Puppeteer brings pals for lesson at Main Library in Santa Fe

Ventriloquist Meghan Casey and her dinosaur puppet pal Aidan entertained children Sunday at the Main Library in Santa Fe. Robert Nott/The New Mexican

The lone surviving space traveler of the flying saucer that crashed Sunday in downtown Santa Fe was able to return to his home on Mars thanks to the help of some puppets, officials with the National Alien Stopping Association (NASA) reported.

That’s because the alien, Lenny, was one of six characters in a puppet play orchestrated by 24-year-old Meghan Casey, the one-woman operative of Rocky Mountain Puppets, which produces the show. The piece just doesn’t aim to amuse — underneath the jokes about sneezes and snot and being stinky are lessons in astronomy, geometry and bioscience.

And there was an ultimate point, too, for the young audience: A trip to the stars, no matter how whimsical, can start with a simple quest for knowledge. Or even a look into a book.

“I want kids to learn something while being entertained, I love to make people laugh and learn at the same time,” Casey said after her Sunday show at the Main Library in Santa Fe.

Casey, a Colorado native who studied psychology at Colorado State University, is taking the show on the road to over 200 public libraries this summer in an effort to encourage children to read. To that end, throughout the show, she and her ensemble encouraged the kids to learn more on their own, ask questions and “read books.”

She began experimenting with ventriloquism nearly 20 years ago, after seeing her father, Ed, move his lips while he used puppets and stuffed animals to play the parts of different characters in books during story reading time.

Now she’s driving a white Honda CR-V across the land — Santa Fe was show No. 41, she said. On Monday she was planning to do a gig in Oklahoma. After that are stops in Texas, Idaho, Wyoming and a return trip to New Mexico — this time, Albuquerque. She’s already racked up 82,000 miles on her 2-year-old car, she said.

The storyline was perfect for a kid.

It’s not clear how much mileage the orb-shaped, unidentified flying object Lenny was piloting had on it when it hit the ground somewhere near the public library. But Lenny’s earthling friends, including Aidan the Dinosaur, Cassie the Kangaroo and Phil the Hamster, were all determined to help Lenny get back home.

To do so, they needed to find a way to charge up a crystal that powers the spaceship. What the crystal needed to function was knowledge. So Casey and her gang ran through some science lessons about the Earth, the moon and the planets to feed the charger.

Parents liked the message component of the comedy act.

“It’s so whimsical, so delightful. She built a whole educational story behind it, and there was information about space and Earth,” said mom Carla Westen, whose 3-year-old son Fidel was smitten with the show.

Westen was also taken with Casey’s ability to project so many different voices without seemingly moving her lips.

“I kept asking myself, ‘Is there someone behind the curtain doing all this?’ ” Westen said.

Casey plans to keep educating herself as well, pursuing a degree in public health with a focus on child and adolescent well-being in the near future. And then, she said, she plans to use those skills — and her puppets — “to have a TV show that teaches kids about health and safety and nutrition.”

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.