Kathy Burks is the pied piper of puppetry. As founder of the Kathy Burks Theater of Puppetry Arts, she is dedicated to entertaining children and adults alike. Of the kids she said: "Some people think, 'they're only children; we don't have to be so particular', but we don't feel that way; we want them to get the very best; they are our audience of tomorrow."

Ms. Burks initially became interested in puppetry through her children, Douglass and Becky, who were involved in drama (Douglass is an active member of the company and performs regularly). Kathy and her children met Linnea Linsley, a long-time associate and troupe manager of the Sue Hastings Company, which owned one of the largest collections of antique marionettes in the United States. (Ms. Linsley performed live on WFAA-TV for eight years with some of her marionettes.) Ms. Burks, a professional musician and educator, and her children, studied the art of puppetry with Ms. Linsley. When Ms. Linsley retired, Ms. Burks bought most of her puppets, dating to the 1920s and 1930s. The collection of 1500 puppets includes costumes, scripts, and set pieces. Ms. Burks said: "We learned from (looking at) the puppets how to make them and now make our own puppets and write our own scripts."

Originally called Kathy Burks Marionettes, the name change to Kathy Burks Theater of Puppetry Arts reflects the inclusion of all types of puppets and marionettes. She opened a theater and child-development center in a rented space at the closed Withers Elementary School where she transformed the cafeteria and auditorium into a theater.

Her first production, in conjunction with the Junior Players Guild, was Winnie The Pooh, a 1974 benefit for the Dallas Symphony, a production she is reprising for a February 28, 2006 opening at Dallas Children's Theater. (Robyn Flatt founded Dallas Children's Theater in a space at Withers shortly after Mrs. Burks moved there.)

Ms. Burks moved her theater into a small lecture hall in the newly-built, now long defunct, retail arts-and-crafts compound at Olla Podrida on the southwest corner of Coit and LBJ Freeway, now the site of a parochial school. As the company's popularity grew, the retail center management built The Haymarket Theater on the site as the new home of Kathy Burks Marionettes in 1976.

The company now performs at The Rosewood Center on the northeast corner of Skillman and LBJ Freeway in the same space as Dallas Children's Theater. They utilize all forms of puppetry including marionettes, hand puppets and Black Theater rod puppets. The latter originated in Eastern Europe - puppets and related objects are presented in a flat stream of light by puppeteers encased in black and rendered invisible. The puppets seem to take on a life of their own. As an added highlight, at the end of each performance, the puppeteers appear front and center stage and show the audience the secrets of how they make their magic.

I had the pleasure of seeing them in action in a delightful production of The Frog Prince earlier this year and am looking forward to The Nutcracker which runs November 18-December 22, 2005. It has been adapted for the stage by company member, B. Wolf, with music by Peter I. Tchaikovsky. Performances will be in the Baker Theater at the Rosewood Center.


Key Subjects: 
Kathy Burks; Puppets, Linnea Linsley, Dallas Children's Theater
Rita Faye Smith
October 2005
Kathy Burks