 per person

$5 per person


When first diving in to write the musical adaptation of The Pout-Pout Fish, we quickly realized that music was already splashing up off the page. Deborah Diesen’s playful rhyming couplets read like the lyrics of a classic song, while Dan Hannah’s colorful aquatic illustrations invoke the sounds of intertwining guitars and blaring trumpets. The bright blue water had us yearning for the twang of a Surf Rock guitar, and the themes of perspective and community had us crooning dreamy Beach Boys harmonies. And you can’t mention the beach without hearing the laid-back tunes of Jimmy Buffet! But perhaps most compelling to us was the connotation of “happiness” and “joy” that is so integral to these genres of music. How could you possibly be glum when listening to a song about the ocean? Like so many other things in his world, the music of the ocean is constantly at odds with our perpetually pouty protagonist’s outlook on life. Our goal in crafting this story was to bring Mr. Pout-Pout Fish out of the comfort of his reef and encourage him to find the confidence to engage with the vibrant musical world around him. Hopefully, by the end of his journey, he’ll be singing a different tune.
—Christopher Anselmo & Jared Corak; Book, Music, Lyrics

In the Spring of 2018, we were approached by Barbara Pasternack, the Artistic Director at TheaterWorksUSA. She wanted to create a musical puppet show for a young audience and wondered if we would be interested in collaborating with her. Obviously, the opportunity to work with such an innovative organization was very appealing, but what would the show be about? How would we ever decide? Oh, it’s too hard! Blub Blub Bluuuuuub… Hey! Wait a minute!

Once we agreed on the inimitable Pout-Pout Fish (PPF to his friends), we were excited to speak with the author of the books, Deborah Diesen, to ensure we represented her work appropriately. We were struck by the theme of perception and how PPF’s famous frown is perceived by others but most importantly by the great fish himself. It’s what you can do and not how you look that defines you. Happiness looks different to everyone.

We also wanted to ensure that the fantastic illustrations of Dan Hanna were immediately recognizable, but also that the characters could move and swim easily around the stage, hence the designs you will see today!

The puppetry used in The Pout-Pout Fish is a direct manipulation, hands-on style. There are no rods or handles; the puppets are held directly. We are not trying to hide the puppeteers or their hands. In this show the puppeteers are storytellers and we are embracing the fact that the audience can see them manipulate the puppets. We believe in the power of the audience to suspend their disbelief and have full acceptance in the life of the puppet, despite clearly seeing the puppeteer perform with it. In addition to emphasizing the magic of theatre in this regard, this style of puppetry can be inspirational for children to see. It is a style most closely associated with how children play with their own toys: hands-on, fully immersed in the life of the teddy bear to which they are talking.

One of the unique challenges this production faced is that that it needed to go on the road as part of TheaterWorksUSA’s national tour, with all design elements fitting in a cargo van and durable enough to travel throughout North America. Our expertise at AchesonWalsh Studios enabled us to create puppets that will be tourable, deceptively simple, elegant, yet transformative.

It has been quite a voyage over the past two years creating this show and we hope you will enjoy SEAing it!
—Matt Acheson and Fergus J Walsh of AchesonWalsh Studios Direction, Production Design, Book

Pictured: Emmanuel Elpenord; Photo by Jeremy Daniel

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Christy Chenausky
Director of Arts Education and Outreach
828-262-6084 ext. 109

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April 25
10:00 am
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Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts
733 Rivers St
Boone, NC 28607 United States
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