Ventriloquist Meghan Casey brought her Rocky Mountain Puppets to the Tahlequah Public Library for two shows Tuesday.
The story of what it took to get an alien who crashed on Earth back home had hundreds of children and adults giggling, all while learning facts about space.
"I want it to be funny and memorable," said Casey. "I want parents to enjoy it too. Some people say it's like 'Shrek,' in that some stuff kids get, but other stuff goes over their heads and parents laugh."
Casey credits her dad, "The Pun Master," for her exposure to puppets and ventriloquism. He would use them while reading to her when she was younger. By the age of 6, Casey had completed the Maher Course of Advanced Ventriloquism. Her first show was 19 years ago, and the Denver, Colorado, resident has been doing Summer Reading Programs at libraries for seven years.
"I usually know the program theme the summer before so I think about it while driving," Casey said. "Dad and I will bounce ideas back and forth if he is driving with me."
With this year's theme "A Universe of Stories," Casey created a 45-minute skit about Aiden the Dinosaur wanting to be in NASA - National Alien Stopping Association - and other animals helping the crash-landed alien named Lenny.
"I love animal characters instead of humans. I feel kids can be more receptive of the message I'm trying to give them," she said.
Casey has about a dozen animal puppets she uses, but may only include five in a program. All were created by Steve Axtell of Axtell Expressions in California. Along with Aiden and Lenny, Casey has a couple of regulars including a dog and hamster. Phil, the little hamster puppet, is a tribute to a real pet Casey had.
The 2020 SRP theme has to do with fairy tales, so Casey will create a new storyline for that.
"Next year will have completely different characters, except the dinosaur and dog. They are the main ones," she said. "The check-up is a signature bit. I try to work it into every show, but I change it up a bit."
She was referring to part of the show where she checks Aiden's temperature, eyesight and more. For the "Space-a-cade" show, she gave him a check up after he said he wanted to be an astronaut.
After Tahlequah, Casey and her motley bunch of animals and aliens have 160 more shows, including four shows a day next week.
"I love coming here. Northeast Oklahoma is so pretty," she said. "It's a lot of fun."
By the end of the tour, she will have performed in nine states, from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Seattle, Washington.
Casey does shows for private birthday parties or for thousands at festivals. Having already earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Colorado State University, Casey plans to pursue a masters degree in public health with a focus on child and adolescent health.
"I want to have a professional TV program that focuses on health, safety, fitness and nutrition for children," said Casey.
For more information, blogs, and an events schedule for Rocky Mountain Puppets, visit rockymountainpuppets.com.