• Sat, Mar 5 2011

An Interview With Miss Pussycat: Technicolor Puppet Master Extraordinaire

A blond lady with blue eyeshadow and a cupcake hat may not be the first image that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “puppet show,” but once you’ve experienced Miss Pussycat‘s trippy fantasy world in person, you’ll never look at puppets the same way again. Born and raised in Antlers, Oklahoma, Miss Pussycat (a.k.a. Panacea Theriac) first got into puppetry as part of the Christian Puppet Youth Ministry at her church, but began creating to the beat of a different drummer after being drawn in by the siren song of New Orleans. Together with her musician husband Quintron, she’s been putting on “swamp tech” multimedia spectacles for underground audiences since the mid-nineties, and has recently graduated to more high profile venues like the New Orleans Museum of Art and VBS.tv.

On the final day of the cruise, Miss P threw a breakfast that included a live action performance of a story that’s hard to summarize but involves a famous supermodel/archaeologist named Jackie Joe Johnson falling into the ocean, turning into a sea monster, feeling sad, defeating the Coast Guard in hand-to-hand combat, and eventually falling in love with one of her fellow sea monsters. (Favorite line: “I’m not a monster! I’m a supermodel and an archaeologist! Save me!”) I sat down with her after the show to chat a bit about her adopted home city, puppets, and the various parallel worlds she inhabits.

How did you decide to do this for a living?
When I was in the Christian Puppet Youth Ministry with my church growing up, we’d go on tour to other churches.

I studied art in college, and then, after I moved to New Orleans in the mid-90s, I started doing puppet shows in my house. I ran a secret nightclub called the Pussycat Caverns. We had bands play and I was like, “maybe I should do a puppet show.” And then my puppets started a band called Flossie and the Unicorns. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

How long does it take to put together each live show and/or video?
It depends. This one took three weeks. I have to think, and thinking takes time. I smoke pot for a day. A live show is harder than a video.

Do you make all the puppets yourself?
Yes!

How did you first meet your husband Quintron and decide to work together?
Quintron came to New Orleans to do a show at Pussycat Caverns during Mardi Gras. He stayed for a couple of days and we had an amazing Mardi Gras together…

A lot of people were worried that the cops were going to bust the party. The cops came, but Quintron played anyway. We were the only two people that actually played the Mardi Gras show and it was amazing.

How did you get the name Miss Pussycat?
Miss Pussycat comes from Pussycat Caverns. [I named the house that because] I like caves and photography of cats. People in New Orleans would call the people that lived there “pussycats.” It just evolved because of Pussycat Caverns. I would never choose that name!

I noticed there are a lot of female characters and plots involving looks and beauty in your shows. (Representative line: “You know your hair is really just an extension of your braaaain.”) Is that a conscious decision on your part?
You know, I just noticed it today watching the videos and the live show. They’re not all like that, but of course I’m a woman and I write a lot about myself and my friends. And beauty products are really fun with puppets…like, washing a puppet’s hair or putting makeup on them is fun. It’s transformation and witchcraft. [Recurring witch character] Christie Corncob is important because she shows people what they don’t want to see. I like the idea of magic potions and transformations; the coolest thing a puppet can do is transform. They’re good at playing guitar and killing each other and kissing and transformation.

Does New Orleans influence the content and style of your puppet shows?
Definitely. It’s kind of become my favorite subject matter. I see New Orleans as like one world, and puppet shows are a parallel universe, and they’re related to each other and they affect each other. They’re two different worlds. New Orleans definitely influences the puppet world, and the puppet world comes from the center of the Earth.

That’s quite an image. Do you believe in the occult?
Doesn’t everyone? I mean, it exists. That’s like saying boats exist. We’re on a boat!
I think people join clubs and clubs give them insight and power. A cult is a club. What clubs are you in?

(Photos by Rebecca Smeyne)

For more info on Miss Pussycat, visit quintronandmisspussycat.com

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