“No puppet . . . no puppet. You’re the puppet,” Donald Trump famously stated to opponent Hillary Clinton during the third and final presidential debate in October 2016. Thanks to professional puppet studio Axtell Expressions, Trump really is a puppet — and not merely by reputation.
Steve Axtell, founder, CEO and creative director of Axtell Expressions, will be unveiling his newly created Trump doll at the fourth annual KAX Conference, taking place Jan. 25-28 in Oxnard. KAX is, of course, “the conference of variety family performers,” a gathering of magicians, puppeteers, ventriloquists and other children- and family-focused entertainers. Co-hosted by KIDabra International Association and Axtell Expressions, the event brings dozens of renowned entertainers from across the globe to the area. Highlights include workshops, talks and networking opportunities.
One of the big draws, however, is the debut of new products and technology by Axtell Expressions, a leader in the puppet, magic, prop and animatronics industry. And Puppet Trump isn’t the only newcomer. The most eagerly awaited presentation is arguably that for Axtell’s Live Virtual Set. The patent-pending “immersive experience” allows live entertainers to perform in different environments with digitally projected virtual backgrounds. Axtell developed it initially for DLUX Puppets, a professional puppet theater company in San Francisco, for its production of Alice in Wonderland. Live Virtual Set was first announced in 2015, but this year DLUX will come to KAX4 to show attendees the technology in action.
KAX4 concludes on Saturday, Jan. 28, with a magic and ventriloquism show, featuring Robert Baxt, Keith Fields, Martin Lewis, Sylvia Fletcher and Dave Cox. The family-friendly performance is open to the public and is a rare opportunity to see these unique entertainers in action.
Even as Axtell prepares for the conference, his latest creation is already making a stir. “Trump is good for business,” says the award-winning puppeteer and puppet maker. “I’ve had more requests [for him] than for all of the other presidents. People from all over the world have pre-ordered.”
Whatever else one might feel about the incoming administration, one thing is certain: the comic potential has been huge. Saturday Night Live has gotten tremendous mileage out of the current political climate, thanks in no small part to Alec Baldwin’s hilarious Trump impersonation, while satirists, comedians and cartoonists the world over find themselves with more material than they may ever have thought possible from a single politician. As Axtell says, “With Trump, every single day there’s new comedy.”
KAX4 takes place Jan. 25-28 at the River Ridge Residence Inn by Marriott, 2101 W. Vineyard Ave., Oxnard. The gala show is on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 8 p.m. For tickets, registration and more information, call 336-492-7870 or visit www.kidabra.org/kax-2017.