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PUPPETEER PULLS LOTS OF STRINGS WHILE DELIVERING `GREEN' MESSAGE

Turn around and you're a young girl, a young wife with babies of your own; a grandmother, an empty nester - but puppets go on forever.

That's the experience of LynnAnne T. Richards, artistic director of Strings 'N Things, who has spent 27 years in puppeteering, instructing and entertaining children and the young at heart.Her own children used to help her, but they've outgrown the interest. In their place, several grandchildren help with shows outside of school hours, and a few of her associates are remarkably faithful. But after all else is said and done, Richards is on the stage and in the basement making new creations.

No matter, Richards wouldn't do anything else with her life. "I have had a very rich experience," she said.

At Hill View Elementary School in Granite District a month ago, the Strings 'N Things gang gathered to do "Green Means Me," an environmental show on the evils of littering. It was entertainment spiked with painless learning as the delighted students related to the puppets. Some were lucky enough to get parts, dressing up as rabbit, bear and raccoon in a bluegrass trio with a washboard and ukulele, or becoming one of nine segments of obnoxious garbage that comprise the Trash-a-Saurus.

Chomp the Vulture, who has a Jimmy Durante style of delivery, gloats over the sloppy mess left in the park by the thoughtless Litter-bitter family; and when he "flies" about the audience, he's greeted with happy squeals and sparkling eyes. Counteracting his bad influence is Squinter the Garbologist, who teaches the kids to "reduce, reuse, recycle."

"I love to work with kids," said Richards between shows, looking cool and collected. "I like to give shows centered around the curriculum, that put across a message painlessly; as we say in our logo, puppets with a purpose. We do `Green Means Me' seven or eight times during the school year."

Principal Paul McCarty watches with a smile. "We've had Strings 'N Things several times, and the reaction is always the same - the kids have fun, and they get the message," he said. Hill View is typical of many schools inthe valley, where Strings 'N Things is welcome for repeat performances.

Richards has an arts background. She majored in speech and minored in art and holds a master's degree in children's drama. Puppeteering began for her when she was asked to put together a show for an LDS Primary with hand puppets. Her children were involved. "We did it all over the valley," she recalled.