Innovative Lives

Meet the Brewery Troupe

 

The Story of Inventor Lewis Latimer

The Brewery Troupe Brad Brewer, of Freeport, New York, founded the Brewery Troupe in 1973. Brad's interest in puppetry began when he was six years old. Self-taught as a child and later trained under Jim Henson, Brad is involved in all aspects of puppet theater from design, sculpture and painting to carpentry and performing.

Brad says he loves "the combination of artistic disciplines" needed to create a production, from creating the characters to the actual performance. Brad has been involved in numerous productions and shows including  Sesame Street, the  Different and the Same series,  Here and Now, Motown Live, Good Morning America, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, the movies  Ransom and  Muppets Take Manhattan, a Coca-Cola commercial and a Spike Lee video. He has also appeared on  Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

In the Latimer show, Brad performs the characters Bobby Bird, Justice Taney, the Auctioneer, Otis, and Edison. Brad says he especially enjoyed working on this show because Latimer's fascinating family history involved so many important historical events. His favorite puppet of all time is Charlie McCarthy, whom he describes as "the most believable character." Brad's other interests include painting, basketball, reading, and politics.

D.C. Brown, from Brooklyn, New York, describes himself as "old," but anyone who has seen him perform the character of Junior from the Crowtations knows he is young at heart. In the Latimer show, D.C. also performs the characters Lewis Latimer, the sheriff , and the slaves. His numerous talents--including singing, choreography, voice impressions, and script and song writing--have landed him appearances on  Here and Now, Good Day New York, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Rose O'Donnell Show, the movie  Ransom, a Coca-Cola commercial, and a Bruce Hornsby video. He has also performed in the Brewery Troupe's "Lil Davis" and "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters." D.C., known for his sense of humor, adds "I hope my daughter Kai grows up quickly so she can take my place, because my arm's getting tired." His other interests include golf and cooking.

Marvin Brown, 49, is from Brooklyn, New York. He is the performer behind the character John Jay, one of the Crowtations. "John Jay is a part of me," says Marvin, describing his favorite puppet. Marvin also performs the characters Bell, Watson and Edison in the Latimer show. Marvin first got involved in puppet theater when he was in high school. He takes part in all aspects of puppetry, from singing and telling jokes to making costumes. "I've done all there is to do in terms of theater," he says. Marvin says his favorite aspect of puppet theater is working on a show from the beginning to the final production. His other interests include sports and writing.

Bob CunninghamBob Cunningham, 64, of Brooklyn, New York, is a highly-acclaimed bassist, composer, bandleader, and publisher. The featured musician in the Latimer show, he set the tone for the scenes with his double bass during a live performance at the museum. Of the Latimer show, Bob says, "It informs, in an entertaining way, on a little-known subject: African-Americans who are, or were, inventors and scientists and whose work has changed the world."

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Bob began playing the piano at age seven, but discovered his true love, the bass, at age 12. Since then, he has traveled to many parts of the world, including Africa, the Caribbean, and North and South America, which has brought an international influence to his art. His professional experience includes 40 years of performance with a wide variety of bands including the Dizzy Gillespie Band, the Freddie Hubbard Quartet, and the Illinois Jacquet Big Band. He has also played with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, the Collective Black Artists Orchestra, and the Cologne (Germany) Radio Orchestra. His own group, the Bob Cunningham Super Show, combines music, singing, dancing and poetry.

Glenngo Allen King, 47, is from Brooklyn, New York. After several years of training in the visual arts, including earning a degree from the Cooper Union School of Art, he became a principal puppeteer with the Brewery Troupe. His theater experience is varied, ranging from writing and acting to producing and directing. He has performed in the film  Ransom and appeared on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Good Morning America, Good Day New York, in a Coca-Cola commercial, and on Broadway with the Boys' Choir of Harlem. In addition to singing, dancing, puppet construction, and costume making, his main role with the troupe is performing the character Fast Eddie of the Crowtations.

In the Latimer show, Glenn performs the characters Dr. Melvin, Frederick Douglass and Crosby. "Lewis Latimer represents a man for all seasons--a pioneer, innovator, inventor and poet--a true American hero," says Glenn. Glenn describes puppetry as "the marriage of imagination and creativity." His other interests include writing poetry, teaching art, and acting.

Barbra Silva, 27, is from Bronx, New York. She has been involved in theater since she was four years old, when she was the lead in her pre-kindergarten school production. Ever since then, she can't seem to stay far away from the theater. Barbra has been actively involved in community theater and singing throughout her life. She performed at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx and at Boston University in such productions as Anything Goes, Bye Bye Birdie, and Godspell. She has also performed atPat Vixama the Wang Center during First Night festivities in Boston and at the Lincoln Center for the Ballet Hispanico of New York.

Currently, while gainfully employed by Major League Baseball, she manages to keep up her stage skills by singing at weddings and with her church choir, and by continuing her vocal training. The Latimer show was her first involvement in puppet theater. She performed the characters Maxim, the slaves, and the Navy sailors. "I enjoyed the message of the show: how one can overcome adversity and succeed," says Barbra. She is delighted to be the newest member of the Brewery Troupe and looks forward to a long involvement with the company. Barbra says her favorite puppet of all time is Miss Piggy "because it's all about attitude!"

Pat Vixama, 29, is from Uniondale, New York. She performs the character Rebecca in the Latimer show. Audiences can hear her beautiful voice in several parts of the show. Pat began performing with the Brewery Troupe when she was 16 years old. Her favorite aspect of puppetry is watching children's reactions to the puppets, especially when they sing along to the music. Her other performances with the troupe include "Little Davis" and "Mufaro and his Beautiful Daughters." Nayisha from "Mufaro" is her favorite puppet "because she had a lot of spunk and was very feisty," says Pat.

"Not only was it a lot of fun working on the show, but I had the opportunity to learn about a very important part of African-American history," says Pat about working on the Latimer show. "I would love to see the troupe work on more educational/entertaining shows in the future. There is much history that needs to be unveiled." In addition to puppetry, Pat's interests include singing, writing, exercising, reading and cooking.


All text and images © Smithsonian Institution. Updated 24 March 1999.

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