Higginsville Advance 
April 7, 1993 

Clement McCrae Puppet Company 
by Gregory D. Bontz  

How would you like to view a performance where you can't always see the performers faces. Well, if you ask most kids (all ages), you'll hear a consistent, yes. 

Mary Litton Clement, Higginsville, and her daughter, Mary Susan McCrae, Kansas City, are puppeteers and they find it very pleasing to perform behind the scenes most of the time. The mother/daughter team designs, produces, and manages the Clement McCrae Puppet Co. Located at 8806 Ivanhoe Trail, in Kansas City, Missouri.


What began in 1973 as a one-time project for local parks department, has progressively budded into a full-time business for McCrae and her mother. It was the request of former Higginsville resident and park superintendent Jack Hayselett, who was looking for programming for the Parks and Recreation's Department, that Mary Susan was approached to do a puppet show. That was only the beginning.  

After attending college [where she obtained a degree in technical theater], Mary Susan acquired a job with a puppet company which supplied puppet and costume services to amusement parks. It was there that she learned the basics in the puppet and costume business. It didn't take much time for her to be convinced that she wanted to make the business her career. 

Today, McCrae and Clement with the help of Mary Susan's husband John, provide a successful service in entertainment business. They also employ two part time performers, one is a Kansas City marketing director, Steven Rogers and the other is Jack Foote, a teacher at one of the magnet schools in Kansas City. They perform puppet shows throughout the Kansas City area.



Puppet shows are usually built around a variety style of musical selections, rather than the usual fairy tale format. This provides for a more creative show. They perform for various functions; birthday parties, at malls, schools, community clubs, retirement villages; anywhere their services are requested. 

Each year, the mother/daughter team constructs at least eight new marionettes and hand puppets to update their shows. Visitors at the Clement house in Higginsville can quickly spot the importance of the puppet population by the many marionettes displayed on request. 

The two spend hours of labor on each character, constructing and balancing them to make sure all actions are life-like as possible. 

Most people in Higginsville have seen their work. Higgins and Frosty, Holley, and Jingle the Snow family are a few of their many constructions. 

Recently KCP&L commissioned the team to construct a squirrel, appropriately named Electra, which the firm uses at various educational and social functions throughout the year.





The production companies busiest months are between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day when they perform 80 or more shows at the same time in opposite ends of Kansas City.  

Regular audience members keep the company on their toes. New material for their production company must continually be sought out to change the production numbers and frequently they must alter puppets into new characters to provide a different variety show. 

One of their most memorable experiences was at St. Agnes Catholic School in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, where they did an Easter show for second through firth grade students. At the close of the show, the students began chanting encore, encore. We've never had an encore, before," McCrae said with a smile. "It was great." 

Each of the company's puppets have their own names, and names usually match the visual characteristics of the marionette. Although the two have constructed mainly human puppets, they plan in the future to expand into the animal kingdom. 

"We'll be doing this all our lives," Clement said. "It is something you just don't retire from. And unlike real performers who grow old, a puppeteer can remain as young as the marionettes. I can't think of anything that is more fun," she added. 

The company can be reached at  
[ their Kansas City location  
(816) 444-1492]  

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