Beginning November 25, 2021 until January 30 of 2022, Salmagundi presents Bil Baird and Olga Felgemacher: A Narrative Legacy, offering a peek behind the curtain of one of America’s most important circles of puppeteers headed by Bil Baird, and their wide-ranging influence on American culture, film, and TV. The exhibition is heightened with the addition of the work of living puppet master Olga Felgemacher, Baird’s longtime collaborator. Felgemacher shares her insights on Baird, as well as her own original characters and artistry.
William “Bil” Britton Baird (1904-1987) was an active and memorable member of the Salmagundi from 1982 until his death in 1987. Baird, who began his career under famous illustrator and originator of the Macy parade balloons Anthony “Tony” Frederick Sarg (1880-1942), went on to create more than 3,000 original puppets, participate in more than 400 TV and film productions, as well as write books and perform on Broadway. He is likely best known for his creation of several iconic advertising and early TV show characters as well as his production of “The lonely goatherd” puppet show sequence from the 1965 film The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews.
Above video, Bil Baird workshop at the Puppeteers of America Festival in Ames, Iowa, 1983.
Olga Felgemacher spent nearly ten years with Baird, after the death of Baird’s wife and collaborator Cora, a highly talented puppeteer in her own right. Olga starred in every production at the theater, bringing to life characters written for her by such show business luminaries as Sheldon Mayer Harnick (b.1924) and Joseph “Joe” Guilherme Raposo (1937-1989). After Baird closed up shop, Olga accepted a long-standing invitation from James “Jim” Maury Henson (1936-1990) to join his Muppets, where she spent a year on Sesame Street and puppeteered in the first Muppet Movie. Felgemacher, along with her partner and husband Craig Marin began their own performing company called Flexitoon, where they design, build and perform puppets and marionettes for television, film and stage, including Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel and Shining Time Station (also starring George Carlin and Ringo Starr) on PBS. Flexitoon is currently in production with a famous rock band for a wild immersive puppet theater experience launching Fall, 2022.
The show will feature a once-in-a-lifetime collection of Baird’s artistic creations side-by-side with Olga and Craig’s famous Pinwheel and Shining Time Station marionettes. Bil Baird and Olga Felgemacher: A Narrative Legacy will devote Salmagundi’s elegant parlor gallery to the show. Half the room is Baird puppets and the second half is Felgemacher/Marin’s creations.
Stories will be shared, video and slides unveiled, and maybe even some puppets will spring to life during a lecture and official reception for the exhibition set for December 21, 2021, at 6:00 pm. Olga Felgemacher and her puppeteer husband/partner Craig Marin will present a multi-media gallery talk about Bil, Olga and Bil’s collaboration, and then creating Flexitoon. The same night a little red piano that Baird donated to the club will be re-dedicated to him in the organization’s bar.
While you’re there, step upstairs to view the library doors, commissioned artwork for the occasion of Salmagundi’s 150th anniversary, painted by Noah Buchanan.