Cheering the heroes and jeering the villains of Natural Bridges Puppet Production Company’s live shows is just part of the fun.
“I love to do characters. I really like to entertain people,” says Kirk Maynard, the president and puppet director of the Parma Heights comedy troupe. “With our shows, our No. 1 mission is to make people laugh.”
Later this month, his Natural Bridges crew is taking its show to Tehran, Iran, where Maynard and his five-person team will perform alongside acts from France, Poland, Germany, Canada, Australia and Armenia at the 11th annual Iran International Student Puppet Theater Festival.
Natural Bridges may be a puppet production company in name, but these aren’t merely puppet shows. The performances feature music, dancing and audience participation in addition to ventriloquism and puppetry.
Although the group does much of its performing stateside, Maynard and his team are no strangers to performing internationally. In 2007, Natural Bridges took its show to Europe, visiting 18 U.S. military bases in Germany, Norway, Belgium and Great Britain.
“I apply to do shows everywhere,” Maynard says. “If they had an opening at a space station on the moon, we’d go there.”
The upcoming trip will mark the company’s first visit to Iran. Despite the political tensions between the United States and Iranian governments, Maynard says he isn’t worried about what kind of reception Natural Bridges will receive at the festival.
“We just want to make people laugh, all over the world, across races and religions,” he says. “I think this trip will really give us a chance to be unofficial goodwill ambassadors. In a slim, strange way, I’m hoping we might help ease some of those tensions.”