Grundy’s Got Game
by Cate Murway

There is absolutely, positively nothing common about the impressive Grundy Commons located on 925 Canal Street. President Frederic [Fred] H. Baumgarten has orchestrated a phenomenal arrangement for the business tenants with his stable long-term ownership and unsurpassed exemplary administration.
There are still available space opportunities for your industrial/commercial/production facility in the cost effective, competitively priced Grundy Commons. A viable company has the bonus prospect to grow their lucrative business with their savings on occupancy costs. All tenants are afforded constant temperature and humidity levels to protect their products and ensure their employees higher productivity in comfortable surroundings. There is flexibility for expansion and seasonal surges, and on-site management, maintenance and 24/7 security so you can run your business, not your building!

Monkey Boys Productions in Studio 1203, per Fred, comprised of the “very warm and effervescent” Scott Richard Hitz, Hershey H.S ‘87/U of the Arts ‘91[BFA Acting & directing], Michael Robert Latini, Archbishop Wood ’97 / Tyler School of Art, Temple University ’01[BFA metals, jewelry CAD-CAM], Russell James Tucker, Glen Cove H.S. ’93 / Ithaca ’97 [film & writing] and Marc Anthony Petrosino, Auburn H.S. ‘93/Ithaca ’98 [BA puppetry] prove “Grundy’s Got Game” on a daily basis.

These nationally acknowledged masters define the term "craft"!
Their extensive joint ability as puppeteers, combining their intensive training to research, design, create, and manipulate theatre beyond the scope of human actors, often without words, is emotionally compelling as well as a most professional international, ancient and popular entertainment art form product.
Clear distinctions are drawn between the mass produced commodities for a consumer society and the art object for an aesthetic experience or a historical and cross-cultural perspective.  Their process mix of old and new techniques creates innovative, dynamic ways to animate inanimate performing objects.
Enchanting expert puppetry is not just for kids, even though it is often associated with children, but it does suit the “kid” in all of us!

“I feel that almost everyone maintains a childlike quality throughout their adulthood. One of the nice things about the puppet form is that it has the ability to communicate with this childlike side of the audience.” Jim Henson [1936-1990]
Puppetry is a fascinating powerful three-dimensional medium expanding and engaging the imaginations of people of all ages that frequently can combine several forms of art, including sculpture, painting, design, writing, acting and music.
The repertoires of the many types of puppets, styles ranging from very abstract to detailed realism, are most commonly classed according to their methods of manipulation, the simulation of movement used by the puppeteer. For example, there are puppets that are slipped over the hand [Muppet style], Bunraku (pronounced bun-'rä-kü) puppets [big Japanese puppet - nearly life-size that cannot only move its arms and legs but can roll its eyes or form its fingers into a fist], marionettes manipulated with strings, or shadow theatre in which characters glide behind a backlit screen, creating a complex and spellbinding theatre.  Puppets are actors so the puppeteers must have acting ability.
When the image and sound source magic of TV began to enchant American homes from the late 1930s, puppetry venues found a new means of production and distribution. Most likely the first contact that one has with puppets is made through educational programming geared toward children. Engaging and appealing characters with big eyes and wide smiles offer a most significant fun part in the learning experience, helping them become skilled at how to spell or count, or discover themselves in situations that make the young audiences think, while they laugh, cry and clap their hands. The children project themselves into story situations; share the moods and emotions of the characters that create interactive and multi-sensory images so vivid that the stories become a process of experience.

Some puppets are made of flexible materials like fabric, foam and polystyrene, instead of rigid materials like wood or plastic. The visual and performing creatures with life and sensitivity are given large, mobile mouths. These characteristics give the puppets a wide variety of expressions making the dialogue, filmed in close-up, very dynamic.
New York City, the hub of television puppetry was the original uniting location factor for the Monkey Boys, revealing their creative brilliance and unique talents in entertainment that is exciting and inspiring, transcending barriers of age and language in audiences around the world. Puppets are powerful, intrinsically motivating tools. Children and adults respond to puppets. Puppets grab, intrigue and fascinate the audience in an interactive story-crafting environment when used to effectively integrate incredible visual images with movement and music influences.

“Once in awhile folks come along
with a different face and a different song
My friend, I gotta say
I think you got a special way
And I like your style.
When we meet in the middle
Oh the possibilities!” 
[bear & iguana song from Monkey Boys’ half hour “Tiki Island” show]

Per Russ, “Set the legend in stone……”: Marc was reading “Welcome to the Monkey House” by the late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. [1922 – 2007], the brief glimpses of the hilarious, uproarious Vonnegut extensions of today's absurdities into an imagined society of tomorrow. Their shared home was dubbed the Monkey House and “it was a pretty short leap to say alright, we’re the Monkey Boys Productions”. They accumulated a lot of creative monkey gifts, toys, and etc. from friends.

Mike established them as a company in PA and he and Scott located The Grundy Commons on the Internet. Perfect! They needed flexible cost effective space near a train line between Philadelphia and New York. “It’s very versatile. It’s really incredible! Fred has been very receptive to us making changes that we need.”
So, welcome to the Monkey House! Meet the Monkey Boys, “No Strings Attached”:
They really love what they do and it shows! They realize together they are so much better. Separately they excel, together these dedicated artists are EXTRAORDINARY!

Optimistic Scott [wife since Valentine's Day 2005, Michelle Houle-Hitz, writer/development consultant & wonderfully energetic daughter, Adeline] is an imaginative director, actor and puppeteer for both stage and screen. His resume also includes written and directed puppet works for the Philadelphia and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestras.  His superior work has taken him to Korea as part of the Chunchon Festival for puppetry and to NYC where he helped form the Cats Paw Collective. Scott has received various awards for his work with Arts in Education programs, contributing arts education to learning.

Accomplished puppet builder Russ [wife, psychology grad student Jessica] and Marc [wife, phlebotomist, Lauren] met at Ithaca and worked on “crazy puppets” together. From the College site, “Ithaca College Television won a 1997 bronze Cindy (Cinema in Industry) plaque in the student productions/dramatic category for "The Day Room." Cindy is the premier international audiovisual competition for both linear media and interactive multimedia and drew more than 2,300 entries from 17 countries. "The Day Room" had an original script written and produced by Russ along with other students. The half-hour show featured a cast of dysfunctional puppets in a rehabilitation center run by humans. Tucker designed and made all of the puppets himself.” According to their web page, Russ, who spent a summer interning at Jim Henson's Creature Shop, is also an incredible toy maker.  His acclaimed toy company, “Highly Flammable Toys” made figures that included custom accessories and custom designed packaging!

Mechanics builder/performer Mike [fiancée, Sarah, works at the Gift of Life Donor Program,] and head puppeteer design/construction Marc’s creative careers included guiding the star of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS [2004 Tony Award® nomination], the “so particular”, (“The guy sure looks like plant food to me”) femme fatale/theatrical monster named Audrey II, a four-stage puppet who can sing and dance. They “deserve a special round of applause for making Audrey II come to glorious life and grow, from just a little slip of a thing, a strange and exotic new out-of-this-world plant species, to a magnificent monster.”

Like the late technical and conceptual wizard, James Maury [Jim] Henson, they all share patience, kindness, and optimism, an endorsement of creative anarchy and they obviously collaborate well in creative partnerships and teams. Together with their boundless imaginations, they go after their dreams, supporting each other to do the same, while being true to themselves. They apparently see no limits on what they are able to achieve on artistic and technological fronts with their playfully created work, promoting laughter in front of AND behind the screen. Their joyful Monkey Boys Productions, prices are VERY competitive within the industry, inspires people to be better than they thought they could be; more creative, more daring, more outrageous, and ultimately more successful.
Fred called to thank them after they generously provided a day of tours of puppets and videos to the Bristol Riverside Theatre’s Summer Youth Camp, “Artrageous 2007”, who were using the seventh floor space Fred had donated for their 6-week program.
From concept to design to construction to execution, they have done it all! 

Monkey Boys Productions
925 Canal Street
Studio 1203
Bristol, PA 19007

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