Written by Madison Meyer | Photo by Madison Meyer
Sophomore Megan Drause built and donated a puppet that can sign American Sign Language (ASL) to the Arkansas School for the Deaf. She first came up with the idea in high school, where she was taking a puppet-making class, but began the building process last year.
“Last year, in my English class, my topic for the entire semester that I spent time studying and researching was Deaf culture and how we can better the education of Deaf children,” Drause said. “It was probably the best opportunity I was going to get to make something like that.”
Drause designed the puppet, Maggie, to make its home in the art classroom at the School for the Deaf.
“I wanted her to look really fun and colorful,” Drause said. “Part of that is not just because she is going to be living in an art room, but because of the theory about colors. Bright colors keep your attention a lot better.”
Drause intentionally created the puppet so that the puppeteer could use both hands for signing.
“The way that it works is she sits on a stand that would hold her head up and you put your hands into hers,” Drause said. “They almost look like little gloves. Then you can do sign language with your hands and hers while she sits up on her little stand.”
Drause consulted with ASL instructor Debbie Woodroof, who works in Harding’s Communication Sciences and Disorders Department, when her puppet was in its prototype stage.
“Some schools for the Deaf may have them, but I would be surprised if they did,” Woodroof said. “I’ve never seen it in all my years. I think she’s onto something.”
While Maggie was one of Drause’s most recent creations, she has made many different puppets, each with unique designs and personalities.
“It’s a really strange skill to have, but it’s a really, really fun one,” Drause said. “It’s really easy to make people smile when they’re looking at a puppet.”
Drause even built the Narwhal hat used in Harding’s theater production “Elf: The Musical.”
“Megan is a part of the costume build crew, a small group of student workers who are hired to help produce costumes for all of the shows put on by the University Department of Theatre,” costume shop supervisor Katy White said.
Drause came up with the ideas for each puppet, built and hand-sewed each one herself.
“My inspiration doesn’t really come from anywhere specific, it just comes from whatever I’m feeling at the time,” Drause said. “It turns into whatever little character I make.”
Drause gave away the majority of her puppets to people who found joy in her creations.
“I don’t have much use for them by myself, so I don’t want to just hoard puppets,” Drause said. “I’ve given a decent amount of them to people who I think would just enjoy them.”
Though she considered it a hobby, Drause deeply enjoyed making puppets and would have enjoyed the chance to make it a full-time career.
“I always say that the one thing that could get me to drop out of school in an instant would be to work for the Muppets,” Drause said.