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Heather Henson went through her father’s archives a few years ago and found some surprises.

“There was this kind of ‘dance lounge’ he was working on, with projections,” she said. “I couldn’t believe how similar it was to the work that I was doing. Maybe that part of the gene pool I got.”

Her father had unrealized visions of inflatable domes with animated films projected on to go-go dancers in leotards, she said.

“It wasn’t like anything you’d ever imagine Jim Henson doing,” she said with a laugh.

But the work she had done was so similar to the sideline conceived by her father — best known for the lovable Muppet creations on “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show” — that it took her breath away.

The youngest of Henson’s five children, 38-year-old Heather is doing her own variation on his art form with the IBEX Puppet Theater, which performs Friday at St. Ambrose University’s Galvin Fine Arts Center.

IBEX will perform “Panther and Crane,” which is about co-existence in nature.

“It’s an environmental spectacle about the harmonies of the planet,” she said. “It’s a visual haiku.”

The production encourages care for all forms of nature. Henson said she became “completely enamored” with the scientists who were working to bring various species of whooping cranes back to a full population.

“It is a planet in crisis. But we have this amazing ability to work in harmony with the planet,” she said.

Henson is one of seven onstage puppeteers who tell the story through a variety of creations that are more akin to flying kites than Kermit the Frog or Miss Piggy.

Several kite-flyers are even being brought in from Madison, Wis., to make appearances.

Henson said she is working to advance puppetry of all kinds. In the lobby of the Galvin before the show will be examples of several different puppets, as well as films of experimental puppeteers.

Four out of Henson’s five children are involved in puppetry, she said. Her brother, Brian, is now at the helm of Jim Henson Enterprises and working at blending traditional puppets with computer-generated animation for projects such as the PBS children’s series “Sid the Science Kid.”

“We’ve all been a very creative family, and our parents were always supportive of us following our artwork,” she said.

By the time Heather was old enough to know that her father was behind such Muppet icons as Bert and Ernie and Cookie Monster, he had moved his company to a separate facility and generally kept work and home life separate, she said.

But her siblings and mother have told her how, in previous homes, their father had decorated walls, shelves and storage bins with pictures of various creatures.

Being Henson’s daughter also gave her permission to visit the Muppet makers workshop, where she befriended other creators and began to make works of her own.

“It was a great environment to grow up in because the creativity of the people in the company was amazing,” she said.

David Burke can be contacted at (563) 383-2400 or dburke@qctimes.com. Comment on this story at qctimes.com.

IF YOU GO

What: IBEX Puppet Theater

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30

Where: Allaert Auditorium, Galvin Fine Arts Center, St. Ambrose University, Davenport

How much: $10 for adults, $9 for faculty, staff and senior citizens; $8 for non-SAU students

Information: (563) 333-6251 or sau.edu/galvin on the Web

Also on the Web: ibexpuppetry.com

 

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