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Alumni share stories from Muppets’ history


Well-Known Member
May 28, 2004
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Here's the link for the story below:

Alumni share stories from Muppets’ history
By Jasett Chatham

November 09, 2005


“Muppets 101” with NU alumni
Stephanie D’Abruzzo and Craig Shemin

When: Tonight at 7 p.m.

Where: McCormick Tribune Forum

Peering from behind the door of the Wallis Theater at the Theatre and Interpretation Center, Tony award-winning “Avenue Q” star Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Communication ‘93, said to the waiting students, “Come on in.”

About 80 people flowed through the doors Monday night for a presentation by D’Abruzzo and writer-producer Craig Shemin, Communication ‘88, on Jim Henson’s many commercials and experimental films.

Their presentation was laid-back and filled with jokes, and the two invited students to stump them by asking questions about Henson that they couldn’t answer.

D’Abruzzo and Shemin, who wrote for the Muppets and the Jim Henson Company for 14 years, shared an extensive collection of early Henson commercials depicting well-known Muppets such as Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog before they had names or collars.

The audience laughed as a black-and-white Kermit used a cannon to blow up Muppet after Muppet for not using the advertised products.

As the clips progressed chronologically, the commercials changed from black and white to color, switched advertised products from coffee to clothing starch, and grew in length from eight to 30 seconds.

Although Henson is typically associated with elementary audience programming, he never meant to direct his material toward children, D’Abruzzo said.

Henson spent 15 years editing and animating experimental films before “Sesame Street.” The NU alumni showed his film “Time Piece,” a study of contemporary man. This film was nominated for an Oscar in 1965.

Henson’s Muppet commercials were originally intended as moneymakers for other work, but he made his mark in puppeteering.

“Puppets can say things humans couldn’t,” said D’Abruzzo, explaining the use of puppets in the show “Avenue Q,” a Tony award-winning musical that touches on themes such as sex, drinking and pornographic Web sites.

Humans couldn’t get away with singing one of the shows most popular songs, “Everyone’s a little bit racist,” she said.

Besides public presentations, D’Abruzzo and Shemin have events scheduled at the Communications Residential College, where D’Abruzzo lived. Theatre Prof. Rives Collins emphasized the pair’s personable manner as he introduced them Tuesday.

“What you need to know about Craig and Stephanie is that they’re really smart, they’re really funny, and they have hearts the size of Lake Michigan,” he said.

Reach Jasett Chatham at jasett@northwestern.edu.


I'm kind of surprised they were able to show old Muppet clips when the most recent Henson festival none were shown since it's now Disney property.

Also, for those who would know these things, is that a typo in the story when it mentions that
D’Abruzzo (along with Shemin) have written for the Muppets for 14 years? I don't recall D’Abruzzo's name ever in any writing credits.

On the top of the page, the time listed in the story above appears that their Muppet seminar continues tonight???? Maybe someone who lives in the Illinois area can find out.

Here's the address to the place if it really continues tonight.
Northwestern University,
McCormick Tribune Forum
1870 Campus Drive
Evanston, Illinois


Well-Known Member
Jul 31, 2002
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that's where my dad went!! He grew up in Evanston, Illinois, just a short bike ride away from Northwestern! COOL!