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Odd L.A. job description: Full-suit saber-toothed-cat puppeteer

September 5, 2010 |  6:18 pm
It's fang-tastic

In the annals of odd jobs, this recent listing ranks high.

"The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County seeks . . . a full-suit puppeteer for a saber-toothed cat."

"Extremely hot, claustrophobic full-suit puppet with limited sight range," it went on. "Must carry 73 pounds on back in a crawling position, supported by arm stilts for periods of 20 minutes, multiple times a day."

More than 100 people sent in resumes for the chance to face these tough working conditions in a new museum show, "Ice Age Encounters."

Some had been team mascots or trapeze artists. Others had backgrounds in capoeira or gymnastics.

The ideal candidate would be "a combination of an actor, an athlete, a puppeteer and a teacher, all in one person," said Jen Bloom, the museum's performance-artist supervisor. "I want someone who doesn't just have brute strength but who can use their body holistically."

Bloom, who used to direct experimental theater in New York City, joined the museum two years ago to cast and choreograph its popular "Dinosaur Encounters" show, in which a lumbering triceratops or Tyrannosaurus rex acts out a short skit in front of an audience of squealing kids.

Museum staff decided to launch the new show earlier this year. They figured the first puppet ought to be a saber-toothed cat because it's the state fossil of California. At the La Brea Tar Pits alone, the remains of more than 2,000 have been discovered. The cats lived 40,000 to 11,000 years ago during the late Pleistocene epoch.

Read the full story here: "Role of saber-toothed cat is not for the claustrophobic."

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: Jen Bloom, the performance-artist supervisor at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, checks out the saber-toothed cat suit that one of her puppeteers will perform in for the museum's new show, "Ice Age Encounters." Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times