What’s a girl to do if she’s so shy, she can’t even get a job wrapping Christmas packages at the local department store? What any red-blooded teenager would do—become Kuku the Clown and surround herself with all the wonderful imaginary friends from her childhood, using their voices rather than her own.

Before she graduated from high school, Carol Greene had set up a very profitable business entertaining at birthday parties and special events, and began developing the many puppets that would be her mainstay and shape the rest of her life. What fun to have as your best friend, Reginald the Rabbit, or Valerie, the outspoken pre-pubescent girl-child, plus umpteen others, all with distinct personalities and minds of their own. Being a ventriloquist isn’t easy, particularly when your puppet will say things that you know you couldn’t have said, but Carol makes it all seem easy, flowing from one voice to another.

Billing herself as a singing ventriloquist, Carol has been a performer at the International Ventriloquist Convention in Las Vegas the last three years. In February, she was featured on the Discovery Channel, where she was interviewed by Eric Boardman for the "What’s My Hobby" show with her newest friend, Sammy.

Life began for Carol Newman Greene in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Her mother was musical, a fine violinist, and after the family moved with their only child to Evansville, Illinois, she played with the Evansville Symphony. Occasionally Carol went to rehearsals where the little girl would become so filled with the beautiful music that she would dance around the orchestra. Now she dances with a snake puppet.

When she was about five, the family moved to a Chicago suburb, Broadview. It was a time of dress-up fantasy world, make-believe, piano lessons with wonderful recitals, and wearing long, fluffy formals. After her sister, Linda, was born when Carol was 11-1/2, she became the second mom, babysitter, mentor and pied piper for all the little ones in the neighborhood. This would eventually lead her to teaching.

While in junior high, they moved to Denver, Colorado, where she continued piano lessons with a marvelous teacher, Mrs. Morrosow, who had escaped from Communist Czechoslavakia with nothing but the clothes on her back. This wonderful lady recognized Carol’s talent and had big plans for her to enter Julliard and become a concert pianist. It was a turn-off for this young girl, who wanted a real life, with family, home and ties, like her Mom. So she stopped practicing her beloved classical music. She tried jazz piano for a year, but her heart wasn’t in it. The climax came when her Dad lost his job and college plans went out the window. This was when Carol applied for jobs any dummy could get, and was turned down. An excellent typist through her pianistic skills, she flunked the test at Kelly Girl, overwhelmed by shyness and nervousness.

Her sister, Linda, had volunteered her for a school talent show, and Carol did a lip-synch she had perfected at home, mimicing Elvis. She called herself "Pelvis Ghastly." After bringing down the house with "All Shook Up," a lady approached her mother, wanting to put her in the clown business. Carol took six weeks of classes on the art of clowning and showmanship. Needing variety, she added puppets and ventriloquism. With her mother as her agent, Kuku the Clown was born. She not only made enough to put herself through the University of Denver, but pledged a sorority and was financially able to live in the Alpha Gamma Delta house. Performing had taken her out of her shell. Now she could be the fun-loving extrovert hidden under that shell.

With her major in elementary education and minor in drama, she had a life plan, but she met Paul Greene and everything changed. They married while still in school and after Paul graduated from University of Colorado with a double major in aeronautical engineering and business, they decided to move to the Bay Area where Carol finished her teaching credential at San Jose State.

She got a job teaching in the Moreland School District, where she would stay until retirement 33 years later.

Kevin was born in 1971 and the family moved to the mountains in 1972. Local architect, Dennis Burrow, designed their home, but they did much of the building themselves. Daughter Joy came along in 1976.

Carol taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades. She always included lots of music and puppetry in her classes. After 21 years of classroom teaching, the superintendent approached her, saying there wasn’t enough art and music in the district and would she take on the job of creative arts specialist? She jumped at the chance to go from school to school and use music, dance and puppetry to encourage the children to use their innate talents. She enhanced her education with three summers of "Orff-Schulwerk’ classes, getting her certification, and found that their theory of learning from using your whole body was exactly what she had been doing all along.

Carol has developed about a dozen puppets, all with definite personality traits. Her newest, Sammy, was a real find, being built by a famous puppet builder. Sammy was in bad shape at an antique shop, but she sent him off for renovation. She is still working on Sammy’s character, but he’s coming along fine.

Retiring from the school district in 1997, she has been busier than ever; performing and writing musicals for the children’s choir at Skyland Church, where she is assistant director. "Noah’s Ark," her original work, was performed in November 1998. It incorporates a lot of percussion; which led her to build a marimba with another local musician, Roger Merrill.

She also writes a regular column for "Laughmaker’s Magazine," a quarterly variety arts publication. Her Web site is: carol@weblab.com

So, if you see a lady with a big smile, dancing with a snake, don’t run away. Laugh and join her.

Until next time, keep singing.



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