Puppet Courtesy Photo

Ajijaak, the puppeted whooping crane who makes an incredible journey through North America, will soon be flying its way to the Lied Center for Performing Arts. 

On March 4 at 7:30 p.m., the Lied Center for Performing Arts will interview the creators of “Ajijaak on Turtle Island,” along with showing a preview of the show as part of their Lied Live Online series. The panel will consist of puppeteer Heather Henson, author and director Ty Defoe and composer Dawn Avery. After the panel, a short preview of the show’s premiere event in New York City will be shown to the audience. The event is free and available to be livestreamed with a ticket reservation. 

Program manager for the Lied Center Nancy Engen-Wedin said the interview aims to showcase in-depth information about the work that went into making the show — from the puppetry to the music and everything in between. She also hopes the talk gets people excited for the full performance at the Lied in spring 2022.

“Ajijaak on Turtle Island” is about a crane, Ajijaak, who is separated from her family. The elaborate puppet performance shows her migration from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. It also chronicles the many animals and communities she meets along the way, such as the Lakota and Cherokee nations. 

Engen-Wedin said what makes this event and show so thrilling education-wise is that many Nebraskans can relate because the story is about a whooping crane and the migration the crane takes every year. She said she thinks Nebraskans can relate it to the sandhill crane migration they see every year. 

“Many cranes fly through Nebraska as they migrate north and south. … It is also the story of our environment — the rivers, grasslands, animals who inhabit the earth and the importance of caring for it,” she said.

With its puppetry, choreography and projected backgrounds, Engen-Wedin thinks the show offers something for everyone. Puppetry can be used in more breathtaking ways than other mediums. She also said Henson provides amazing puppetry skills.  

“Puppetry is such an accessible medium for kids of all ages. They can play [and] act with puppets and be something other than themselves,” Engen-Wedin said. “Also, Heather Hensons's family is known for their puppet expertise, so we are seeing and experiencing the best of the best.”

Engen-Wedin said she hopes the audience gets an educational experience out of the event and people will be encouraged to come to the full show later on next spring. 

“We hope that those viewing will be seriously engaged by this Lied Live event, since it is a little different than other Live Live events since it has more of an educational focus,” she said. “We also hope that viewers connect to their Nebraska heritage and specifically to the story being told. The story of respect for each other, our land and creatures.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased online at the Lied Center’s website