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Richardson’s early interest in puppetry leads to ‘side adventure’

Scott Richardson

Scott Richardson’s involvement with puppetry led him to create sets of world-traveling puppets for the musical theatre production, “Little Shop of Horrors.” Richardson ’85 said his man-eating plant puppets, “the girls,” as he calls them, have traveled to every corner of the country, including Maine, California, Florida and Washington.  They even traveled to Louisiana a few months after Hurricane Katrina for a performance in a high school auditorium with a tarp roof.

Richardson said he started his own puppet troupe in high school and continued to perform at area schools and libraries during his time at Illinois State.  He became involved with “Little Shop of Horrors” in 1986 when a Springfield theatre group asked him to create the series of four puppets, which range in size from 12 inches to six feet tall.  Over the years, Richardson created several more sets of the Audrey II puppets, which he provides to schools and theatres for the musical. The puppets, which are made of foam over an aluminum armature and covered with stretch terrycloth, travel in custom-made 900-pound, 252-cubic-foot crates large enough to hold a car.

“There is a tremendous amount of sewing, gluing and loving care in creating and maintaining ‘the girls’ to keep them in great shape for their audiences.  Remarkably, we’ve had few dramas in getting the puppets to their destinations,” Richardson said.  “Although last winter a teacher in North Dakota called me and said the truck arrived with no lift gate, and the school did not have a loading dock. I suggested she page the football team, and Audrey II was safe inside in short order.”

Richardson met the original puppet designer, Marty Robinson in New York when “Little Shop” made its debut on Broadway in 2003.  Robinson allowed Richardson to check out the Broadway puppets, and gave him “two green thumbs up” after Richardson sent Robinson photos of his own puppets.  Richardson said his puppets were very close to the Robinson ones.

With the exception of Audrey II, Richardson said he moved away from puppetry because he got “tired of building the actors,” and started directing and creating scenic design for theatre, most recently for the production of “Big” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”  He created his own production company, The Roxy Group, which produces concert productions of what he terms lost and forgotten Broadway musicals such as “Mack and Mabel,” “High Spirits” and “She Loves Me.”  Richardson says his theatre involvement and puppetry are side adventures to his professional career.

Richardson received a degree in graphic design at Illinois State, which he said prepared him expertly for his graphic design profession.  He began work at the Illinois State Board of Education as a graphic designer just two days after graduating and is currently the art director for corporate communications at Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc., a Springfield-based international information technology company. As art director, Richardson handles advertising, promotional materials and print media.

“I have good memories of Illinois State, including my days in Watterson Towers and the stellar faculty in the Center for the Visual Arts,” Richardson said.  “Pam Tannura, Stephanie Amster, Wayne Caster and the rest of the gang were just an amazing group of educators in one of the best design programs in the country.  In many of my positions, it has been my pleasure to hire Illinois State design program graduates. Their portfolios are always head-and-shoulders above recent grads from other schools.”