Of Penguins and Theatre

Last January, I concocted a plan. My great friend John was starting up his theatre company, Hella Fresh Theatre. I was in the process of designing his website for him, which features a penguin very prominently. I decided that John absolutely needed an actual penguin mascot to be present for the first performance.

I had a few cubic feet of roving wool I had picked up while working as a Super Sponge Saleswoman and a needle felting tool. Now, for those of you who have never needle felted (and really, why would you?), it is a slow and laborious process. You use a needle felting tool (which consists of a few barbed needles) and you poke a puff of wool many, many, many hundreds and hundreds of times to sculpt that which you’ve decided to sculpt.

I had decided to sculpt a penguin. For months I took it everywhere. Board meetings, birthday parties, bars…

Here I am hard at work at Galina's birthday party in the park.  It was quite a conversation piece.

Here I am hard at work at Galina's birthday party in the park.

When he was finally finished, I was so proud. I named him Penguino. I loved every bit of him from the little bits of color on the bottom of his penguin feet to his beady black eyes with a speckle of light. I was also, however, disappointed. He must have taken hundreds of my hours, but it wasn’t the emptiness that comes with completing such a huge project. No, I was disappointed because I felt like he would never stand out at the opening night for Hella Fresh Theatre.

My felted penguin turned out to be hardly bigger than a picture frame!

My felted penguin turned out to be hardly bigger than a picture frame!

I needed a bigger penguin. I had two days to go before opening night. I asked Jordan–my intern at the time–whether he thought we could build a bigger penguin in two days. He did. I asked my friend Irene who also likes to make things and she suggested that we start with a chicken wire base and coat it in duct tape and then paper mache. We planned to then spray paint him black and white. We wound up coating it in felt, using basketball material for the nose. It sure looked cute!

The happiness on John's face made it all worthwhile.

The happiness on John's face made it all worthwhile.

Penguino stayed for awhile with John and Hella Fresh Theatre–attending every performance and loving it. I held on to Penguincito on this side of the bay. But when John and Hella Fresh Theatre picked up and moved from San Francisco to Philadelphia, John and I had a heart to heart and decided to exchange custody of Penguino and Penguincito.

Penguincito and I went over to John’s house for one of our final get-togethers before he and his girlfriend and my great friend Yael moved away. It was a somber occasion, and I miss Penguincito dearly, but Jordan and I were happy to be reunited with our great friend, Penguino.

Penguino seems pretty happy too.

Penguino seems pretty happy too.

Questions? Comment? Cigars? Cigarettes?

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