Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Low Budget and High Entertainment

It never fails to amaze me how receptive children are to puppet shows.  In a world of high tech and special effects,  children seem willing to forgo their savvyness when in the presence of puppets on stage.  I'm speaking from experience when I make such a claim.  I have performed in all manner of rigged-up settings: from behind a chair with the puppets poked through the back rails and the chair seat as the stage, crouched behind tables, and stretching my arms over the tops of book shelves. Many times the children can see me.  It never really seems to matter where or how visible I am, or even how low-budget.  Perhaps the more bizarre the rig, the more enjoyable the show.  

This week in the Learning Center I have been performing The Three Little Fishies and the Big Bad Shark.  This is definitely a low-budget show.  The ocean scene backdrop is an enlarged photocopy colored with markers, and the three houses made of two-dimensional paper seaweed, shells and stones, are each taped to a metal bookend to hold them upright.  We did manage to scrounge up three fish puppets, but no shark.  The next best thing is a paint-stick puppet: a lovely shark picture mounted on oaktag and taped to a paint stick.  Voila!  Instant puppet, and the children are hooked!  No pun intended.

The delight of the children is palpable; they are joyfully receptive to stories of any kind.  They love to answer the puppets’ call for help from the audience.  Their laugh-out loud predictions and heartfelt warnings to the puppets spur me on.  I'm really not sure who is having the most fun.

As we wind down the school year, I've been encouraging the children to keep reading over the summer, to keep their reading "muscles" strong, and to keep alive the joy for stories.  I wish that no child ever lost that magic feeling for stories.  It's part of my mission to keep it alive.

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