courtesy: Paul Andrews

Mesner Puppet Theater announced leadership changes to the organization Tuesday.

Founder Paul Mesner will be handing over the reins as artistic director to longtime puppeteer and associate artistic director Mike Horner. The company has also created the new position of Education Director, and artist, set designer and director Alex Espy will be taking on that role. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

For nearly 30 years, Paul Mesner Puppets (now known as Mesner Puppet Theater) has produced puppet shows based on fairy tales and contemporary children stories, from Sleeping Beauty to The Stinky Cheese Man.  They're mostly aimed at kids, with sly humor for adults, too.

But, in the last few years at the Kansas City Fringe Festival, the puppeteers have been branching out into more risqué material  — of course, for adults. 

Paul Andrews


Paul Mesner has never been bored. 

"I was a pretty shy kid, but I also was and still am very content to be by myself,"' he says. "There's tons I can do to entertain myself."

In that sense, Kansas City's master puppeteer was his own first audience.

It started with a teddy bear.

Early beginnings

Marlo Angell / Lawrence Arts Center

Greek mythology is considered one of the major touchstones of Western culture. And modern literature abounds with references.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

At a recent Paul Mesner Puppets performance of "Martha Speaks" (based on the book by by Susan Meddaugh), puppeteers Mike Horner, Erika Baker, and Finoula Emmons worked their magic behind the scenes.  Operating multiple puppets from below the stage, the three brought to life the story of a dog who let a bowl of alphabet soup go to her head.

The Tony-award winning musical "Avenue Q" satirizes children's television programs, like "Sesame Street." But it echoes the life lessons with a subversive twist. "Avenue Q" has its Midwest premiere at the Jewish Community Center.

The mission of the Jewish Community Center is this: "To serve people of all ages in an environment of Jewish values and Jewish traditions." So, what does that have to do with "Avenue Q" - an R-rated musical with full-puppet nudity?