Do you remember watching Lamb Chop on PBS? Well, she’s back — but this time with Mallory Lewis, the daughter of Lamb Chop’s original partner Shari Lewis.
The two will be performing at 2pm on September 13 at The Heights Baptist Church in Richardson. The Parkinson Voice Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the voices of people with Parkinson’s, will sponsor the ’60s-style performance. The event is free, but reserve your spot by calling 469/375-6500 or visiting ParkinsonVoiceProject.org.
We chatted with Mallory from her home in Malibu to learn more about the dynamic duo and their work with the Parkinson Voice Project.
Tell me about your life in Malibu.
I’m very lucky. I have a wonderful 15-year-old son named James. I volunteer at a place called The Shalom Institute. In the summer it’s a camp. It’s completely inclusive — not just Jewish kids and not just kids who are completely able. There is a big special needs push up there. I’ve been working with the horses. That’s pretty much my life.
Why did you get involved in the Parkinson Voice Project?
In addition to spending time with my kid and horse, I spend a great deal of time with my dad [who] has Parkinson’s disease. A big issue for him is swallowing and speaking. Eighty percent of people who have Parkinson’s are at risk of losing their ability to speak and swallow. It steals their voice. My cousin Eleanor is a Parkinson’s survivor, I guess one would say. She was starting to lose her voice and so she got involved with the Parkinson Voice Project. It was founded in 1999. Since, thousands of people have been helped.
Is this the same Lamb Chop we grew up with?
She hasn’t changed but her partner has. I’m not her mom — I’m her sister, and she has a lot less respect for me than she did for our mom.
My audiences are usually 80 percent grownups. I do a lot of video footage in my shows and I always say, “You’ll get to see Mom no matter which haircut you remember.”
What is the most valuable lesson your mom taught you about performing?
It’s sort of a lesson about life. It has to do with preparation and pleasure. I prepare really well for my shows and then I go on stage and relax. I take pleasure from it. It’s kind of like anything you do in life: As long as you are well prepared for it, you can relax and enjoy the experience.
What is your greatest hope in carrying on this tradition?
I initially started performing with Lamb Chop so that my son would understand the legacy that his grandmother left. That I feel has been accomplished. My greatest professional goal is that I would love to get Lamb Chop back on TV, to keep her alive and allow people who already love her to continue loving her and to introduce new people to [a] timeless children’s character.
Do you have a favorite memory or performance with Lamb Chop?
My favorite performing experience is when I got to lay on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and perform for the troops then spend the night on the carrier and get catapulted off in the morning.
I also loved when I did an equestrian safari and performed for children in Kenya. It was totally weird because they have no history of puppets in their culture — and they do believe in evil spirits. So at first it made them cry, which I felt really bad about. Then I just sat in a pile of cow dung and the children surrounded me while I sang silly songs. They didn't speak English and I didn’t speak Swahili and it didn't matter. I could have sung “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and they wouldn’t have known. Then they sang to me and they pet Lamb Chop. That was a pretty darn cool experience.
What is your favorite part about being a puppeteer?
I’m very lucky because I can do good with Lamb Chop. People want to see her and they are willing to give money to causes in order to see her. I’ve done a lot of work with the military and children’s charities. The longer we live, the more likely we are to get these debilitating diseases like ALS and Parkinson’s. It’s a real pleasure to be able to raise awareness and hopefully money to find cures. The more you give, the more you get.
Watch Lamb Chop's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: