Barnabas, a Bolivian parrot, came to Bozeman 18 years ago with some friends and decided to stay.

Barnabas is a puppet and the character of Marvin Lansverk, who performs puppet shows every Sunday at Bozeman United Methodist Church.

Lansverk, an 18th-century British literature professor at Montana State University, writes skits each week. The skits are about six minutes long and include two to three characters played by other actors.

While the puppet shows appeal to kids in the congregation, Lansverk includes humor for the church’s adults, as well.

“It’s not just for kids,” Lansverk said. “It gives adults a kind of permission to be kids again.”

“Marvin’s jokes are way over the kids’ heads,” said his wife Kay, the church’s director of Christian education. “They just like the atmosphere.”

Lansverk started performing at the church at vacation Bible school. That turned into a weekly gig, and he has even expanded his performances around the community.

In his university classes, Lansverk has his students do storytelling in the community as learning projects and encourages them to do puppet shows. It gives them a different way to think about the literature they are studying, he said.

“They just have a blast,” Lansverk said of his students.

The “great challenge” of writing original skits for his weekly performances is what Lansverk said he enjoys most. Fitting story arc, meaning, connection and emotion into a six-minute skit is a difficult task, but one he said he loves.

The Bozeman United Methodist church has three services each Sunday. Lansverk performs at the 9:45 a.m. service.

Whitney Bermes can be reached at or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.


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