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A note to the reader:
While viewing this biography please understand that it is the only authentic and genuine life history of Bernie Beauchamp, written by the artist himself and approved by most of his family and friends.
Pay no heed to what you may read in supermarket tabloids or on the walls of the Post Office.
This is your only source of official propaganda relating to Bernie Beauchamp.
Accept no substitutes.
I began my life in the village of East Rochester, N.Y, a small working class community where I was raised with 6 siblings by parents who exemplified a strong work ethic and the Golden Rule.
When I was completed High School I chose to stay close to home and 4 years later, graduated with a degree in Theater Arts from Nazareth College.
As part of my college curriculum I spent a semester at the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut. studying all phases of professional theater from actors, directors, designers and technicians practicing their respective trades in New York City.
Among these instructors was an elderly couple, retired puppeteers Margo and Rufus Rose who had built and operated the puppets on the Howdy Doody TV show in the 1950s.
Their home (3 miles from campus) was their classroom, where they shared the wisdom earned from several decades of experimentation, execution and tens of thousands of miles of touring puppet shows.
At the end of the semester the class put together a variety puppet show that I can only describe as a disastrous train wreck. With little time to organize and rehearse we slapped together a program for our fellow students, staff and of course Margo and Rufus. Despite this sloppy attempt at puppet entertainment our instructors were encouraging and supportive, allowing us to bomb gracefully while retaining just enough inspiration to try again.
Following my semester at NTI I spent a portion of the summer at the O’Neill working as assistant Tech. Director at the annual Playwright’s Conference before taking my limited skills and boundless enthusiasm to New York City where a job awaited at the Schimmel Center for The Arts at Pace University in Lower Manhattan. This was the first of a series of several technical theater jobs over the course of 2 years that served as my initiation and apprenticeship in professional theater. It is important for the reader to understand that the number of different jobs I held in New York was not a matter of overachieving initiative as much as the efforts of a kid in a candy store who wanted to do one of everything. And it wasn’t long before I found a Marionette touring company who was willing to take me on as a puppeteer doing day trips out of the city to locations in the 5 NYC Boroughs, New Jersey and Long Island.
For 5 months I played the role of Jack in the Nicolo Marionettes production of “Jack and the Beanstalk” as well as company manager for a cast of three young fools and a van full of stuff traipsing around the Northeast. Company owner Nick Copolla and manager Terry White earned high marks for patience and trust by setting us loose with a modicum of training and plenty of guts and energy.
But it wasn’t long before I was feeling the influence of wanderlust teasing me with a new challenge.
Two years of guerilla imersion in theatrical jobs around New York City finally saw me returning to Rochester to cool my heels and ponder moving to another metropolis. With professional theater jobs scarce in Rochester, I helped a friend recycle an old barn into a custom home, worked in a ski repair shop, visited a commune, worked as a roadie in a local band and planned a move to the west coast.
I had determined that anyplace I could ski and work in theater would be heaven on earth.
My first job in Reno was working in the repair shop at the Mt. Rose ski area; sustenance living at its finest. In Spring the inevitable layoff pushed me to temporary labor sources including the offices of Stagehands Union local 363, where I was put on a list to work at the MGM Grand Hotel Casino, home of the world’s largest stage and the production extravaganza Hello Hollywood, Hello.
The next 10 years saw a variety of positions in this show: stagehand, deck electrics, booth electrics/follow spot, flyrail, scenic art. But even with 10 years seniority it was a finite run; corporate management decided to discontinue the show and put 300 performers, technicians and culinary servers on the street.
By this time I had established a young family with two small sons, a mortgage, a life.
A new challenge: could I successfully compete with dozens of other stagehands for a handful of assignments coming out of the Union Hall?The short answer was construction work.
My family in Rochester operated a construction supply business. I worked my way through college a mason’s laborer. I had completed numerous homeowner improvements on my own homes. Why not give it a shot?
The past 20 years have seen a succession of jobs in the Reno, Lake Tahoe and Truckee areas with an emphasis on high end finish carpentry in custom homes. I have also remained active as a stagehand and a union member since 1980.
But I needed to attend to a long standing desire to revisit the past. My brief stint as a marionette puppeteer had set a permanent hook in my consciousness that I could no longer ignore.
In 1999 I realized that with my plate full, I had to make a decision on how best to return to marionette puppetry. I just did not have enough time to devote to building a bunch of puppets so I did what all modern professionals do: consult the Online Oracle.
Chris Kluge (chriskluge.com) is a marionette builder; a hobbyist who supplements his day job by indulging in his passion after hours in a basement workshop. He sent me a handful of photos of his creations. After careful consideration I purchased a puppet which would anchor the outlet of my fresh passion, began rehearsing and took this new puppet possession and its limited repertoire on my first annual pilgrimage to Burning Man, changing the creative course of my life in ways I could not imagine.
With the passing of time Chris and I have collaborated on a dozen or so puppet creations and untold number of hours have been spent developing routines and a presentational style that imbues my onstage persona.
I have been honored and privileged to count among my mentors Margo and Rufus Rose, Jim Gamble, Philip Huber, Roger Mara and of course my parents and siblings who, despite their own busy professional endeavors, have always taken the time to render support and encouragement and provide a willing audience for my fresh ideas. Humble and heartfelt thanks to all.