Dowtcha Puppets are my second family

Puppeteer Leslie Burton talks about her US roots, living by The Lough and the upcoming Cork Puppetry Festival
Dowtcha Puppets are my second family
Leslie Burton who will take part in the Cork Puppetry Festival.

TELL us about yourself;

I’m a puppeteer and performer, and I’m doing a PhD in Drama and Theatre Studies at UCC. I’ve lived in Cork for the better part of a decade, though I’m from California originally, and I show no signs of going anywhere anytime soon!

I’ve always loved puppetry, from the silliest shows for little kids to the darker, avant-garde work for adults that’s happening in cities like London, Paris, and New York.

I have a studio space in Outlaw Studios that I share with a couple other nutty puppet people whom I love. I’m so glad to have gotten to know the team at Dowtcha — they’ve really become a second family, and this year’s Cork Puppetry Festival looks like the most exciting one yet!

Where were you born?

Mountain View, California.

Where do you live?

In Cork, in a place called Fairyville (really!).


I have an older brother Brad and an older stepbrother Peter, a dad Jeff and a stepdad John, and of course my mom Connie. They all live up and down California and Arizona.

Best friend?

I have lots of best friends! My oldest best friends are Ali and Alleigh, a physicist and a genetic counsellor. When we were teenagers, they already knew that they wanted to become what they now are, and I always said that I’d probably be a starving artist. So, I’m the only one to actually exceed expectations so far, given that I eat regularly.

Earliest childhood memory?

At about age three, running crying to my mother and telling her that I had backed over my imaginary daughter, Alla-Malayla- Toot, in a kiddie car.

Person you most admire?

Peter Schumann of the Bread and Puppet Theatre in Vermont. He’s been mixing art and activism in amazing ways since the 1950s and he’s still going strong on his family’s farm. I was an apprentice performer there last summer, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Person who most irritates you?

As an American, the person I’ve been finding most irritating lately has got to be Donald Trump. I love home, but I’m glad I live in Ireland!

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

Doc Brown from Back to the Future, primarily because he could go back and pretty much fix everything. He would probably need some advisors, though, and Ebenezer Scrooge (after his night with the ghosts, of course) could probably help there.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

The Bridges of Ross in County Clare, right near Loop Head lighthouse. It’s a magical place and I have to get back soon!

Favourite TV programme?

The Muppet Show or the Golden Girls…. or possibly Say Yes to the Dress, if I’m feeling particularly silly. Cooking competitions are sometimes captivating, and I have been caught from time to time watching Come Dine with Me...

Favourite radio show?

Democracy Now is probably my favourite show, and I love to listen to NPR when I’m on long trips. When it comes to music, I always hear great things on Paul McCloone’s and Louise Duffy’s shows on Today FM.

Your signature dish if cooking?

I’ve been a vegetarian for five years, so I tend to throw a lot of vegetables into pasta and call it done. Every Christmas I bake a bunch of pies and make sure to share them around, so that might be my most recognizable cookery feat to date.

Favourite restaurant?

I’d live in the Quay Co-op if they’d let me! The breakfast bagels there are heavenly.

Further afield, the St. Peter Stiftskulinarium in Salzburg (which is billed as the oldest restaurant in Europe) is spectacular and the Cafe Louvre in Prague is art- deco-tastic.

And I can’t leave out La Bonne Soupe in NYC, which has the best French onion soup on the planet. I could carry on forever naming places!

Last book you read?

I dip in and out of a lot of books, most recently they’re all related to my PhD! Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord is amazing for its clear-sightedness —and it predicts so much about today’s culture, though it was written in 1967.

Best book you read?

It’s hard to pick one best book! Winnie the Pooh and The Little Prince are all-time favourites, though, and I often go back to them, just to see how they’re doing.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Cafe de Paris, a compilation of French Cafe music, because I absolutely needed Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages.” It’s got a lot of other great classics on it, too.

Favourite song?

Right now, it’s got to be Alt J’s cover of Lovely Day, the Bill Withers song. It really dives inside the original and turns it into a different (equally awesome) song.

One person you would like to see in concert?

I’d love to get to Depeche Mode’s concert when they come to Dublin in November!

Do you have a pet?

There are three wonderful dogs back in the States -- Willoughby, Oliver, and Petra -- but I’d love to have a dog with me now!

Morning person or night owl?

I used to be a night owl but lately I’m falling in love with the early morning.

Spendthrift or saver?

Spendthrift I’m afraid! I guess my philosophy is that money is there to be spent. For that reason I’m unlikely to ever own a house… Luckily, I love camping.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

I’m right next to the Lough, so there’s not much I’d change! It’s beautiful there, and there’s a ceili every Wednesday evening through the summer.

What makes you happy?

Hedgehogs and alpacas. I need to go to more agriculture shows, because all the alpacas and hedgehogs seem to convene there. And dogs, of course — all of them! Rainbows always make me happy as well, though I know it sounds like something a little girl would say. Rock on the little girls!

How would you like to be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered as some kind of magical unicorn creature person. Failing that, I’d like someone to remember me as a decent sort of human being. Maybe something in between?

What else are you up to at the moment?

Fellow puppeteer Michael O’Donnell has just launched a new company called Humble Bee Puppets, and with him I’ve been hard at work preparing an all-new, original, spectacular, stupendous show called Jackie and the Potato Plant. It’s a twisty-turny take on Jack and the Beanstalk with a heroine whose favourite thing to do is climb! It’s premiering at the Village Hall on August 4 at 12pm and 3pm as part of the Cork Puppetry Festival, and we hope everyone can make it!

Organised by Dowtcha Puppets, the 4th Cork Puppetry Festival, will take place from July 30 to August 7 and will present a fantastic programme of puppet shows. See

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