December Grab Bag

Puppets at the Smithsonian. Photo from www.si.edu

Puppets at the Smithsonian. See Item #2.        Photo from http://www.si.edu

A round-up of events, exhibits and shows we’ve highlighted on Twitter this month:

1. Will you be up late on Christmas Eve, wrapping gifts? Turn on CBS at 11:35 pm to see this Nativity show with puppets from the late Jane Henson. Remounted by Cheryl and Heather Henson as a tribute to their mother, it looks like it will be an amazing performance.

2. If you’re showing family around DC this holiday, be sure to stop by the American History Museum on the National Mall and check out the puppetry exhibit on display. With a whole group of famous puppets, it should be fun for puppeteers or anyone interested in pop culture.

3. I’ve spent many hours watching The Muppet Show, but somehow I missed this lovely segment with puppeteer Bruce Schwartz animating a ballerina that was part of a show with guest star Cleo Laine. Start at about 3:30 to see the dance (or just begin at the beginning if you want some quality time with Dr. Julius Strangepork).

4. Puppets have been sadly lacking in American television since The Muppet Show ended in 1981. Fortunately, for those of us who prefer talking puppet heads to talking human heads when it comes to politics, Fusion is now producing No You Shut Up, a topical news show hosted by comedian Paul Tompkins and a panel of four puppets.

5. And finally, Pat came across the Irish theater company Branar through a local film festival. With magical wordless shows for children and elegant, minimal sets, this is our type of theater. Fingers crossed we get to visit Ireland one day and see their work in person.

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Unicorns & Rainbows

While the performance part of the Smithsonian Shadow Family Night was fun and successful, we had just as much fun working with the many children and their families who came to our table to make shadow puppets and try them out on a simple screen. Shadow puppets are one of the simplest kinds of puppets to make–all you need is some thick paper, scissors, tape and something to be a control rod. We had very small children whose parents cut out their fish or bear puppet and older kids who insisted on doing everything themselves. The screen and lights were enough to keep some participants busy the entire time, as the picture below shows, you really only need your hands and a light to have a good time with a shadow screen!

playingwithscreen

Most kids stuck with the stencils that we provided, and made their own adjustments using scissors to make (among other creatures) a fish with circular scales, a bear with jagged hair or a ‘dolphin-butterfly.’ However, we had two older girls who decided to leap past all of those and instead create unicorns, grass, a huge butterfly and a rainbow, to tell their own stories. We were blown away by their creativity and meticulous attention to detail and remembered once again how perfect puppetry is for letting people accomplish as much as they like through imagination.

The lovely unicorns and green fields designed by workshop participants.

The lovely unicorns and green fields designed by workshop participants.

What DOES a shadow of a rainbow look like?

What DOES a shadow of a rainbow look like?

The girls who designed the puppets above, with a young admirer.

The girls who designed the puppets above, with a young admirer.

Coyote at the Smithsonian

We had a blast at Shadow Family Night at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on February 1st. Thanks so much to everyone who came, watched our show and made shadow puppets with us! Here are some photos from the night:

We had so much space in the Kogod Courtyard--and look at our brand-new sign!

We had so much space in the Kogod Courtyard–and look at our brand-new sign!

Our puppet-making table, all set up.

Our puppet-making table, all set up.

A behind the scenes view of our puppet stage.

A behind the scenes view of our puppet stage.

Lots of busy hands cutting out shadow puppets.

Lots of busy hands cutting out shadow puppets.

Cecilia and Genna performing Coyote Places the Stars.

Cecilia and Genna performing Coyote Places the Stars.

Demonstrating the lights and puppets to our audience.

Demonstrating the lights and puppets to our audience.

Shadow Family Night

Don’t miss our performance at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Shadow Family Night this Friday! From 5-8pm in the Kogod Courtyard, the museum will be offering free performances and activities for children and their families. Stop by our table and make a shadow puppet, then stay to see our brand-new shadow puppet show, called Coyote Places the Stars. This new tale was inspired by a story from the Wasco Indian Nation and you can see Genna drawing a few of the puppets below. We hope to see you on Friday at the museum!

Genna drawing