One of my most treasured GeekGirlCon memories involves puppets. Okay, several of my favorite GeekGirlCon experiences involve puppets (looking at you, Puppet Joss Whedon – you handsy bastard), but this one in particular involves the spectacular Red Fraggle and her handler, the extraordinarily talented & singularly kind Karen Prell.
Karen had attended our inaugural con in 2011 for a sing-along screening of Labyrinth at the EMP. We’d held a sock-puppet making workshop earlier in the day, led by our Design Team, and she pointed out some key moments for puppet participation. (Seeing happy geek women & girls singing and smiling and waving sock puppets they made themselves packing the JBL theater was SQUEE.)
In 2013, celebrations for the 30th Anniversary of Fraggle Rock were taking place, and GeekGirlCon was presented with an opportunity to get in on the joy. The Jim Henson Company agreed to loan us Red – but she needed to be flown out with a handler and put up in a hotel. Red was certainly not a diva, and the expense was less than I’d predicted, but more than our entire programming budget.
The Executive Director and I decided it was something too special to not make happen.
(Dance your cares away . . . Worries for another day . . . Let the music play . . .)
And it was worth it.
Karen and Red were delightful in their spotlight session, engaging the audience with song and humor and curiosity. During the audience Q&A, a little girl, held up to the microphone by her mother, asked Red if she knew the song, “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.” Red replied that since Fraggles live underground, she didn’t know the song because she didn’t often get to see stars – and asked the child if she could teach her the lyrics.
The little girl was shy, her voice nearly inaudible, and all of a sudden, whispered, gentle voices rose up around the room. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star . . .
Everyone in the room came together, collaborated, shared something as a community . . . Up above the earth so high, like a diamond in the sky . . .
It was heart-swelling tears and sparkling magic and quiet beauty. I’ll never forget the feeling and I cherish that experience. I know I’m not alone.
After the panel, Red and Karen enthusiastically posed for photographs for nearly three hours. Then, seemingly tireless, they graciously signed photos that Karen had brought special for the occasion. (THEN, Karen made sure to seek out and say thank you and goodbye to everyone. As I said, singularly kind.)
This story illustrates just one of the many reasons I am GivingBIG to GeekGirlCon on May 3, and I’m hoping that you’ll accept my invitation to help us make magic.
That may be through #GiveBIG, but it may be by buying a pass and coming to the convention. It could be following GeekGirlCon on Twitter, applying for one of our 100% volunteer staff positions, or coming out to one of our year-round events.
Karen Falk, the Head Archivist for The Jim Henson Company, once told me that Henson created Fraggle Rock with the intention of inspiring world peace. The hope was that the show would both entertain as it taught kids about getting along with people who are different from you, and, about sharing your environment. Falk said that it was one of the most important projects he did.
The mission of GeekGirlCon might not be quite so lofty as world peace – but in celebrating and supporting women & girls in geek culture, we are advocating for shared space. Or, at least a space to sing.