As a child, David Stephens was spellbound by Jim Henson's Muppets. Determined to become a puppeteer, himself, he started creating original puppet characters as a young teenager and performed regularly for his high school classmates. While studying dramatic arts at Troy University (BS, 1999), he apprenticed under Richmond-based master puppeteer, Terry Snyder, who taught Stephens how to approach the art of puppetry as a solo artist. As an undergraduate, Stephens was an ensemble member of Troy's “Pied Pipers,” a touring children's theater troupe, founded by Dr. David Dye. Stephens also produced “The TSU Puppet Revue” for the University's broadcast journalism department. He collaborated on two television pilots for Troy graduate, Art Williams. “Here We Grow” (1998) and “Friendship Street “(1996) gave Stephens his first real taste of performing puppets on television.
In the fall of 1999, Stephens began his coursework as a graduate student in the University of Connecticut's Puppet Arts program (MA 2001). As a student there, he learned how to construct and perform various puppet styles including rod, shadow, and string puppets. During his first summer as a grad student, he created a one-man show, “Billy Goats Gruff and Other Stuff,” which toured libraries in his home state of Alabama.
Itching to get started on his own work as a solo puppeteer, Stephens graduated early and returned to South Alabama and formed All Hands Productions. His mission was to expose families across the Southeast to quality, entertaining puppet shows. His first year out of grad school, he was earning a living wage working for himself as a puppeteer. He toured venues in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. He became a regular performer of original works at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta (2002-2004). In 2003, “Billy Goats Gruff and Other Stuff” was featured at the National Puppeteers of America Festival in Tahlequah, OK. This performance came in the middle of a tour that found Stephens performing at venues in New York, Massachusetts, Missouri and Alabama's rural schools.
Also in 2003, Stephens received a Telly Award (which spotlights works in the television, commercial, and music video industries) for his collaboration with Pensacola, FL singer/songwriter, Brian Meece. Scruff, a shaggy, white sheepdog character, created and performed by Stephens, was featured in Meece's music video “Playground.”
In 2004, Stephens was awarded an Artist Fellowship from the Alabama State Council On the Arts. This grant helped to fund an exhibit of Stephens work as a puppeteer at the Eastern Shore Arts Center in Fairhope, Alabama. “Puppets and Process” showcased Stephens original puppet creations alongside their designs and sketches. This exhibition drew record numbers to the gallery.
Later in the same year, Stephens received one of puppetry's highest honors: “Billy Goats Gruff and Other Stuff” was awarded a 2004 UNIMA-USA (Union Internationale de la Marionette) Citation of Excellence. Created by Jim Henson, who founded the US chapter of UNIMA, the Citations honor outstanding works in the art of puppetry. With this award, Stephens joined the ranks with some of puppetry's most exceptional practitioners.
Finding himself performing in Atlanta at the Center for Puppetry Arts for extended periods of time on a yearly basis, Stephens decided to relocate his one-man operation. From 2004-2006, Stephens created “The New Adventures of Brer Rabbit” and a highly original production of “Jack and the Beanstalk” which toured extensively. He was also a cast member of highly acclaimed puppet artist, Jon Ludwig's production of “Brer Rabbit and Friends” at the Center for Puppetry Arts. He also served as the Center's assistant puppet builder where he constructed characters for several of the Center's live productions as well as building puppet likenesses of “Blue Collar TV”'s Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy, and Jeff Foxworthy (puppeteered by Stephens). Stephens was also one of the first performers to be invited to the first and second annual Orlando Puppet Festival, founded by Heather Henson.
Following successful puppeteer training workshops with both Muppet Studios and Sesame Workshop, Stephens packed up a suitcase and his banjo and moved to New York City to try and make a career as a television puppeteer. His first job in the City was wrangling puppets on the Cartoon Network float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A short time later, Stephens was hired as a core performer on a PBS series, “SeeMore's Playhouse,” where he played Shades Wolf, an electric guitar playing hipster. He then went on to work as a puppet assistant for several Sesame Street Home Video productions (“Abby Caddabby In Wonderland” and “Think Green,” 2008) and became a day-player on season 39 of Sesame Street, performing Anything Muppets.
With work running thin and missing his Southern roots, Stephens returned to Atlanta in the summer of 2008. He returned to his career as a touring performer (adding Almonte, Ontario to his list of cities) but occasionally found himself back in New York to work with his Sesame buddies (“Families Stand Together,” 2009). Stephens was also cast in the debut production of “Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas – The Musical,” co-produced by The Jim Henson Company and Goodspeed Musicals. This adaptation of a Henson classic, based on a children's book by Russell and Lillian Hoban, mixed veteran Broadway actors with puppeteers to bring the characters of Waterville to life.
A recipient of a 2008 Jim Henson Foundation Family Grant, Stephens hopes to continue fulfilling his goals of presenting quality entertainment to children and their parents.
To find out more about Stephens' other career as a singer/songwriter, please visit: www.DavidStephensBanjo.com.
Welcome to All Hands Productions!
Founded by David Stephens, All Hands Productions is dedicated to bringing quality puppet productions to children and their parents.
For over a decade, our puppets have been seen on stage and television.
Find out about All Hands Productions touring performances, perfect for schools and libraries.
2003 Artist Fellowship recipient from the Alabama State Coucil on the Arts
2003 Telly winner for collaboration with Pensacola singer/songwriter Brian Meece on the music video Playground.
2005 Billy Goats Gruff and Other Stuff honored with an UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette) Citation of Excellence
2007 Jim Henson Foundation Family Grant recipient
Info & Booking:
Tel: (404) 713-1588