What else are we bringing? Puppets!!!

 Originally posted Oct. 1, 2008

It is always challenging to describe CAT’s work. Though we have a strong theatrical aesthetic, our goal is student engagement and the exploration of issues in a student-centered manner across the age groups. We use the medium of theater as a catalyst for learning. We don’t do a “performance,” per se, though there’s no doubt we are performers.

I often say that an ELTA story is like a good soap opera that unfolds over five days. The difference is that, instead of watching the show, students are characters within the story. They are rabbits or cranes or bears, and the story is happening to and with them. In this way it’s not a play, but more like a structured improvisation that moves one way or another, guided by the input and interest of the students and focused by the leadership of the actor/teachers.

Perhaps now you can understand why, after 14 years, I still tell my mom, “You really just need to see it.”

A little history: Early in ELTA’s existence, a team of our actor/teachers was greeted by a school official with, “Oh, you’re the Puppet People!” They simply smiled and said, “Yes, we work with early childhood years, but no, we don’t do puppet shows.”

Somehow the phrase entered ELTA “lore” and became an in-house joke. So it is with no small irony that, years later, we can now say that yes, we ARE the “Puppet People.”

Puppets entered first entered ELTA’s work on the hands of a character who happened to be a puppeteer. In a story exploring anger management, violence and conflict resolution, the students intervened on the two puppets who fought during their show. The students were asked to find solutions for the puppet’s problems that allowed them to still be friends.

Zebra and Flamingo ponder what they'll say the first time they meet a camel.

Over the years we’ve use a variety of hand puppets in various ways. Some puppets have been simple company-created sock puppets. Others have been delightful flights of fancy and art created by local artist and puppeteer, Spica Wobbe.

Coyote and Bear, from the story about new sibling jealousy, "Coyote's Surprise."

Coyote and Bear from the drama about new sibling jealousy, "Coyote's Surprise"

Luna and Fishy try to contain their excitement about their trip to the UAE.

With the UAEU students we hope to introduce them to some basic puppeteering skills and help them develop some puppet scenarios. We’ll also model our ground-breaking work, “Puppet Intervention,” which is our adaptation of Augusto Boal’s Forum Theater work for use in the early childhood classroom.

"Puppet Intervention" - trying to help Luna and Sol solve their problems

A "Puppet Intervention" with Luna and Sol during the drama "Feria de Sevilla."



3 responses to “What else are we bringing? Puppets!!!

  1. Helen – It’s great to hear about the puppets! So glad they are going to the UAE with you and Steve.

    But, I think the puppet page was the only place I could comment.

  2. Helen and Steve – Have you been able to learn if the use of puppets, or other hand art forms, are used in the UAE for teaching and/or entertainment?

  3. From the conversation we had with the students after our puppet workshop, it doesn’t seem so. I’m wondering if Dr. Leon and his Social Work class has a perspective on how they are/might be used.

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