Petrolia puppeteer brings joy and a lesson or two during the pandemic

Spencer, of the YouTube Series Spencer Stays Inside, talking about how to know what news is real. Petrolia Puppeteer Adam Proulx started the series as a way to help kids deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adam Proulx is like a lot of other people right now.

The Petrolia puppeteer’s summer was filled with work, starting with an Unplugged Puppet Party in Collingwood on the March break, a stint in a show at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia and a number of summer festivals.

But that all changed on March 13. “Like most people who work in the arts, Friday the 13th rolled around and it happened to be the day everyone pulled the plug,” he says.

His March Break gig was gone, and so was all his other work for the foreseeable future.

“I thought ‘well, what do I do?’ It was a bit of a helpless feeling. Me, Adam, I’m fine, but you want to feel like you doing your part…and I have a very specific skill set.”

Puppetry might not seem like a skill set in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Proulx had a plan. He had a puppet which he loved – Spencer – and a backdrop from an old show. Proulx got to work and in a couple of days, he had the first episode of Spencer Stays Inside – a YouTube series aimed at kids but with lessons for the adults struggling with questions and emotions during the pandemic.

“Some episodes are just fun, they’re just silly – like a dance party,” says Proulx. But he’s also done a five-part series on understanding emotions “saying I’m feeling angry and being able to put a word on it. That’s more heavy handed in the lesson department.”

Proulx shoots one episode a day, with Spencer, one backdrop and one camera. And the kids have really responded.

Spencer has been getting so much email, Proulx has set up an email account for him. The other day, a little girl wrote a message to the flower on the wall, saying “I hope you like being purple.’

“it has been so lovely,” says Proulx. “Spencer says, ‘have you ever had a time when you were scared?’ and Spencer gets a response.”

And while he loves the response he’s getting, Proulx admits it is a lot of work. “If I had a million other things to do, I wouldn’t have made the commitment to do a daily episode.”

Even with all the work, Proulx is glad he could bring a little joy to children and their families adding it has brought him joy, too.

“It’s wonderful. It has been what has kept me sane through this global dumpster fire we’re experiencing.”