The next time you’re in the Back Bay, strolling down Newbury Street, be sure to make a stop at Emmanuel Church—the basement, to be specific. Enter through the back door and you’ll find yourself immersed in the wonderful world of puppetry at  Boston’s Puppet Free Library

For years, this hidden treasure has provided free puppets to schools, community centers, parades, parties and all kinds of celebrations, bringing smiles and joy throughout Boston and New York City. 

But none of it would happen without ... sorry ... someone pulling the strings. On this week’s edition of the Joy Beat, GBH’s All Things Considered is celebrating puppeteer Sara Peattie, the librarian at Boston’s Puppet Free Library and co-founder of the nonprofit The Puppeteers Cooperative

Sara joined All Things Considered host Arun Rath to discuss her career in puppetry. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Arun Rath: Before we talk about the library, tell us the story of how you fell in love with puppetry.

Sara Peattie: I was apprenticed to a puppeteer when I was a teenager — Peter Schumann of the Bread and Puppet Theater, who has led so many astray and is still operating in Vermont, doing pageants and circuses. I left high school to travel with them to Europe to tangle with the police forces of Europe for a year, and then I continued doing puppetry.

Rath: Being an apprentice to a master puppeteer and traveling like that sounds magical.

Peattie: Yeah. My family always claimed I ran off to join the circus. That doesn’t always happen to people, but it can.

Rath: Tell us about how the library came to be.

Peattie: It drifted into existence. We were doing pageants and parades and we had all these puppets, and people kept wanting to borrow and lend them out. We started writing down who had what, and people started calling it a library. You know, you sign it out, you return it, and it just gradually became a library from the fantasy of a library, but over time.

Rath: So, it sort of came about like a cooperative.

Peattie: Yes, it is a cooperative. It’s a bit like one of those food co-ops where it’s a cooperative, but a few people are doing most of it at any one time. It’s a bit of a happenstance group.

Rath: As it grew and people started to find out about it, who was the clientele? Who were the people coming to you for puppets?

Peattie: Schools. There’s always somebody doing "The Lion King". There are always celebrations, city groups, political demonstrations, and people who come around to just take them out for a walk in the park, which is a thing that people do a lot, actually.

Rath: Just take them out to spread the joy around?

Peattie: It’s a funny experience. They’re bigger than life-sized puppets, so it’s a different relationship to people. You know in horror movies where you can hear breathing, you’re inside the monster and you’re wandering around, and everybody’s leaping out of your way and giving you strange looks? It’s a bit like that experience.

Rath: That’s interesting that people like to have that feeling. I can see how that can be fun.

Peattie: It was from oxygen deprivation, too.

Rath: So, you mentioned political demonstrations. If someone came to you and wanted a Donald Trump puppet, do you have that on hand?

Peattie: No, we don’t have specific humans because they’re very short-lived. People are always wanting Pinocchio, but we also don’t have that. It’s general. That’s why it can be a library. Most puppeteers can’t lend out puppets because they’re made for specific shows, but these are general characters in groups that can be lent out because they’re generalized.

Rath: Who made the puppets in the library? Are they your creations or other puppeteers?

Peattie: I make a lot of them but by no means all of them. Over the years, many people have made them.

Rath: Is there joy for you in the process of creating one?

Peattie: Yeah. When I’m making a new puppet, I wake up in the morning and I think, “Oh! My giant cat! I must go meet my giant cat.”

Rath: Tell us a bit more about that process. How do you get inspired to create your next puppet? What’s the process like?

Peattie: Sometimes it’s for a specific show, but a lot of times it’s just a character that I almost dream into existence. I can see it and it shimmers a little, and then it sort of begins to settle down into geometry and trying to figure out how it can stand up and what the materials will be.