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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Puppeteering: the art of soul transplantation

Monica Leo has toured the country teaching the craft of puppet building and performing. She is the founder of Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre in West Liberty, Iowa, and she brought her puppet Alfred Schulz to perform for the audience in the Hearst Center.

The Hearst Center for the Arts hosted a unique guest on Nov. 30. Upon arriving to the Mae Latta Hall inside the center, the audience was greeted with a unique guest. He was a small man with a scraggly ginger beard and bulging eyes. His name is Alfred Schulz, and he is a puppet.

Schulz was created by Monica Leo. Leo was the last guest for Fall 2023’s seasonal Final Thursday Reading Series hosted by Hearst and UNI. Leo read from her memoir, “Hand, Shadow, Rod: The Story of Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre.” The theater is in West Liberty, IA. Leo the founder and principal puppeteer for the theatre. She’s been active in the world of puppeteering since 1975.

Leo was born to German refugees following World War II. She has toured the country teaching puppet building and performing for audiences of both children and adults.

From her book, Leo read a story about visiting an elementary school with her puppeteering partner, Teri Jean. During the reading, Leo would effortlessly shift her voice to that of Schulz, who is credited as her co-writer.

This story found them at the mercy of a group of unruly kids, who began harassing Teri Jean during a performance. They poked her in the face and took turns in the behavior. Teri began scolding the children before storming into the teachers’ lounge. It was then, Schulz came to the rescue.

“I poked my head through the stage window and talked to the kids. ‘Hey kids, I think Teri Jean’s feelings are kind of hurt. Why don’t we apologize?’” said Schulz.

Schulz led the kids into a chant of “We’re sorry, Teri Jean.” It was in that moment, Leo, with the help of Schulz, was able to diffuse the situation.

The audience in attendance was also treated to an interview with Schulz by UNI student Bennett Birkner.

“This may be a controversial question. As a puppet, you look like you’re in very good shape. Have you had any repairs or surgeries of any kind?” asked Birkner.

“Well, there was one point where I had to have a soul transplant. My old body got so tattered and so did my head, so Monica made me a new one. She transplanted my soul from my old body into this body. So that meant there was another one just like me. So, he took on the role of my good-for-nothing twin brother Albert and that lead to some interesting things.”

The audience broke out in laughter.

“Is there anything that humans do that you wish you could do?” asked Birkner.

“I wish I had taste buds,” replied Schulz. It was a moment of tenderness from an otherwise wisecracking character.

Audible “aw’s” could be heard from the audience.

“What are your thoughts on the Muppets? Did they sell out?” asked Birkner.

“When I saw those little Kermits in stores, I thought it was a genius moneymaking idea!” replied Schulz.

That also received a big laugh from the audience.

The skill of Monica Leo is on full display as she disappears into Schulz, who comes to life in her arms.

In an interview with The Final Thursday Press, Leo was asked about how she developed a personality for Schulz.

“I didn’t, he did. And that happens with puppets, that really happens with puppets. You make a puppet, sometimes you have a completely different intention for it than it ends up being, but you make the puppet and you put it on and start playing with it, and it just kinda develops its own personality,” said Leo.

For the rest of that interview, visit

For more information about the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre, including performance dates and workshops, visit

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