Jan Kaufman- Puppeteer Extraordinare

Minimize
Greetings, I'm "WILLY" and I met Jan during my creation when she was about 13. We worked together for many years. We did TV shows and TV specials in Florida (WFLA in Tampa). She created many other puppets characters (they later became my friends). We would perform in nightclubs, private parties, and special events. She was creating and working with marionettes and some hand puppets before and during her college years . . . so you can see she has been at it longer than either of us want to admit; from age thirteen through now. Our lives were about to change after she created me. She used me in our first shows together in Tampa and the Bay area. (We packed to move the first time)

She took some of us to the University of Miami where she studied Drama and TV. There we performed for large events, the Miami Beach Hotels nightclubs and cabarets and Miami's TV Channel 10 Saturday children's shows. Let's not forget her university studies she had to do at the same time .... study. And while all that was going on, she performed around Miami and for her courses. She represented the University with performances as she had won the talent contest two years running. Then, we were on the move again.

When she was 20 and we left for Europe where we learned French and performed at Swiss ski resorts, more nightclubs, and cabarets. (Sometimes it got smoky, but we carried on!) She played a minor part in the film Barrabas (that was shot in Verona, Italy). Opening night in New York was great.

Upon our return to the USA, Jan went to New York where the puppets (and the theater) were. (Again, I was glad to be along to help further her career. I often wonder if she knows how important I have always been to her.) Jan was hired to work at a very important place for puppeteers for the New York City Puppet Group located in Central Park at the Swedish Cottage. This was funded by the New York City Department of Parks. She met and performed with Bil Baird, Rod Young (to drop a name or two). She learned more about design, scripting, set design and fabrication for marionettes and puppets. She used us for TV advertising. I didn't feel exploited because I got lots of exposure (all of us performers are really hams!). She also met two world famous puppeteers: Jim Hensen and Frank Oz (and I was a bit jealous of all the attention the Muppets were getting, but that's another story). They gave Jan (and me) lots of encouragement, friendship, and guidance over the years.

Along came the love of her life (I was upset because it wasn't me), Dr.Roger Kaufman (He had received his Doctorate at NYU) and they were married and (here we go-relocate, actually, again) moved to California. (He had a job there and she was his wife and bride then and still loves being with him even now). Roger got her (got? Jan never does anything she really really doesn't want to do) to return to school where she earned her Masters in Education and her BA in Drama and Art from Chapman University. As a teacher she used puppets and drama to teach workshops to the mentally handicapped as well as regular learners. She designed costumes, sets & lighting for the drama department productions.

She was the Head of the Drama Department at Lakewood High School in California (I loved it . . . we were working together again) Not only teaching but we were performing workshops at many universities and colleges, various clubs and organizations plus lectures for enhancing language development in children and adults. We kept expanding our performances to using puppets to problems and opportunities in the areas of communication, therapy, child abuse detection and treatment, cultural transmission, education and educational TV. We lectured at universities, performed with Children's Television Workshop. There were various performances,lectures,and TV appearances.

Then we had an addition, a bundle of joy, a baby boy named Jac. (He was not a puppet like me but a real person.)

(On the road again.) The time had come to move across country from California back to Florida. Wow, were we busy after we arrived. We worked for the Tallahassee Arts Council and performed 144 shows in the schools for 11 years. (The shows were packed and unpacked every time we turned around. Lots of work, but "that's show biz.") There were mall shows, TV shows and Civic Events. We took the gang and together we entertained children of all ages. Jac helped his mother by running our music and tech stuff) I never knew where Jan would take me. One day I was put in a suitcase and I found myself in Mexico, another time in Chile, later Ecuador, and if that wasn't enough we also worked together in Peru, Venezuela and other South American countries. We were giving workshops and lectures at universities and getting our pictures on TV and in newspapers. (It's nice to be popular and well known, I liked it!) Our international trips began to expand to include Australia and New Zealand; we loved it. Seventeen times we have now been "down under." We were making friends everywhere and meeting puppeteers in every city we were in. This continues today and Jan keeps learning new things and sharing ideas.

If you have any questions please let us know. We would be happy to hear from you.