Good-bye, America's Rose
by Andrew & Bonnie Periale
Maybe we are not the best people to be writing about Margo Rose- after all, she lived to be 94 years old and we'd only known her since she was 8l! Still,we loved her, and she us. And I guess that's reason enough. Many times when we'd be working on a new show in our tiny little cottage in Waterford, she would have us set up our puppet booth in her living room. When we'd finished rehearsing for the day she'd say, "Just leave it set up. It won't be in the way." Then, in the years after we'd moved away from Connecticut, whenever we were in the area, there'd be a bed waiting for us. Those evenings would be spent sitting around the table near the wood stove, telling stories or going through the old photo albums which chronicled her early days of touring with Tony Sarg's company and later with her husband Rufus and their Rose Marionettes, or working on commercial films with Bil Baird and others, or the films they shot on their own living room theater. Over many a cup of herb tea we learned the history of an era of puppetry by one of the pioneers who helped make it. During the years when the Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts was running (the mid-to late-80s) the monthly performances by professional puppet troupes were inevitably followed by a soiree at Margo's. Artists came from all over and many memorable conversations lasted well into the wee hours of morning, yet Margo, well into her eighties. never seemed to tire. For her 90th birthday, instead of a big ceremony marking the occasion, she had us come down and perform a puppet show at her church in place of the Sunday Sermon. When Bonnie wanted to learn sculpting, Margo just told her to come on over and they'd play with clay together. (When she sculpts today, Bonnie still hears Margo's voice gently reminding her that" sculpting is 90% LOOKING.") Even in her 94th year. when Andrew was having trouble with a marionette we were designing for a commercial client, he gave Margo a call." Bring it on down," she said, and they spent the whole afternoon fussing with the string placement, control, and body weight. We were sure the project was hopeless, but Margo managed to find that little puppet's soul and learned how he wanted to move.
I know that whatever stories we could tell about Margo could be told similarly by many others -she was a good influence on generations of puppeteers as well as on her community. She raised three fine sons and thousands of the rest of us. As many years as she'd logged. she never did get to be an old lady; she was still learning new things, still teaching us about our craft and about life with a generosity of spirit which will ever continue to inspire us.
I remember her telling us about her first professional job, in the late 1920s. She'd come from Iowa to New York City to work for Tony Sarg. She climbed the long flight of stairs to his busy puppet loft. " and when I opened the door . . ." she paused momentarily, for effect, and then, with a look of absolute rapture on her face- ". . . I was in Heaven!"
God bless you, Margo.