Children’s Theatre class performs puppet shows for young children


Puppets were made from scratch by Children’s Theatre students, using felt and sewing machines. Photo by Lauren Puckett

Lauren Puckett

The Children's Theatre puppet shows will take place in the PAC lobby on Wednesday, April 17. Photo by Lauren Puckett
The Children’s Theatre puppet shows will take place in the PAC lobby on Wednesday, April 17. Photo by Lauren Puckett
The Children’s Theatre and Advanced Children’s Theatre classes are crafting the felt-covered and googly-eyed puppets once again to put on a series of twelve stories for kids. On Wednesday, April 17, day care, preschool, and elementary-age students are welcomed to RBHS to sit in the PAC lobby and laugh along with talking animals, people and props.
The show, consisting of twelve separate tales, lasts around 30 minutes. The stories focus on a variety of topics, from landing on the moon to interpreting dreams to fighting superheroes. Some of the stories even include historical figures in puppet form, such as George Washington and Ella Fitzgerald.
The puppet show process started several months ago, with the classes splitting up into groups. Each group decided on the thematic focus for their children’s stories, then collaboratively wrote scripts. During one class period for Advanced Children’s Theatre, U.S. Studies teachers Greg Irwin and Dan Ware discussed potential historical stories for the students to use.

“As the kids were processing with [the teachers] what kind of ideas they had, Mr. Ware and Mr. Irwin were there problem solving with them, figuring what kinds of stories would work well for puppets,” Children’s Theatre instructor Mary Margaret Coffield said. “It was really a cool collaborative kind of process. The kids enjoyed it a lot.”

After each script was finished and edited, the students built their puppets from scratch. Using patterns, felt, thread, pipe cleaners, string and sewing machines, the students brought their creations to life in popping color. Some puppets have legs while others don’t. Some have full, lacy outfits and aprons while others have plain T-shirts. Some are boys, some are girls, and some aren’t humans at all.  However, Coffield said one of the challenges was not only the creation of the puppets but learning to interact with them in front of a curtain.
The students “had to develop vocal techniques and character definition,” Coffield said. “They had to learn some things early on this semester about how to manipulate a puppet, like how do you show where the puppet’s looking? How do you synchronize the puppet talking with the words? … And then we went through recording sessions.”
The students have rehearsed their performances with the recorded vocal track several times and are finally ready to put on their shows.
During the rest of the week of April 17, the Children’s Theatre class will be traveling to other schools and day cares with their puppets, but on that particular Wednesday, the class is opening the PAC lobby for anyone who wants to see the show. Anyone is welcome, including parents and/or RBHS students on their AUT. There is no charge for any of the performances.
The 3rd block performance will begin at 11:45 p.m. and end at 12:15 p.m., while the 4th block performance will start at 2:00 p.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.
Coffield says the material in the puppet shows is very sensitive to developmental issues and chock-full of entertainment to keep kids engaged. Even the historical stories, which are more advanced in content, are designed to intrigue children from preschool ages through third grade. However, Coffield says, even high school audiences may enjoy the puppet shows, as she knows the performers themselves love it.

“You’re [going to] know some of these kids, but you probably won’t recognize what they’re doing until you see them step out from behind the curtain,” Coffield said. “You might know who the puppeteers are, but they become something very different while they’re doing it. I think that’s what makes it fun for high school kids.”

By Lauren Puckett