• Lillie Burke

‘Being Elmo’ movie brings positive message to Belcourt

Elmo’s endearing smile, fiery personality, and contagious laugh have captured America’s heart since 1984. But no one would assume Elmo’s high pitched giggle is the voice of a man who looks more like an NFL football player than a master puppeteer.

Kevin Clash, the man behind the puppet, was revealed in the documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” which played at the Belcourt Theater on Jan. 11 and 12.

The film explores Clash’s journey in the world of puppeteering while also encouraging viewers to follow their dreams and live out what truly brings them to life.

This ideal, woven throughout the documentary, was Clash’s main message to the world: if something makes you happy, run after it until your dreams become reality.

Clash took an early interest in puppeteering. His favorite television show, “Captain Kangaroo,” sparked the dream that led Clash to begin performing local puppet shows during his mother’s afternoon day care shift.

A natural talent soon turned the neighborhood shows into performances throughout his hometown of Baltimore.

Thanks to a high school field trip, Clash was later able to meet Kermit Love, designer and builder of the Muppets, in New York City. Love became a mentor for Clash and oversaw the start of his career, which included working with his beloved “Captain Kangaroo” after an audition at 18.

While Clash loved puppeteering for his favorite childhood television show, he still dreamed of the day he would join “Sesame Street” working with Jim Henson, his childhood hero.

Little did he know that his dream was soon to be realized.

Henson noticed Clash’s unique talent for truly embodying the personality and spirit of each puppet and asked him to join the team of “Sesame Street.”

After joining the PBS program, Clash tried several puppets before he met Elmo. When Clash first experimented with Elmo, Henson knew there was a special chemistry that would have an explosive influence.

Clash explains in the documentary that Elmo is an expression of his personality and the influences in his life.

”Elmo is creative like my dad and a fireball just like my mom,” he said in the film.

Children and families around the world have been touched by Clash’s relationship with Elmo, not only through the show, but also through Elmo’s numerous dolls and his work through the Make a Wish Foundation.

Clash struggled through grade school because his longing to be a puppeteer was different than his peers’ ambitions, he believed in the passion behind his dreams.

He now focuses on teaching others who wish to be puppeteers by giving them the advice, encouragement, and support he knows they need in order to fulfill what seems to be an unattainable dream.

-Kristin Hinkley

#BelcourtTheater #documentary #Elmo

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