For more than 30 years, Margo Lovelace enchanted children and adults with captivating theatrical productions that featured puppets and marionettes.
As the founder and director of her production company, Ms. Lovelace served as puppeteer, playwright, producer, director, promoter, teacher and comedian.
Of course, audiences enjoyed timeless classics like “Peter Pan” “Winnie the Pooh” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Other productions included “The Little Prince,” “The Brave Little Tailor” and “Carnival of the Seventh Moon,” which was based on a Brazilian folk tale.
“I believe children should see first-rate drama. Early theater experiences should be good ones,” Ms. Lovelace told a newspaper interviewer.
One of her puppets, Toby the Dog, urged children to “sit flat as pancakes and quiet as snowflakes.”
She often joked that her main job was “dressmaker to dummies.” That’s because she used blocks of wood, strips of cloth, plenty of papier-mache and foam rubber to create her puppets. In a small, performing arts company, everyone had to tackle many tasks so Ms. Lovelace also was a carpenter, sculptor, seamstress and painter.
Born in 1922, Ms. Lovelace adored theater, painting, sculpture and music. During the 1930s, she saw Cedric Head’s Kingsland Marionettes perform at Gimbel’s department store in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Puppetry allowed her to synthesize all of her interests. Initially, she worked in an East Liberty warehouse from 1949 until the early 1960s. Then, she moved into several houses and garages on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside.
In 1964, she opened the 100-seat Lovelace Marionette Theater at 5888 1/2 Ellsworth Ave. The magical, 100-seat performance space was decorated with masks, lanterns and tapestries. A constant learner, Ms. Lovelace traveled to Moscow in 1966 to study with Sergei Obraztov of the Central Puppet Theater.
In the late 1970s, she closed her Ellsworth Avenue location and began staging shows in a theater at Carnegie Museum of Art. In 1979, her company performed for three weeks at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
By 1981, the Lovelace Marionette Theater was the longest-running professional puppet theater in the country and had an audience of 3,000 subscribers. In 1981, Ms. Lovelace was honored with the Hazlett Memorial Award for Excellence in the Arts .
Ms. Lovelace retired in 1985 and donated her puppets and masks to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Kenneth Love, a nationally known filmmaker based in Pittsburgh made a documentary about her life called “Margo Lovelace and the Magic of Puppetry.” The film was screened at the 2013 Three Rivers Film Festival.