Xavier Magazine

A Puppet’s Life

Like most of us, Bill Hubner grew up enjoying The Muppets as well as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and the various puppets on “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Rogers.” Hubner, though, was so fascinated by how the inanimate creatures were brought to life at the hands of people like Jim Henson that when the rest of us moved on to other shows, he kept watching. And studying. And learning.

And now, as an adult, all that TV time is paying off. The 1987 graduate is a professional puppeteer, making his living on stage behind the controls of a wide range of puppets. He was even an original company member of “The Lion King” on Broadway.

“If anybody had told me while I was at Xavier that I would be living on Fifth Avenue in New York and performing on Broadway, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he says. “I’m living a dream come true.”

Hubner, who goes by the stage name of Bill Remington, has a dual career—performing on stage and working behind the scenes. He originated the role of Audrey II for the revival of “Little Shop of Horrors” and also built puppets for the show. He made puppets for “Avenue Q” that played on Broadway and in London and Las Vegas, as well as for “Crank Yankers” on the Comedy Central television show.

And when he’s not on stage, he’s using his skills in other areas. He studied puppetry at the acclaimed Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn., and wrote a production about the loss of childhood innocence, Forgotten Dreams, that won him a grant from the Jim Henson Foundation. He also co-founded Cat’s Paw Collective, an award-winning group of artists, writers, puppeteers and storytellers that stages productions—including appearances at Carnegie Hall where giant puppets perform to classical music.

Perhaps what’s most gratifying to him, though, is he’s now spending time teaching his skill to others, particularly children. He co-created The Pride Rock Project, which brought African storytelling, dance and music to 3,400 New York inner-city children. The Bravo television channel produced a documentary about the project. And he’s even journeyed to Juneau, Alaska, to conduct a puppet camp for kids. The indigenous children of the Haida and Klinket tribes created masks and puppets for a production that incorporated the Haida language, native dance and music.

It was a long way from Broadway, but it was just as satisfying.

“I love working with kids just as much as performing on Broadway,” says Hubner.

“I encourage people to be creative. We all have a creative side and we all need a creative outlet. When I work with kids, it’s especially satisfying to see a shy child step up and take a starring role in storytelling.”

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