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A renowned puppeteer and his tiny Brooklyn company stage their quadrennial revival of Aladdin—using spit, glue, and the same painstakingly-restored marionettes they have for the last half century.
Born in 1935, Nicolas Coppola grew up in Brooklyn. In third grade, he saw a Suzari Marionettes puppet show and was inspired to create his first cloth marionette. A decade later, at age nineteen, Coppola joined Suzari and got to perform in Aladdin, which had been one of the company’s original productions in the 1940s. Coppola was later promoted to Artistic Director of spinoff Nicolo Marionettes, where he staged a touring version of Aladdin in 1964.
Coppola founded Puppetworks in 1980 and staged his own versions of Aladdin many times. While a number of the original marionettes that make up the “cast” have since been retired, some have stayed on for revival upon revival. Now retired, Coppola won the Puppeteers of America President’s Award for “Outstanding Contributions to the Art of Puppetry” in 2011. He still visits Puppetworks to refurbish the puppets before any performance is mounted.
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