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‘You’re never too small to help’: A popular puppeteer’s message to kids across NH

Lindsay performs with a puppet, Louis the singing frog, who's named after Louis Armstrong. They lead the audience in a sing-along of popular nursery rhymes...with a twist.
Michelle Liu
Lindsay Aucella, a puppeteer from New Hampshire, performs with Louis the singing frog. They lead the audience in a sing-along of popular nursery rhymes with a twist.

On a drizzly Friday morning, an audience of mostly kids are gathered in the basement of the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton for a very popular puppet show.

A bright blue triceratops called Roxy is perched on Lindsay Aucella’s knee. Lindsay has one arm in the dinosaur’s front foot and another moving the head and mouth. Though she’s sitting down, she has a buzzing sort of energy that fills the room.

Roxy the triceratops "eats" a cookie she baked.
Michelle Liu
Roxy the triceratops "eats" a cookie she baked.

For over a decade, Lindsay’s performed all over New Hampshire. She’s put on shows in public libraries, schools, and once at the inauguration of former governor Maggie Hassan. There are nearly 40 puppets that she performs with and all of them are animals.

There’s Gordon the groundhog, Einstein the monkey, and Meryl Sheep… the sheep. A five-foot-six alligator that’s as tall as Lindsay is named Clyde.

“You know, I feel like the puppets kind of name themselves,” said Lindsay. “It's just the first thing that popped into my head when I looked at him. He's like, kind of big. He's kind of a grumpy character, so it kind of seems like kind of a grumpy old name, you know?”

All of Lindsay’s puppets are handmade and she crafts a story for each of them. For most of her stories, she says she tries to incorporate positive messaging.

“I mean, some of them are just silly,” she said, “but the moral of [one] story is that you’re never too small to help and that there are some big problems we need everybody's help with.”

Lindsay and her puppets are in demand. Paulina Shadowens, the library’s event coordinator, said the show that day was completely full.

“We have literally no more room to put the people who want to be here. We even have our waiting list full,” Shadowens said.

After a show, Shadowens said people will come up to her and ask when the library can have Lindsay back.

Lindsay performs with puppet Meryl Sheep. The ovine pun on actress Meryl Streep's name usually gets a few chuckles out of the adults in the room, she says.
Michelle Liu
Lindsay performs with the puppet Meryl Sheep. Lindsay says the ovine pun on actress Meryl Streep's name usually gets a few chuckles out of the adults in the room.

“Just raves,” she said, “[They say] oh my goodness, she was wonderful.”

During her hour-long shows, Lindsay talks to the puppets as herself. So she switches back and forth between an animated version of her own voice, and what she likes to call the silly puppet voices.

Lindsay says it requires a lot of energy. But even on her hardest days, she brings the puppets to life.

“I wiped the tears from my face,” she said, recalling having to perform on one of those difficult days. “And I went in and I was like, ‘okay, hi, everybody!’ There are those days like that when you’re not always on. But afterwards I feel better.”

Paulina says the kids really enjoy participating in the shows, whether they’re joining the puppets onstage or singing along to nursery rhymes in their seats. Some of the kids also just love puppets.

Like four-year-old Lucy, who’s favorite part of the show was the monkey called Einstein. Or Willow, who’s seven years old and loves the triceratops, Roxy.

Lindsay says she wants kids and adults to leave feeling inspired and energized, the same way she feels after a show. She says performing with her puppets always makes her feel like herself.

“There's lots of parts of a person,” she said, “but this has become such a big part of who I am and my identity.”

Michelle Liu is the All Things Considered producer at NHPR. She joined the station in 2022 after graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism.
Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.

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