Meet Our Team

We’re the creators of Circus Town, a new, 100% puppet television show. Circus Town introduces kids to physics through the wonder of the circus. Follow Sally Spangles and Gerald the Giraffe on their adventures in Circus Town!

We’re here to show you that physics is everywhere, and physics is fun!

So who are we?


Gina pub shot
Gina Leigh: series creator, designer, writer

Gina is a writer, puppeteer, and teaching artist. She sees writing for puppetry as the best way to expand the possibilities of both art forms. Gina writes for both children and adult audiences. She has puppeteered on two national tours, performed Alfreda the Cheetah in X.Tink.Shun at the Philadelphia Zoo for the Jim Henson Company, and has written and performed for puppet slams around the country. In 2013, Gina was invited to be Writer-In-Residence at the O’Neill National Puppetry Conference, at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. There, she wrote the full-length puppet play Our Native Chaos: A True Myth For Sarah Fox. Gina holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College and a BFA in Directing, Playwriting, and Production from University of the Arts.


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Aaron Lathrop: series puppet designer & puppet captain

Aaron is a puppeteer, designer, actor, and singer. One of his specialties is creating larger-than-life, wearable foam puppets. Aaron has puppeteered on two national tours, he performed the character of Igor the Tiger for X.Tink.Shun at the Philadelphia Zoo by the Jim Henson Company, and he has created creatures large and small for puppet slams. Most recently, Aaron can be seen in Enchantment Theatre Company’s The Brave Little Tailor, a show that tours to underprivileged schools for free. Aaron built two giant puppet-masks, a rhino puppet-mask, many props, and a giant, smoke-breathing, three-person dragon puppet for Tailor.


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Annie Coburn: series director

Anne Coburn’s experience as a writer, director, and producer ranges from fiction to documentary. She is currently the in-house writer and producer for Sundance winning People’s TV, whose branded content work spans from grassroots activist campaigns to Fortune 100 companies. She has worked for Oscar- and Emmy-winning documentarians, and as an independent director and producer of short fiction films, some of which have been seen at festivals around the country. She holds an MFA from American University and a BA from Oberlin College.


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Sean Hoots: series composer, voice of Newton Flea

Sean Hoots is a maker of musics from the land of West Philadelphia.  Perhaps best known for his roots/rock ensemble Hoots & Hellmouth, Hoots has been writing, performing, producing, and recording across a wide swath of genres for over two decades.  Circus Town will be his first physics-based puppet show collaboration, and he couldn’t be happier for the opportunity.


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New Puppet Order: co-producers

The New Puppet Order is the preeminent independent puppetry motion picture company. Films include Ed Is A Portal, Shadow Puppets, The Wind Up Boy, Dark Companion, Monkey Branes, and more.



Follow the North Star!

Hi there. You there, reading this lil’ old blog.

Lots of you have told us to keep you updated about Circus Town, about our local performances, and our other hijinks and adventures.

Updating everyone individually is hard. It’s a terrible strain on the 1,000 monkeys we keep at 1,000 typewriters. Luckily Mailchimp can do it all at once. (What is it about primates and email here…?)

Sign up for our mailing list, powered by Mailchimp, and get the good news about us. We won’t ever spam you, unless we’re doing something that actually involves SPAM. We will send you cool updates and interesting tidbits about North Star Puppets and Circus Town.

Sign up now, because I promise you, we have some VERY cool things to announce, VERY soon. Sooooooooon!


PS- Sign up here!

(image via

Impostor Syndrome vs. Beginner’s Mind

I was talking recently with a woman who wanted to apply to an arts conference. She was excited by the possibilities, and wanted to submit her application ASAP, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She didn’t have the long resume of other participants. She didn’t have mastery of the art form. She felt like an impostor. Despite the fact that this arts conference is the very place to learn from others and to gain that mastery she so deeply wants, that impostor feeling was stopping her cold.

I have seen this over and over again in the arts. I’ve felt it myself. “I’m not REALLY an expert.” We tend to underestimate our own knowledge, accomplishments, and, when it comes to negotiating, our dollar worth. When I did a little digging, I found that “impostor syndrome” is found to affect high-achieving women more than men. (As if high-achieving women needed one more thing to feel anxious about. Prescribed gender roles are a bitch.)

From the Wikipedia article on impostor syndrome, high-achieving women were found to display these traits:

  • Diligence: Gifted women often work hard in order to prevent people from discovering that they are “impostors.” The “impostor” women may feel they need to work two or three times as hard, so over-prepare, tinker and obsess over details, says Young. This can lead to burn-out and sleep deprivation.
  • Feeling of being phony: A woman with impostor feelings often attempts to give supervisors and professors the answers that she believes they want, which often leads to an increase in feeling like she is “being a fake.”
  • Use of charm: Connected to this, gifted women often use their intuitive perceptiveness and charm to gain approval and praise from supervisors and seek out relationships with supervisors in order to help her increase her abilities intellectually and creatively. However, when the supervisor gives her praise or recognition, she feels that this praise is based on her charm and not on ability.
  • Avoiding display of confidence: A woman dealing with impostor feelings may believe that if she actually believes in her intelligence and abilities she may be rejected by others. Therefore, she may convince herself that she is not intelligent or does not deserve success to avoid this.

Does this sound like you? Working overtime, yet still not confident? Working hard to charm everyone in your path, but tamping down your own achievements? Thinking it’s only a matter of time before you’re found out? It’s so easy to fall into this trap.

Then there’s beginner’s mind. This useful little mantra comes from Zen Buddhism, so you know it comes from a place of deep mindfulness, or to put it another way, chill, baby.

Beginner’s mind means putting yourself in a place of not knowing, and being ok with not knowing. I had an acting teacher who used to say,  Not knowing means being open to possibilities.

“The more I learn, the less I know.” -George Harrison, The Inner Light

“Not knowing is a great place to be.” -Johnnie Hobbs, a wonderful acting teacher I studied with in college.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind, there are few.” -Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

All three of these quotes come from someone trying to tell the world something: a songwriter, a teacher, an author. The most profound thing they’ve come to tell us is, forget what you know! It’s befuddling, it’s contradictory, it’s absolutely right.

Two philosophies of not knowing. Impostor syndrome comes from a place of anxiety and baggage. Beginner’s mind comes with no expectations, only a sense of openness and freedom. Guess which one lets us learn and be happy?

So apply for that conference, or job, or project. Go forth with your crazy brilliant ideas! Flail around! Fail, even! Forgive yourself for failing. Ask for help! Be open to receiving help! When you think you know it all, begin again! And again, and again, and again. Remind yourself, gently, to have beginner’s mind.

Are the light bulbs in the photo worthless junk, or brilliant ideas for the taking? Depends on how you see them.


Photo: Berlin, NJ Farmer’s Market, by Gina




Representation in Circus Town

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today, I thought I would address representation on our show. This is something I feel strongly about, and I have from the very beginning of our story.

It’s no coincidence that our protagonist, Sally Spangles, is multiracial. She’s a mixed kid with a black mom and a white dad. It’s no coincidence that our protagonist is a girl. Why? Representation. The main point of the show is to ignite curiosity about physics, through the arts. Physics and arts are STEAM topics- that is, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math.

Women, and especially women of color, are still underrepresented in grown-up STEAM pursuits. They experience high levels of bias based on their gender and color. (In this study, 100% of women of color in STEM fields experienced gender bias, higher than the still-depressing 93% of white women in STEM.) That’s not ok. I fully believe in the power of children’s television to make the world a better place. Physics and the arts are for everyone. We want kids everywhere to see a little bit of themselves in Sally, to imagine themselves living and playing in Circus Town.

In my own quick Google search for the generic term “scientist stock images,” the results were depressing. In the top 50 images to come up, there were 11 women, 8 men and women of color, and 38 white men. The first 15 images returned were of white men in lab coats. This is the current face of the word “scientist”.

In her blog for Huffington Post, Marian Wright Edelman coined the phrase “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” She goes on to say that inclusion of children of color in children’s books is not only a matter of representation, but of global connection for all children. In my opinion, connection is the fastest way to knock down walls of misunderstanding in society. We can relate, we can communicate, and we can consider each other as equals.

It comes back to the words of King, ringing true throughout the generations. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.” Here in Circus Town, we’re going to keep dreaming that dream.

(Photo credit:

Puppet Slams

We ❤ puppet slams! Puppet slams are cabaret-style showings of short puppet pieces by many different puppeteers. For adults. Did I mention they’re for adults?

A puppet slam is a great place to see new works of puppet theatre, whether you’re looking for something bawdy, funny, experimental, or dramatic. ‘I didn’t know puppetry could do that’ is a common refrain. Yep. Puppet slam=mind BLOWN.

It’s a great way to take risks and perform a new idea that’s been noodling around in your head. Slap something together out of cardboard and recruit a couple friends to perform. Instant genius… or catastrophic failure… either way, there’s usually pizza and beer backstage to celebrate/ soothe your bruised ego.

It’s also a great way to get a bunch of puppeteers from all around the country into one theater. Give puppeteers  stage time in front of an adoring audience, and they’ll be showing up with suitcases full of puppets, or maybe a U-Haul and a dog, before you know it.

We’ve performed in slams  in New York City, Portland, Philadelphia,  New Brunswick,  Atlanta, and probably some other places we’ve forgotten. It’s always a great time with puppet pieces that are “too short to suck”.

Here are some of our favorite shots:

Concept art of Circus Town

We’re having fun… We’re hard at work… We’re both! This is our latest  concept art we’ve been creating for Circus Town. (You can read more about Circus Town here.) It’s a huge task to figure out the look of a new show, so we’re trying to go in with as many decisions made as possible.

Decisions about color, texture, fabrics, character design, overall look and style, and the performance of the puppets are all in the works. You could consider it a daunting task, but hey, that’s how magic gets made… one brainwave at a time. We love this stuff!


Look out for CIRCUS TOWN!

Circus Town is an original, all-puppet TV series. It teaches physics to kids age 7-9 through the stories of The Spangles Family Circus!

Sally Spangles is the youngest member of the Spangles Family Circus. She loves outer space, making up new circus tricks, and her best friend- Gerald the Giraffe. Come with Sally on her adventures as she learns about how the world works through the wonders of physics.

Coming Summer 2016!