Summer Collaborations

It is finally SUMMER! We are thrilled to be working on several collaborative projects this month with other companies in and around DC. We will be updating this space with process photos and information on public performances, so check back often!

IMG_2727Our first project is called Drift, and is a caja lambe-lambe show created by Cecilia as part of I Thought The Earth Remembered Me, a promenade piece by banished? productions. We have been friends with the banished? team for quite some time (artistic director Carmen Wong directed our show Cabinets of Kismet in 2013) so we’re thrilled to get to play with this new show of theirs for the Capital Fringe Festival. Comprised of five separate segments that run the gamut from dance to music, to storytelling and food, the show is a reflection on belonging within tangible or invisible kingdoms in our environment. This piece will take be presented at the ARTillery in the Brookland neighborhood of DC and opens July 12. Check out the Fringe website for more details.

Our second project of the summer reunites us with friends at Arts on the Horizon in Alexandria for the workshop of a brand-new baby theater piece called Space-Bop. Created by Tia Shearer-Bassett and with music composed and performed by Christylez Bacon it brings our youngest theater goers into the world of outer space. We are excitedly researching rocket ships and astronaut suits right now, along with stars and comets. If you have children under the age of two, keep an eye out for an announcement of workshop performance dates when you can bring them to see our space-inspired puppets.

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Puppets and Social Studies

I was thrilled to be able to return this month to Tuckahoe Elementary, where I used to teach full time, to do a three session arts residency with the 5th grade. Their social studies curriculum covers various world cultures, and I collaborated with their classroom, library and art teachers to give the students the opportunity to delve more deeply into Ancient Egyptian society through research, writing and puppetry.

A puppet plan waiting to be turned into the costume using fabric, markers and glue.

A  plan waiting to be turned into a puppet   costume using fabric, markers and glue.

Each student was assigned a particular Ancient Egyptian social group and  spent time in the library researching the work, lifestyle, dress and family structure of that group. I then led each class through the steps of creating a puppet character and writing a monologue for them to speak, focusing on the hopes and dreams of their particular person. Some students chose to go dramatic, with generals plotting to kill the pharaoh. Others wrote about characters wishing to move up in status or social group. The students demonstrated their knowledge about the time period and their social group through the details they included in their writing.

Completed puppets, waiting for the big performance.

Completed puppets, waiting for the big performance.

In art class, each student created a ceramic head for their puppet, which was fired and decorated. In social studies class with me, they designed and then built a basic rod puppet structure of dowels and a costume of fabric. Again, students were expected to use their research to create a costume and if possible, props for their particular puppet character. When the puppets were all assembled, the students each performed their puppet monologue for the group. They did a wonderful job! Among the comments and feedback we got from the students were “I liked getting to decide how my character reacted to things,” “I liked learning more about all the different social groups by watching everyone” and “I liked making the head and costume of my puppet!” proving that the arts are the perfect way to build a love of learning in students of all ages.  If you would like us to bring this or a similar workshop to your classroom, please email us at witsendpuppets@gmail.com.

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Looking Ahead to the Fall

A new work in progress. Looking ahead to the fall and next year, we are thrilled to be able to announce two collaborative projects we will be working on next season with two different DC area companies.

First, we will be creating puppets and objects for Under the Canopy, a theater piece created for children age 0-2 by Tia Shearer and Matt Bassett for Arts on the Horizon. This project will have a workshop in early August and a full production next February. Tia and Matt have done some lovely work for little ones in the past and we are excited to get to work with them on this rainforest inspired, multi-sensory experience for families. We are looking forward to learning lots about how to best reach our youngest audiences!

We will also be designing and building shadow puppets for Fabulas Mayas, the first show of the GALita season for children at GALA Hispanic Theatre. Written by Cecilia Cackley, this bilingual show is adapted from Guatemalan fables of the Maya tradition, and features the Creator and Shaper of the world along with various animals who play tricks on each other and in general cause trouble. We are also looking at possibly touring this production to area schools in November. We are excited about sharing lots of new puppets and stories with DC this year! See you at the theater!