Welcome. This issue of Puppetry International is dedicated to the diverse uses of puppetry in education. We had promised an issue about puppetry in therapy and education, but we received more articles than would fit into a single magazine, so therapy will have to wait until our spring issue.
Growing up in the 1950s and -60s, and despite the popularity of puppetry on the new medium of television, I don’t recall seeing a single puppet show during the twelve years spent toiling my way through ten public schools in four states. Forced to rely on my own resources, I made a series of shadow puppets that would pop up uninvited during the then prevalent genre of presentation known as the “film strip” – analog predecessor of Power Point. I didn’t know my 2D actors were called “shadow puppets” thanks to the sorry state of puppetry in education, but you know what they say: If you build it, they will come.” What they don’t say is: If you build it and use it in class, you will get suspended from school (but maybe that’s okay, I mean, we learn by doing, not by parroting aphorisms). And so I became a puppeteer. Perhaps if we’d had artists-in-residence back then, or puppet-wielding teachers, I would actually have learned calculus, or I might even have emerged less socially maladjusted. We’ll never know.
What we do know is that there is a lot of puppetry used in schools today, as well as teacher training, and we bring you a number of reports on the subject from here and abroad. Carol Sterling tells us about her presentation at a conference in India in which she provided resources for teachers of special needs children. Judith O’Hare, who has for years led a summer program for teachers called Puppets: Education Magic, tells us how presenting at a conference in Hong Kong has gotten her invited to other conferences all over the world. Kuang-Yu Fong, co-director of the New York based Chinese Theatre Workshop (with Stephen Kaplin) tells an unexpected tale of returning to her native China to teach Chinese shadow puppetry to the Chinese!
Jennifer Goodlander recently observed a workshop in Myanmar, in which young Burmese were reintroduced to their own cultural heritage after decades of harsh military rule. This was also an opportunity to rebuild an audience for a tradition of puppetry that goes back some six centuries.
There are some domestic programs represented as well, including Michael and Mary Vetere’s look at the efficacy of puppets and objects in the intellectual and behavioral development of children. Marc Kohler has been working with school populations for nearly fifty years, and shares with us his method and some of the transformations he has witnessed as he introduced puppetry to young children.
We’ve mentioned in a previous issue the exemplary "distance learning" program at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, but this seems like the right time to check in on the latest developments there as both the theories and technologies are so rapidly evolving.
-Andrew C. Periale