At the tender age of 9, Lynn Trefzger received her first puppet as a gift. That gift would change everything.
“I was very shy when I was little, so it was just a fun thing to have because the attention was taken off of me and put on this puppet,” Trefzger said. “I guess I got away with saying a lot of things, and I realized that I had a sense of humor.”
In the intervening decades, Trefzger has mastered the arts of puppetry and ventriloquy, and leveraged that sense of humor into an expansive career. She was named Funniest Female by Campus Activities Magazine and has received awards and nominations such as Variety Entertainer of the Year and the American Comedy Awards.
Trefzger is a mainstage performer with Disney Cruise Lines and has performed all over the world in assorted venues, including casinos, birthday parties and corporate events.
Trefzger will return to Chautauqua’s Family Entertainment Series with her show entitled “The Vocal Illusions of Lynn Trefzger.” She will give two performances, one at 5 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. today at Smith Wilkes Hall.
Her first character, a scamp named Simon, is still with her to this day. Although he has taken the form of different puppets throughout the years, his character has been by her side from the very beginning.
“He’s your typical boy, smart-alecky type,” Trefzger said.
Other puppets in Trefzger’s repertoire include a curmudgeonly old man named Judd, a goofy camel named Camelot and a precocious 3-year-old girl puppet named Chloe. Trefzger finds inspiration for her routine from her five humorous children. The character of Chloe, a perennial audience favorite, is especially inspired by Trefzger’s family.
“I think why she appeals to so many people is because me being a mom and having little kids, a lot of the things that my puppet Chloe says are things that my kids have said,” Trefzger said.
Trefzger has a set show, but it develops over time and sometimes includes the introduction of new characters. Her newest puppet is a rat, which she emphasized is a cute rat, not an ugly one.
When Trefzger is workshopping new material, she integrates it into her set and lets the audience know that she’s trying things out. She gets their reactions and feedback and applies that to the development of her character.
Although she has plenty of characters in her collection, Trefzger’s favorite part of the show is audience participation. She brings people up on stage and uses her vocal illusions to make them talk.
“I call them human dummies or human puppets,” Trefzger said. “That’s always fun. It’s kind of my signature thing. I’ve been doing that for years and it’s always different, no matter how many times I’ve done it.”
Trefzger is fascinated by the whimsy of how people connect with puppets. Children readily talk to her puppets, of course, but so do CEOs at Trefzger’s corporate events, which she finds charming and funny.
“People just feel comfortable around puppets,” Trefzger said.
Silliness and laughter is to be expected at Trefzger’s show, but she also has a playful warning for audiences.
“Be prepared,” she said. “You never know if you’re going to be asked to come up on stage.”