When sophomore Megan Drause started making puppets in high school, she never could have imagined where this school-project-turned-hobby would lead. She was accidentally enrolled in a costume and makeup class for theatre credit, and creating a puppet was the final exam. During the process, she was surprised to discover how much joy it could bring. Having found her passion, she has created 12 puppets, including Maggie who now lives in the elementary library at Arkansas School for the Deaf. Maggie is a special puppet with a full hand that can communicate in American Sign Language.
“It was such a simple adjustment [to the pattern] that I couldn’t believe no one had ever thought to just add another finger,” said Drause. By doing so, she has given children who are deaf an experience they have never had before.
Drause attended North Little Rock (Arkansas) High School and was active in theatre productions, fostering her love for puppets and forming a bond with her theatre teacher, Shelle House, who now builds puppets professionally. “When I was in high school, it was just a weird hobby, but now I’m learning that this is something people enjoy, that makes them happy, and it can actually be useful.”
Drause chose American Sign Language for her foreign language credit requirement to be a high school honor graduate and has continued ASL courses at Harding. Her mom’s best friend works at Arkansas School for the Deaf, a personal connection that led to a greater interest in the language and the community. Through research projects exploring student support needs, especially at the early-childhood level, she had the idea to create a puppet for students who are deaf, one that they can understand and befriend.
“Watching the kids interact with Maggie and light up when they realized, ‘This creature is speaking to me, in my language!’ — it was really special to get to see.”
There has been such an overwhelming response from people who hear about Maggie that Drause is now considering turning her hobby into a business. As a business management major, she is learning accounting and marketing skills that will benefit her in starting a company.
“Every [puppet] I have created was hand sewn and made from scratch. Eventually I began calling it something, and that was its name. I think of each one as having its own personality, and no two are alike. Mass producing them could mean they lose that.” To ensure that puppets in her future line maintain their uniqueness, Drause plans to create and copyright her own pattern.
She also works in the costume shop for University theatre productions and created the narwhal used in “Elf The Musical” during Homecoming 2021.