Wishing Chair Productions is a one-of-a-kind, in-house theater production company that fosters literacy, a love of libraries, and to inspires creativity. We provide original full-scale literature-based puppet productions and interactive story times every week of the year. All performances are free of charge to the public.
Tom Tichenor and Early Puppet Shows
Tom Tichenor’s relationship with Nashville Public Library began in 1938 at the age of 15, when he staged a marionette performance of Puss in Boots. As he worked his way through Hume Fogg High School, writing and performing shows for children’s parties and other gatherings, he volunteered his talents at the library, becoming good friends with the librarians and the children he entertained.
In 1947, at age 24, Tichenor was hired as part-time staff member and began regular marionette shows for the Library. At the same time, he began writing and producing Wormwood Forest, a WSMV radio series that aired coast to coast. In 1950, when WSMV-TV first signed on, Tichenor was there to clown, write material, and make puppets come alive on camera.
In 1957, he began commuting 4 days a week to WKNO-TV in Memphis where he became the children's director and produced regular programming for that educational station. His Tales of Poindexter series aired on stations all over the country. All the while, his schedule still included his work at Nashville Public Library and WSM in Nashville.
In 1961, Tichenor went to Broadway. Gower Champion, the director of a new musical, Carnival!, offered Tichenor the roles of Carrot Top, Renardo the Fox, Horrible Henry, and Marguerite. Tichenor created the puppets and endowed them with personality, making a stunning contribution to the show. In 1964, WNBC-TV in New York asked Tichenor to do a daily children's program, Birthday House, and he spent 3 years at the anchor station for the NBC network.
In 1967, Tichenor returned to Nashville, and to Nashville Public Library. The children of Nashville again enjoyed the puppet shows that are synonymous with the Tichenor name. Upon his retirement in 1988, he donated over 450 puppets to Nashville Public Library.
Tichenor's retirement marked 50 years of enchantment, from his first production at age 15 of Puss in Boots, to his many years of amazing theatrical skill and puppetry. Wishing Chair Productions is proud to preserve Tom Tichenor’s memory through the continued use of his beloved marionettes and puppets.
Brian Hull and Wishing Chair Productions
In 1997, Brian Hull was hired to reinvent the puppet program begun by Tom Tichenor. The first project was an update of Tichenor’s The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings.
The next year, 1998, Wishing Chair created Tall Tale Circus to tour branch libraries and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for older children. In 1999 they received a community multicultural grant to create Anansi the Spider. In 2000 they received another grant to build 4 new original shows: The Stonecutter, Tomas and the Library Lady, Sky Bear, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
The company wrote and produced an original “Introduction to Shakespeare” series with all-new puppets. Their adaptations bring accessibility to Shakespeare’s great works: The Tempest (2002), Hamlet (2005), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2008).
As their reputation and audience grew, they collaborated with area musicians and cultural institutions to tell original stories and bring music to life for audiences of all ages. In Ellingtown (2009), created with the Nashville Jazz Workshop, puppets and music tell the story of Duke Ellington and introduces children to jazz. In String City (2010), created with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, puppets tell the story of country music in Nashville. Other collaborations include Peter and the Wolf (2007) with the Nashville Symphony, Amazing Twins (2015) with the Vanderbilt School of Latin-American Studies, and Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away (2019) with Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show.
In 2005, Brian Hull visited Magdeburg, Germany, and attended the Magdeburg Puppentheatre’s festival. He was inspired to create a festival for Nashville. In 2008, the first Nashville International Puppet Festival took place with puppeteers from around the world. The Library and Wishing Chair hosted 3 more puppet festivals in 2011, 2013, and 2016. Puppeteers from Germany, Italy, France, Russia, Belgium, Argentina, and the United States performed for tens of thousands of Nashvillians.
During Hull’s tenure, from 1997 to 2022, the company produced over 40 individual productions, most including original music. Each new production saw collaboration with local musicians or cultural institutions to create one of a kind, theatrical experiences that speak to our city’s residents and represent the Library and Nashville in a unique and exciting way. In 2017, Wishing Chair Productions and Nashville Public Library were honored with the Puppeteers of America Award.
The Puppet Truck
The Wishing Chair Productions Puppet Truck program began in 2005 and allows the library to reach children and school groups who aren’t able to visit the library’s Children’s Theatre. The Puppet Truck works in conjunction with the library’s Bringing Books to Life! program to combine puppet shows and early literacy strategies for teachers, parents, and children.
With the Nashville Public Library Foundations’ acquisition of the first Puppet Truck in 2005, Wishing Chair Productions’ shows began traveling all over the Davidson County area, to any non-profit that requested it, absolutely free of charge. With the acquisition of the second truck in 2010, the troupe can serve even more locations throughout the Davidson County.
Annual attendance for Puppet Truck performances tops 49,000.