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.
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.
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.