July 09--Just like with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, his childhood inspirations, Andrew Agee insisted that his own puppets do more than look the part.
"Selling the show is making people believe that these foam images are real," the puppet master once told the Tulsa World.
As not only the designer of most of his characters, but also the hands and voice bringing them to life, it was Agee's responsibility to do that.
And he took it seriously.
The goal, he added, is for "people (to) know the puppets more than they know me."
Andrew Mark Agee, who introduced Tulsans to his puppets in shows at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center and many other venues for more than a decade, died July 4. He was 35.
A visitation is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Wednesday at Floral Haven Funeral Home in Broken Arrow, and a service is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at Liberty World Outreach Center in Tulsa. A reception will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center.
A 1996 Broken Arrow High School graduate, Agee had fallen in love with Jim Henson's Muppets as a child.
"He saw his first 'Muppet Show' on TV, and he was just drawn to it," his brother, Ben Agee, said, adding that every time he heard the show's theme song he'd start dancing.
Fuel for his "unbelievable imagination," he added, "puppets became Andrew's whole life."
Turning his room at home into a shrine to Kermit, Gonzo and the rest of the gang, Agee also started making his own puppets and, teaching himself the art, staging his own shows.
He started with church, where he did puppets for a teen ministry program, and school talent shows. From there, he would take his act to much bigger stages.
Agee's "Puppets Gone Wild" shows were hits at the annual SummerStage performing arts festival at the Tulsa PAC in 2005 and 2006.
Among other more recent productions, he staged and starred in the puppet-based "Together Again" at Tulsa Little Theater in 2008, and last year, he was one of the puppeteers behind LOOK Musical Theatre's production of the Broadway hit "Avenue Q."
In addition to his shows, produced under his company, Andrew Agee Productions, he made puppets for clients all over the world.
The son of a church music minister, Agee spread the gospel of puppetry, appearing at arts workshops around the country. He dreamed of one day starting a puppetry school to promote the art among young people.
Even if Agee was successful in diverting the spotlight to his puppets, he still managed to get his share of attention, family members say.
"He was a full-time entertainer," his brother said. "Even off stage, he was on stage -- Andrew's stage. You never knew what he was going to do or say. He was a bright light everywhere he was."
His mother, Marcella Agee, agreed, adding: "From the beginning, this kid was his own person, and nobody was going to change that."
Agee's survivors include his parents, Mark and Marcella Agee; his grandparents, Jim Carson, Kay Wingfield and Carl Agee; and two brothers, Ben Agee and Luke Agee.
(c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)
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