William B. Fosser
1928 - 2006
Creator of popular puppet opera
By Gerry Doyle
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 23, 2006
William B. Fosser discovered twin passions for opera
and puppetry about the same time most kids are engrossed in cartoons,
said his brothers, Tim and Tom.
"He started making his own puppets at a really young age," Tom Fosser
said. "He used to put on shows for kids in the neighborhood. He'd
charge a penny, two pennies."
He soon discovered that puppets
and opera could make an enchanting combination. Later in life, after a
distinguished career in set design for movies and theater, he created
his own puppet opera theater, a longtime favorite in the Rolling
Meadows Park District.
Mr. Fosser, 77, of Edison Park, creator
of William B. Fosser's Opera in Focus, died of congestive heart failure
and pneumonia Sunday, Feb. 19, in Resurrection Hospital.
on Chicago's West Side, Mr. Fosser attended Austin High School. At age
14 he took a job at the Kungsholm Miniature Opera Theater, according to
the Puppeteers of America.
"He lived for theater and in
particular grand opera," said Tim Fosser. "That was his main focus. He
loved it, like you love breathing."
For decades before he
opened Opera in Focus, he worked in set decoration and design in the
Chicago area. His craftsmanship appeared in countless theater
productions, as well as movies such as "Ordinary People," "Home Alone,"
"Backdraft" and "Groundhog Day," according to his friend Judy Thomson.
Although he worked alongside famed directors and actors, befriending
many, he never became star-struck, she said. Big names didn't make much
of an impression.
"He told us he had just done a commercial
with these two tall guys who played basketball," Thomson said. Mr.
Fosser couldn't quite remember the stars of the commercial--who turned
out to be Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.
The set work, although he enjoyed it, never was his primary focus,
"When he was able, he retired from the industry," she said. "Not that
he didn't love it, but he wasn't passionate about it."
He was passionate about a puppet opera. When he had saved enough money,
he created his show and raised the curtain on it in Rolling Meadows in
Opera in Focus used puppets to perform scenes and arias
from popular operas. The puppets were Mr. Fosser's own design--he held
a patent on them, his brothers said--and each was made from scratch.
They were operated from below and acted in concert with recorded music.
Mr. Fosser was a devout Catholic and attended mass daily.
He was outgoing and generous and knew how to tell a good joke. But more
than that, his brothers said, he was determined. "All his life he had a
dream to have a show," said Tom Fosser. "And he did--he ended up with
Visitation will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday in M.J.
Suerth Funeral Home, 6754 N. Northwest Highway, Chicago. Funeral
services will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the funeral home, and mass
will be said at 10 a.m. in St. Juliana, 7201 N. Oketo Ave., Chicago.