Paul Peabody (1931-2002), Nyack’s legendary puppeteer, is no longer with us in person but a selection of his marionettes, other handmade objects, photographs, and sketches will be on exhibit this spring from March 10 through May 26 at the Museum of the Historical Society of the Nyacks and in the Carnegie-Farian Room of the Nyack Library. Items in the exhibit are on loan from Jeanne Peabody Walsh and the Historical Society of Rockland County.
The Museum is located at 50 Piermont Avenue, lower level, and is open from 1:00 to 4:00pm on Saturdays and by appointment. The portion of the exhibit in the Nyack Library is open daily during library hours.
People who saw Paul Peabody’s marionette shows between about 1970 and 2002, whether in Nyack or in the many other places where he performed, remember them with a special mix of delight and affection. Children quickly forgot the strings and found themselves interacting directly with the half-size people and animals that had very distinct personalities and expressed very human charms and foibles. Adults too appreciated the old-fashioned craft of making and manipulating the marionettes, which Paul Peabody did so well. Paul made all his marionettes by traditional methods using hand tools, carving their heads from blocks of wood, turning their limbs on a foot-powered lathe he built himself, painting their faces, and dressing them in costumes that he designed and sewed himself. All of his characters have larger-than-life personalities, often gently making fun of some typical human trait. Year by year he added more, eventually developing a troupe of about 100 who hung throughout his house between performances. Peabody’s day job was as Assistant Editor of Fellowship magazine for the Fellowship of Reconciliation.