Peewinkle’s Puppet Studio announces move to Indiana State Museum

Two years ago, I sat across the table from bright-eyed, talking-a-mile-a-minute Heidi Shackleford. She was doing her best to convince me of something I’d already decided to say yes to about 15 minutes earlier.

We’re growing. We need enthusiastic people to help us. Our future is at stake. This means something to me.

She didn’t need to utter that final declaration – it was already written across her face. Anyone in Heidi’s perimeter knows just how passionate she is about the art of puppetry {because truly to watch it, you’re immediately enveloped by the art of it all} and the arts community in Indianapolis. As a mom of 2 – and a third generation puppeteer – Heidi’s enthusiasm for her work is infectious, innate and again, I’d already decided early in our meeting to say yes to whatever she was asking me.

I want you to join the board with us at Peewinkle’s Puppet Studio. 

As a long-term patron of the Studio {well since the fall after our relocation to Indianapolis in 2011}, I already identified as a brand advocate of Peewinkle’s. Perhaps my leadership as the Chief Mom Officer of theCityMoms skyrocketed that advocacy into new levels, but nonetheless the particular experiences we had at the Studio kept my kids begging to return season after season. To this degree, I know the Christmas Cabaret by heart, could recreate Heidi’s beguiling makeup as Witch Gertrude in the Halloween show in my sleep and likely would find my way out of the theater in the dark if needed. What she was requesting of me felt entirely natural to agree to.

Peewinkles Puppet Studio move _ Indy's Child

Those 2 years have passed since and Peewinkle’s has faced an interesting dilemma. In the words of Vince Vaughn’s iconic character Trent from the movie Swingers: Our little baby’s all grows’d up.

Attendees filled the mini 48-seat theatre just south of downtown for each performance. Every nook and cranny of storage was overflowing with the handmade puppets, costumes and set elements. Bathrooms were shared with building patrons. Performers doubled as lighting staff, ticket-takers, greeters, and craftmasters… perhaps that last point nods more to Heidi and staff’s love to interact with theatre-goers than necessity, but it also indicates just how intimate a setting Peewinkle’s was.

Finally last year, the Peewinkle’s Board of Directors made the realization that in order to survive, the Studio needed to move. Quickly. Parking – shared with the neighboring Tow Yard Brewery – was at a constant premium with families sometimes required to walk blocks to the Studio. But really it was a fire back in September 2014 that pushed the decision. The idea that one careless tenant could potentially end a decades-old business was terrifying.

Heidi – along with mother Peggy and business partner Debbi – began reaching out to the Indianapolis community for ideas. WHERE would they be the best fit but not sacrifice the craft? WHAT made the most sense for them? WOULD they be able to maintain business with a move? The work was cut out for them, except for one tiny thing:

The Indiana State Museum came calling. With the vacancy of the Retro Arcade looming, the ISM wanted a more permanent solution for the prime street-level venue inside the Museum that a temporary exhibit wouldn’t be able to fill.

Peewinkles Puppet Studio move_Indy's Child

And somewhere in there, magic happened. Timelines got moved up. Contracts were in review. Dotted lines were signed. And the looks around the table on the faces of Heidi, Peggy and Debbi were of relief, thrill and frankly, excitement. Peggy – ever cautious to broach new strategies {she’s still an advocate for mailing postcards with the year’s performance schedule listed} – became this bubbly, vivacious leader. Debbi – studious in every respect – cracked a smile. A smile.

What the new space offers them is assistance in management that Peewinkle’s has needed for a long time: A customer care center Debbi won’t have to manage via an aged ticketing system. Overhead maintenance they aren’t required to spearhead themselves. And a key to one of the greatest museums in the city with lights on any time they need it.

It’s a marriage a long time in the making, and one with as romantic an ending as any Nicholas Sparks novel.

Beginning Sunday, August 21st, Peewinkle’s moves to their new home with initial performance dates scheduled for September 15-16. Tickets have already gone on sale for the remainder of the 2016 season via the State Museum’s website.

But the one little element you will see that hasn’t changed is this: The Peewinkle’s magic is still very much alive. It’s just moved a couple miles north. Heidi, Peggy, Debbi, and Peewinkle’s: Baby’s, you’re all grows’d up.


MORE INFO: Peewinkle’s Puppet Studio debuts at the Indiana State Museum with the “Peewinkle’s Joins The Circus” shows running September 15-16. The Studio is located on the street level of the Museum and all questions about parking, ticket pricing and more can be found at


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