Call Answered: Spencer Lott: "All Hallows Eve", "Sesame Street" + "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"
Sesame Street, The Muppets, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood are just some of the shows I grew up watching that featured a wide array of puppets. I have always loved puppets which is why Avenue Q is one of my favorite shows. In the mid-2000s, I got to take John Tartaglia’s Master Class in puppetry, which was the icing on the cake. I learned the beginning skills of puppetry and loved it even more. I even had my own puppet, Hampton, made for me by one of my classmates.
When All Hallows Eve called, saying that they were coming Off-Broadway, I answered and was fortunate enough to speak with cast member Spencer Lott, a Brooklyn-based puppeteer, maker, and writer. In addition to this chilling-new musical, Spencer’s puppetry talents will be seen this November, in the upcoming Tom Hanks’ film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, where Spencer served as the puppet designer and lead puppeteer.
All Hallows Eve is a wild, horror musical journey across the grey veil on a Halloween night, testing a sister’s and brother’s love against the forces of true evil. All Hallows Eve will be frightening audiences from October 18-November 2 at The Connolly Theater in NYC’s East Village (220 East 4th Street @Avenue A). Click here for tickets!
1. This October you are going to be in the original Off-Broadway Musical All Hallows Eve at The Connolly Theater in NYC's East Village. What made you want to audition for this show? I am thrilled to be a part of the cast of All Hallows Eve! I’ve known the creator, Martin Robinson, for over a decade so when he reached out about being a part of his new project I jumped at the chance. Most of the NYC cast was with the project last year as part of an early workshop at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and Martin asked those same artists to help him mount this showcase production at The Connelly.
2. October is filled with Halloween-themed events and NYC has no shortage of them. In addition to the puppets used in this show, what do you feel makes this show stand-out as a must see during all the other Halloween festivities? This show will be exciting for adult audiences looking for a unique theatrical experience. It’s a promenade style show that utilizes the entire theater space as we move from one environment to the next. Anyone who is a fan of Little Shop of Horrors will be enticed by the idea of a brand new cast of enormous puppets brought to life by the same designer. And if giant puppets and a theatrical haunted house show aren’t enough - there is great original music by Emmy award-winning composer Paul Rudolph.
3. What do you relate to most about your character? Evan is a brother, and while I’m not a twin, I do know what it’s like to have a complex and deep relationship with a sibling. As a brother you know exactly what to say to lift your sister up or crush her spirits, and she has the same power over you.
4. This show tests a brother and sister's love against the face of evil. When has there been a time in your life when your love was put to the test of evil? I’m from the Midwest, so I avoid evil whenever possible.
5. What is your favorite thing to do on Halloween or leading up to the holiday? My wife and I always watch Tim Burton’s "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Each year, after the movie ends, I make her sit through the special features documentary of how they made the stop motion sets and tiny props. I’m obsessed.
6. What are you top three favorite Halloween movies or TV Specials or TV-show themed episodes?
"The Nightmare Before Christmas"
Any of "The Office" episodes where they celebrate Halloween
7. You are a puppeteer yourself, based in Brooklyn. What made you want to be a puppeteer? I’ve wanted to be a puppeteer for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching PBS and fell in love with the puppets on shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Shining Time Station. I found a Jim Henson book in the school library and learned everything I could about him and how he created The Muppets. I owe a huge part of my career to the incredible support from my parents and teachers who encouraged me to follow my curiosity.
8. You were on the long-running iconic children's show Sesame Street. What did you enjoy most about being on the show? I’ve been on 24 episodes of Sesame Street to date and performed on more than 50 additional Sesame Workshop projects outside of the regular season including PSA’s, music videos, prime time specials and more. It’s a dream to be a part of the magic with Sesame Street.
9. One upcoming credit of yours that really excites me is the Tom Hanks film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. You are one of the puppet designers and fabricators. How did you get this particular project? I managed the team of fabricators and I also served as the puppet captain and lead puppeteer on the film. I owe it all to an incredible special effects artist named Fred Buchholz who has a long career in the industry including many projects with The Muppets. He knew that my family had a unique connection to Fred Rogers (he was my wife’s God Father).
10. What was the hardest part about designing the puppets for this movie? What was the most fun? The hardest part of this job was sourcing all of the vintage materials. We searched forever for a few of the wigs and buttons that were made in the 60s/70s.
As for my favorite part - puppet building requires many small steps, so I always have the most fun the very first time that all of the small individual pieces come together, and you get a hint at what the puppet will become. The first time we put the tiny watch (meticulously created by artist Brian Haimes) on Daniel’s fur paw is a moment I’ll never forget.
11. Did you get to spend time with Tom Hanks? If so, what can you tell us about working with him? Tom Hanks was a joy to work with. He’s very smart actor and treated everyone in the cast and crew with kindness. One of my roles on set was my to make sure that Tom (or any of the puppeteers) had what they needed to perform the puppet scenes. Tom wasn’t intimidated by the puppetry and jumped right in.
12. Bringing this back to All Hallows Eve, if you were to create three Halloween puppets, what would you make and what would you name them?
A spirit comedian named Jokey Ghost.
I’d combine an Igor puppet with a Darth Vader puppet and name it Igor Vader.
An Audrey II puppet wearing a ghost costume. I’d call her Audrey Boo!
More on Spencer:
Spencer Lott is a maker, writer, and puppeteer based in Brooklyn. His puppetry credits include A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (starring Tom Hanks), Sesame Street, and more. His original play Blossom (“vivid”, “lovely, aching scenes…” – Village Voice) premiered at Dixon Place in 2016. Spencer is currently a resident artist at HERE Arts, collaborating with visual artist Maiko Kikuchi. He is the Associate Artistic Director of Trusty Sidekick Theater Company (NYC).