DCT’s current production on stage, SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS, has a particular benefit for the young and the young at heart. This collection of four stories uses lovely shadow puppetry combined with live action to celebrate the wonders of childhood. The innocence of young Peter is front and center as he tries to preserve a snowball overnight, pen a letter to his first crush Amy, learn to whistle to call his dog Willie, and to face bullies for the first time. All the while, Peter is surrounded by loving family and friends who are there to take this journey with him as he grapples with the newness of it all. The imagination of the young Peters of the world should both be treasured and explored thoroughly. For many, these moments lead to deep revelations that propel them for a lifetime. In theater, these moments are the sparks for creativity we always talk about.
I was asked to use video to show children how to create their own shadow puppet show. Although I was happy to do it, this request made me a little nervous. You see, I have spent the last 30 plus years performing with a professional puppet company, which produces very large and highly technical theatrical productions. How could I simplify some of the processes I have learned over the years to show children and their parents how they could easily make their own shadow puppets, produce their own show and have a great time doing it together? In the end, I think I just needed to tap into my own inner child and think the way they do… simply.
As a young child, I remember my Dad reciting all kinds of nursery rhymes and fairy tale stories to me. He would often make up voices and be every character in the story. He would also use his hands to create the characters and watch me giggle with great delight. I especially loved his Big Bad Wolf voice and mannerisms. Remembering this joyful time, I chose the simple well known nursery rhyme, Hey Diddle Diddle, to base my puppet show videos on. It’s easy to remember and not very long.
The cool thing about shadow puppets is that they can be as simple or elaborate as your imagination and ability can create. Templates of the characters and many other silhouettes can easily be found on the internet, and most of the things you need to make them into puppets can probably be found in your own home. Using the templates, the puppet characters are traced on to cardstock, easily cut out and attached to a stick.
To create a stage, any household lamp without the shade can be used to make the light for the shadows, and piece of butcher paper or a white sheet can be used as the shadow screen. In addition to using cutouts, I also wanted to show kids that they can use their hands to make all kinds of fun shapes and characters.
Putting on a show can be so much fun for kids, especially when their parents are involved as well. It also can be a fun craft to do with a friend.
I hope you enjoy this fun way to spend some at-home time bringing creativity to life with your child! As you are looking for inspiration, be sure to come see SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS at Dallas Children’s Theater running now through January 20.
Written and developed by Trish Long, Master Puppeteer and
DCT’s Director of Marketing.
THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS
Adapted for the stage by Jerome Hairston
Based on the books by Ezra Jack Keats
Music by Victor Zupanc
Now thru Jan. 20, 2019
Ages 3 and up
Oh, the magic of childhood! Follow Peter and his friends as they enjoy the excitement of a fresh snowfall, the delight of whistling for the first time, the awe in finding a special treasure, and the feelings of a first crush. Packed with humor and fun, this production combines wonderfully innovative shadow puppetry and live action to showcase Keats’ beautiful appreciation for diversity. In fact, his characters ultimately became an inspiration for Sesame Street! An adaptation of Whistle for Willie, Goggles!, A Letter to Amy, and the groundbreaking Caldecott Winner The Snowy Day, this uplifting story collection encourages us to play and live life to the fullest each day.