This week we have a very special Thanksgiving interview. I spoke with the associate curator of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, MA — Rebecca Griffith. We talked about the history of Thanksgiving, Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, and when it became a holiday. If you are a history buff or want to know more about the actual first Thanksgiving, then you will enjoy this interview!
Good morning, Rebecca and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with our readers today about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving! Can you please explain what the Pilgrim Hall Museum is and what you do there?
Pilgrim Hall Museum is America’s oldest continuously operated public museum. We opened our doors in 1824 and have been America’s home of Pilgrim possessions ever since. We have a great collection of 17th century Pilgrim artifacts, some of which may have come over on the Mayflower, and many great early American objects as well as monumental paintings from the 19th century depicting various scenes from the Pilgrim story.
As associate curator, it is my job to oversee the collection and exhibits in their entirety, meaning I ensure their care and continued preservation for future generations to enjoy. I also get to come up with new and exciting displays and exhibits to showcase the collection and the different themes embedded in the Pilgrim story.
So let’s talk a little about the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Can you briefly set the scene for us on what happened in Plymouth that would make the Pilgrims have a Thanksgiving feast?
So first, it’s important to remember that about half of the Pilgrims died during that first harsh winter of 1621. By the time of the first thanksgiving, there are only 53 Pilgrims in attendance, including women and children. The only 17th century sources we have for this event is a small paragraph written by Edward Winslow, and then Bradford mentions it in his famous journal Of Plymouth Plantation, years later. They describe a harvest celebration, in which the Sachem Massasoit brought 90 of his men, for the feast. The first thanksgiving was basically a mixture of different traditions, mainly a harvest festival, a religious day of thanksgiving, and a secular day of thanks to celebrate a specific event (mainly their survival).
So we have the Pilgrims who had just came to America and the Native Americans who were already here. Why is the first Thanksgiving such an important event?
Thanksgiving is an important symbol of many things that have been important to Americans – the coming together of families, expression of gratitude, the immigrant experience, and the opportunity to bridge differences and bring people together.
Was Plymouth in 1621 really the first Thanksgiving or were their other thanksgiving feasts before that?
There were other early thanksgivings in colonial America- but the New England feast of 1621 is the one our national holiday is based on and the feast that best embodies the ideals of families coming together.
After the first feast in 1621, Thanksgiving wasn’t an official holiday that was celebrated annually, correct? When did it become a national holiday?
Correct, days of thanksgiving were proclaimed intermittently for the next few centuries. Thanksgiving becomes a national holiday largely thanks to the efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale in the mid-19th century. In 1863, President Lincoln issued a formal proclamation, proclaiming a national day of thanksgiving. After that, each president had to proclaim the day of thanksgiving, until the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed a bill establishing that Thanksgiving would occur annually on the fourth Thursday of November. On November 26, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed this bill into law.
Can you describe what the Pilgrims would have ate at the first Thanksgiving? What did the Native American contribute?
The actual feast would have looked a little different than a modern thanksgiving table, and we do not know exactly what was served. We do know that Massasoit and his men brought 5 deer, and Bradford mentions waterfowl and even turkeys. So, there may have been turkey at the first thanksgiving- it just might not have been the centerpiece! There was also likely shellfish, and other marine life served, as these would have been the resources that were plentiful in Massachusetts in November. Corn, in grain form for bread or for porridge would also have been present, but sadly no pies, potatoes, or cranberry sauce like those that we enjoy today.
Now it is time for a random holiday question. Rebecca, out of all of the random holidays and special days that are on the calendars these days, what is your favorite holiday? It can be anything from Thanksgiving to something random like Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day! And if you want to answer – what holiday would you create if you could create any?
I would have to say my favorite holiday is Christmas. I love getting to see and spend time with my extended family- we do a traditional Italian Christmas eve dinner with the 7 different fishes and it is absolutely my favorite meal of the year!
I don’t know what holiday I would create- they have so many holidays now that I never knew of (national book day, or dog day for example) that I think we have plenty to celebrate throughout the year!
Thanks Rebecca for taking the time to answer a few Questions To Inspire about Thanksgiving. Please check out the Pilgrim Hall Museum’s website to learn more about the Pilgrim story and a big part of our national history.
Thanks everyone for reading Questions To Inspire and check out some of our other interviews! See you next time!
I am very excited about this week’s guest on Questions To Inspire. I have known Noel MacNeal for six years now and Noel is one of those guys that if you spend any time with him, then you are uplifted and inspired. He is one of the most talented and thoughtful puppeteers in the industry. I am very thankful that Noel took the time to talk to me about what inspired him and his career in puppets!
We are here today with Noel MacNeal. Good morning! Noel right off the bat, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I launched my career on Sesame Street, where I honed my craft with puppetry legends Jim Henson and Frank Oz.
I was “Bear,” the gentle and lovable star of the Emmy Award-winning series Disney’s Bear in the Big Blue House and its spin-off series Breakfast with Bear, and received a Daytime Emmy Nomination as “Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series.” I’m is also a writer, director, producer, and author of the how-to books “Ten Minute Puppets” and “BOX.”
I am also the resident puppeteer for the HBO series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. And I’m currently developing “THE SHOW ME SHOW,” to be an online, downloadable series for kids with autism & special needs. You can watch some of the videos at “THE SHOW ME SHOW Channel” on YouTube.
I live in Brooklyn with my wife, New York Times best-selling & award-winning novelist Susan Elia MacNeal, (of the “Maggie Hope Mysteries” from Random House) and 13-year-old son, Matt (a budding performer and proud nerd).
That is fantastic. So many puppeteers like myself want to know how you got started in puppeteering?
When I was a kid there were more puppets on TV; Burr Tilstrom still had “Kukla, Fran, & Ollie.” Shari Lewis had Lambchop. Mister Rogers. And Paul Winchell had “Jerry Mahoney Time.” (FYI: Did you know that Paul Winchell invented the artificial heart? See? Puppetry saves lives!) I had grown up with these and ones on local TV and they were either little hand puppets or marionettes.
One Sunday night, around 6:30pm, there was a half hour special hosted by two puppets talking about (and showing clips) of a brand new show starting tomorrow morning. The one with the football shaped head was named “Ernie” and his friend who reminded me of an upright banana was named “Bert.” And the show? Guess! I had NEVER seen puppets like this before. Their mouths moved, Ernie’s hands actually could pick things up. And when I saw Big Bird? A puppet that could walk and talk at the same time?!? WOW!!!
I watched Sesame for years and any guest appearances and specials the Muppets did (such as The Great Santa Claus Switch which they should remake) and during my high school time was when the Muppet Show premiered. I watched it and then as I was nearing senior year it occurred to me; this guy Jim Henson not only has a career at this but he’s got all these other people making a living doing this too. I began to do research on any colleges that offered puppetry courses. (Back then I had to go to the library; it’s like Barnes & Noble – but FREE!) And I found two schools; one, The University of Connecticut in Storrs, Con., to this day, had a four year program to get your masters degree in puppetry. The other, at that time, was Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY that had a theater department and within it a puppetry course (taught by Kermit Love the designer and builder of Big Bird and Snuffy – and no the frog was not named after him; just a crazy coincidence).
Now I had all my info ready and prepped to show my mom. My mom was a single mother working two jobs (as you’ve read) so I was a little nervous. But we sat down and I said, “Ok – I want to be a puppeteer.” And then braced for impact. And she looked at me and said, “OK. What do we have to do?” Wow. OK. And I should here each college’s info. “OK,” she said, “What do we have to do?” And I told here the requirements and deadlines and she said, “Ok. What do we have to do?” That’s all she said! She never dismissed, ridiculed, or became angry at the idea. She always said, “Don’t get a job; get a career.”
And I have.
Wow! That is support beyond support! You have worked on a lot of wonderful projects over the years. What would you consider one of the best moments of your career?
The best part was whenever Bear met kids. Families would visit the set and we set it up so that their visit was recorded and then give them the tape to keep (nicknamed the “Bar Mitzvah tape” by assistant director Dean Gordon). And whenever I did appearances I always asked to visit a children’s hospital or ward. The most memorable was the visit to the one in Mexico City. This facility was huge and old (with out dated computers and no a.c.; thus no sheets on the beds) and known as “the last stop” for most patients. Bear did a show in the hospital auditorium and children were brought in. As I performed the song “It’s You” (all about the many things Bear liked about you), in the front row was a young boy in a wheelchair. He was half paralyzed, including half of his face. Bear squatted in front of him and touched his hand as he sang. And suddenly, one side of his face slowly smiled. From inside I could hear people sniffling and I had to focus so hard, keep it together, and not burst into tears, myself. Afterwards I was told that a mother thanked us for coming “for people like us.”
What advice would you give someone who wants to learn how to be a puppeteer or following their dream in general?
As the slogan goes – “Just do it.” Just give it a try. And then try again. Remember what mom always told me, “Don’t get a job; get a career.” Figure out what you can do to help that dream come true, whether its puppets or something else. Want to be a puppeteer? Maybe there’s a theater company in your area that uses puppets. Or your local public TV or public access channel needs to fill their time slot. That’s what Jim Henson did with Sam & Friends. And of course there’s always YouTube to not only put together your own videos to air, but a resource in puppeteering AND puppetmaking info.
And if you want to learn how to make puppets and learn how to puppeteer on camera you can always come to Beyond the Sock workshop http://www.beyondthesock.com (BtS you can mail me my check any time).
You have been a part of a lot of educational projects over the years, from children’s shows, like Sesame Street and Bear in the Big Blue House, to writing for The Magic School Bus. Tell us what importance you hold children’s education (and even adults) in today’s world?
The rule for writing for kids for TV shows is “don’t SAY it – SHOW it.” It was true on all the shows I performed on, directed, and wrote for. Education should be about discovery. About being introduced to new ideas and seeing how they work (or sometimes how they didn’t; learn from the past). Make mistakes! You learn from mistakes! You’re never too old to learn something new because the whole world is your classroom.
What was your favorite subject growing up?
Art. I loved to draw and doodle.
If you had a list of books that every person needed to read while in school, what would be on that list?
I’ll limit it:
ALL of the “Maggie Hope Mysteries” (by Susan Elia MacNeal)
ALL the Harry Potter books (by JK Rowling)
A Wizard of Earthsea (by Ursula LeGuin)
The Sneetches & Other Stories (by Dr. Suess)
Neverwhere (by Neil Gaiman)
Be Like Water: Practical Wisdom from the Martial Arts (by Joseph Cardillo)
That is an amazing list! My daughter and I have read The Sneetches so many times for her bed time story.
Time for a very serious question, if you can only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what movies is it?
“Mary Poppins.” Hands down.
I love Mary Poppins and can’t wait for the new one to come out. Normally we end with a silly question, but today I want to end with something else. I have talked to you many times over the years about THE SHOW ME SHOW. I know how important this project is for you and how passionate you are about it. Before we go, tell us a little more about THE SHOW ME SHOW.
Jim Henson’s core belief was to “leave the world a little bit better” when you were here. That’s what I want to do with The Show Me Show. To give the kids with autism & special needs (no matter how old) and the caring people in their lives a place they can go to to have fun, have a smile, and have it be just for them.
Thanks Noel for taking the time to answer a few Questions To Inspire others. If you want to keep up with Noel and see his upcoming projects please go to http://www.noelmacneal.com and also help support THE SHOW ME SHOW at http://www.patreon.com/theshowmeshow.
THE SHOW ME SHOW will be an online series for kids with autism and special needs. You can follow THE SHOW ME SHOW at https://www.facebook.com/Noelyourhost.
Thanks everyone for reading Questions To Inspire and check out some of our other interviews! See you next time!
It all started with a question, some 15 years ago, “You ever wonder why we’re here?” That was the opening line of Red vs. Blue Season 1, Episode 1. My friend, Daniel had showed it to me the week it came out and I have been watching Rooster Teeth content ever since. For 15 years, I have been a member of a community that is unique, passionate, and the most incredible thing I have ever seen — a community that gives.
I have been in chats, been stopped on the street, talked with friends, and even attend RTX, the Rooster Teeth convention held annually in Austin, TX. I have met people from all walks of life that I don’t think I would of had any way of meeting previously. I have talked to military personal, police officers, married, single, straight, gay, working, not working, with kids, without kids, kids, and everything in between. There was one thing that we had in common — love for Rooster Teeth content. Red vs Blue, RWBY, Achievement Hunter, Funhaus, and the other myriad of shows, personalities, and talent that this company has produced. Then something amazing happened, a company that played video games and made YouTube content asked for donations for a charity.
Extra Life is a charity that gives money that is raised to children’s hospitals around the country for local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Gamer’s across the country play games and collect donations for the charity. Then a few years ago, Rooster Teeth started doing a live-stream online collecting donations. Each year, they ask their community to give to the kids. They plan fun things, crazy games, cool prizes, and even a Wheel of Vengeance that gets spun each time a person donates $1,337 or more. For 24 hours Rooster Teeth, led by Jack Pattillo, his wife Caiti, and Chad James), put it all out there and asked its community to be part of something bigger, for something better.
Starting at 8:00 am on Saturday, November 10th and ending Sunday 8:00 am on Sunday, November 11th, they streamed. They ran things over with a steam roller,
they ate hot and spicy nuts, took punches with something called Taze Fist (think brass knuckles with a tazer on the end),
, played Harry Potter trivia,
sat on the Pummel Horse (a painful invention that is hilarious, but looks horrible), got pelted with paint balls and Moon Balls,
were completely inappropriate at times, painted from a Bob Ross episode,
did Whose Line Is It Anyways games, played video games,
laughed, and went above and beyond for one goal: raise money for children’s hospitals. I watched from 8:00 am to about 1 am (with considerable breaks) to wake up this morning to get ready for church. Checking the total and watching the last few minutes, where Jack gives a speech to close it out and Matt Hullum, CEO of Rooster Teeth, sings a final song, I was astonished. In 24 hours, a community of people all over the world, from all different walks of life, in different parts of their path of life, every race, religion, sexuality, and status came together and raised $1.4 million dollars.
How incredible when you look beyond yourself and the parts of your life and the things that sometime keep you focused on just what is around you to see the bigger picture. How amazing when you find yourself part of a group that is bigger in size, bigger in generosity, and bigger in fun than what is physically around you. How crazy to know that every dollar given, by every person goes into a sum of $1.4 million that will benefit children who are struggling during difficult times of physical and mental illness.
In the end, it is pride that I am left with today. I watch the videos and movies. I buy the merch. I go to the conventions. And that is all well and good. But what truly makes this special, what truly makes it where I keep watching, buying, and attending is the fact that this company gives back and does so buy bringing in a community of people to participate to give as well.
So thank you Rooster Teeth for all of the content, the laughs, but giving me the chance to be part of something bigger than myself. Thank you community for stepping up and being supportive and doing something astounding, raising $1.4 million dollars for Extra Life and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and always #RTExtraLife.
Every Friday after work, a group of us from the Zstore would go out to do something fun. We would either go to the movies, grab some food, or just hang out. There was something that got started after a while that for the life of me, I cannot remember why we did it. We always would talk in different accents as a joke, but our little group took it up a notch, by creating the Wheel of Accents.
Made out of cardboard, the Wheel of Accents was just what it sounded like. It was a wheel that you would spin and if you landed on the accent then you had to pick. It had your basic accents: French, Scottish, Canadian, and a few other countries. We mixed it in with a few accents from internet shows we watched at the time. The best spots though were three unique spaces on the Wheel. One was Free Pick. This was the best one, because you were able to pick any accent you wanted even if it was not on the wheel. The second was Random Pick. This was the second hardest, because the group decided what accent was you were stuck with. Just fyi, the group decisions were never kind. The last unique space was Double Accent. This was you had to spin until you landed on two different accents. Then you had to do incorporate both of them as you talked. For example, you could have Scottish and Jamaican (think Sean Connery being cast for Cool Runnings).
That is how the board worked. Here is how the game was played. Before the group entered the restaurant, everyone would spin. Once everyone was assigned an accent, then you would go inside and from the moment you walked through the doors, you had to speak with your accent. The first person who broke (started laughing too much to continue or spoke in their regular voice), would then have to pay for the appetizers or desserts for the table.
I know what you are thinking, “What if no one broke?” Someone always ends up breaking.
To this day, the Wheel of Accents is still around and sitting on my shelf in all of its glory.
Does your group have any fun games like this? Tell us about it in the comments below!
For about six months, I lived with James out in a small township called Wizard Wells. Total population for Wizard Wells at the time was a whopping 15 people (16 if you count me). People didn’t really go to Wizard Wells for no reason. People barely passed through it. It was secluded and in the middle of nowhere. It was home though, for about six months and James was a good roommate for five of those months. That was because for the entire month of October he decided that he would pull scary prank after scary prank.
The first one started off while I was at work. I walked into my room and found that all of my stuff had been rearranged. When I questioned him, he stated that he didn’t know what I was talking about.
Then I was in my room reading at I heard something out of my window and he was just standing outside with a wolf mask on. Wasn’t really a jump scare, but good effort, I guess?
Then I came home after work one day and he had been waiting in my closet. I was sitting on my bed taking off my shoes when he jumped out from my closet. That one WAS a good jump scare. Though I don’t remember it completely, but I am sure that I did not scream in a high pitched voice.
By the end of October, I was now leaving shoes in specific spots to make sure that no one had come in my room while I was gone. I would set them up every morning as fail safe protections. However it didn’t help on Halloween night that year.
I had come home and the house was empty, which I was quite happy about. I walked to my room and turned on the light and the light had been replaced by a black-light. Everything in my room was in the same spot. The only thing that was different in my room was on my bed. The bed had been rearranged. The pillows were moved around to make it look like someone was in the bed. There was a dress laid out with a long, black wig that resembled the girl from The Ring. The problem was it was too hard to see anything in the room because of the black-light.
I laughed out loud, because I knew that it wouldn’t be James in a wig. I walked closer to the bed to remove the dress and wig and that was when the Alissa (a neighbor in Wizard Wells who had been riding with us to church each week) jumped up out of the bed and grabbed hold of my wrists. I don’t know how hard I screamed or how high I jumped, but we can just say it was a lot. I finally calmed down enough from the initial scare when James reached out from underneath the bed and grabbed my ankles. Once again, heart racing and screaming in the room. I juked back away from both of them quickly and placed my back up against the wall. I was trying to catch my breath when the closet doors burst open and another person jumped out at me. That was when I ran out of the room.
It took a while before I came back in the house. I made it another month before I found my own place…
Time for some new artwork for I Want A Pet Turkey. Our illustrator, J Zamora, is working hard to bring the story to life. In doing so, a range of emotions have to be created to make our main character jump off of the page. Part of J’s process is running through some character models to showcase the character with different emotions. This week’s is Sadness!
I am pretty sure that he is sad because he really needs a new pet / best friend.
Time for some new artwork for I Want A Pet Turkey. Our illustrator, J Zamora, is working hard to bring the story to life. In doing so, a range of emotions have to be created to make our main character jump off of the page. Part of J’s process is running through some character models to showcase the character with different emotions. This week’s is Happy!
Is it just me or is this little guy ready to be made into a puppet! Hmmm!
Today we are talking with someone who has an amazing job! I personally met David Manley at a puppet workshop a few years back called Beyond the Sock (http://www.beyondthesock.com). Each year, puppeteers (amateur and professional) come from all over the world to learn how to make and preform puppets and the workshop has connected so many people all with the same passion–puppets. I got to talk with David about his puppet work in New York.
Good morning, David! Let’s start off with you telling us about yourself and what do you do?
Good morning! I’m a puppeteer who travels to schools, theaters and libraries in New York and New Jersey mostly, but nationally as well. When I was young, I knew I wanted to be a puppeteer but peer pressure caused me to put it aside. I rediscovered it my adulthood and began my puppet company, Up In Arms, in 2012. I produce Broadway-style puppet musicals – the kind I wanted to see as a kid. Our shows include messages about learning, bullying (kindness and respect), health and wellness and our latest family musical “Pirate Song” about a young pirate princess searching the world for her song.
That is so cool that you get to teach children with puppets! What is your favorite part of being a puppeteer for school-age children?
I love the sense of wonder they have. We can hear them calling out from behind stage and their questions during our Q&A makes me feel like we’re imparting that same sense of magic I felt about puppetry when I was their age. As adults, it helps to remind us that magic still exists and to be producing it is amazing.
Out of all of your different programs you have done over the years, which one is your favorite?
Hands down, “Helping Drew”, our anti-bullying musical. As a kid who encountered some bullying, it was important for my own personal journey to experience being part of the solution instead of feeling like a victim. I’ve had so many comments from adults thanking me for the program having their own experiences being bullied.
What upcoming shows you do you have coming up? How can people come see the shows (say if they don’t go to one of the schools that your group preforms at)?
“Pirate Song” premiered October 13 in Newburgh, NY at a local library. One of our earlier shows, “Welcome Park” plays The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck, NY in November 2018. We perform for libraries mostly in the summer in Northern New Jersey and the Mid-Hudson Valley region of New York. Folks who are interested can follow us on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/upinarmspuppets) to find our public shows. We’ve played as far away as Las Vegas, NV and down the east coast to Maryland and Virginia as well so, you never know where we might be performing.
Alright, time for one last question! What Muppet / Sesame Street character best describes you and why?
I’m kind of a cheerful, organized Scooter type with a strong Cookie Monster sweet tooth and a Grover who just wants to share love.
Perfect answer! Thank you so much David for taking the time to talk to us today. It is so awesome to see someone following their dream and providing inspiration to children all over the country. If you want to keep up with Up In Arms please go to http://www.upinarms.biz or check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/upinarmspuppets. If you have seen an Up In Arms production, please leave a comment on how you liked it and if you are in the area check out Pirate Song David’s next big production!