Local Puppet Theater Wins National Award, For Immediate Release (Fall, 1998)

A Bay Area theater company has been awarded the UNI Award (the Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry) for 1998, a national award founded by Muppet creator Jim Henson to recognize outstanding puppetry. Magical Moonshine Theatre from Napa Valley was honored for its original production entitled The Armadillo Rancho. The award winning play is part of Magical Moonshine Theatre internationally acclaimed series Animal Folktales of the Americas. The Animal Folktales series is a collection of puppet and mask plays based on traditional stories from North, South, and Central America. The Magical Moonshine Theatre is the creation of Michael and Valerie Nelson. The duo has been performing for family audiences in California since 1979. In addition they have presented their performances in over a dozen other countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Last summer saw the company performing at 9 festivals in Italy and Slovenia. This is the company first Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry to date.

The armadillo story hails from Argentina, and is presented in Spanish and English. It boasts an original musical score (played live) with bilingual lyrics by the company. In the story, a wealthy fox takes the armadillo's ranch from her. However, the mama armadillo and her son are too smart for the fox, and they eventually get their ranch back. The baby armadillo is often played by the Nelson's 13 year old son, Benjie, who has performed with the company since he was 2.

Other recipients of the Citation of Excellence this year include Disney's Broadway production of The Lion King, Sandglass Theatre's Never Been Anywhere, David Simpich's A Christmas Carol, and Grey Seal's production Bathtub Pirates. The awards were presented by UNIMA-USA, the U.S. branch of the international organization of puppetry, at a ceremony at the Henson International Festival of Puppetry in New York.

Magical Moonshine Theatre productions are seen regularly in California theaters and schools. Upcoming public performances include shows in Caguas, Puerto Rico, at the Biennial International Festival of Puppetry, October 25-31, as well as in the following dates in California: Tahoe Vista on December 11, Modesto on January 23, Pasadena on Feb. 21,Ventura on Feb. 27, Santa Cruz on March 20, and Sonora on April 18. For further information contact the Magical Moonshine Theatre at 707-257-8007.

Contact: Michael Nelson, 707-257-8007 for photos, background information, etc.

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