Puppetry & Storytelling

If you think of socks and stuffed animals when you picture puppets, think again. 

Students from the class Puppetry & Storytelling saw puppets of all sizes, shapes, and materials at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre in Minneapolis today. The theater has its origins in Vietnam War-era protest parades. After the war ended, artists continued the colorful parade each year and eventually grew the concept into a theater. 

Callie peeked her head into the theater as Site Director Steve gave the students an orientation in the lobby. Lush green vines hung from the ceiling and the walls were covered in Dr. Seuss-like nature and towering cardboard skyscrapers. “Everything here is making me go Woooo! Whoa!” said Callie, swaying around in awe. “How long did it take you to set that all up?” When Steve answered that it took months, Callie sighed. “I feel sorry for you.”

Finn enjoyed the atmosphere. “There’s a lot of colors,” he said. First-year Summer Academy teacher Laura Korynta has worked and performed at In the Heart of the Beast and brought students there to get inspiration for their own puppet shows. Finn said his story is a superhero murder mystery. “It’s really weird.”

Ian and Dignan were excited about their eco-conscious story. “It’s a puppet show about a boy who goes into the future and takes away all the pollution with the help of robotic animals,” said Ian. “And there’s an alien named Dax and his family.”

“Also, we’re going to make Mr. Crocodile,” added partner Dignan. “He’s like the leader. He shows the main characters around the jungle.” 

Hannah and Callie are writing a mystery. “It’s about a Star Wars museum where Luke’s lightsaber is stolen,” Callie said. 

Her partner Hannah popped in. “Everyone thought Peter stole the light saber because he has a weird French accent. But Jeannine is the one who took it because she wanted to be a Star Wars hero.”

Puppetry is the ultimate in creative arts and crafts, and in this case, it’s on a massive scale. The trees, dinosaurs, backdrops, and sets feature feathered boas, glitter, tinsel, cardboard, and evidence of hundreds of hours of hard work. 

“How much Amazon stuff did you have to buy to get that much cardboard?” Finn wondered. 

“Hey, can you order cardboard and then it will come in cardboard, so you will have more cardboard?” mused Hannah.Yet another example of Summer Academy kids thinking outside the box. 

The Theater’s current production, “The Impact Theory of Mass Extinction” runs through June 26 with free and “pay what you can” shows. The story follows two young women in 1980s Minneapolis who travel back in time to the period just before a meteor hits and wipes out all dinosaurs. Puppets in the show include giant accordion dinos that rise menacingly from the stage, silly dinosaurs on strings, humans in masks, a second stage set that lowers from the ceiling, and puppets that pop up, glide down, and appear from the shadows.

“It’s crazy!” Ariana said about the theater. She and Lilian are putting together a puppet show about magic gone wrong. “It’s about two twin princesses, one good, one bad,” said Ariana. “The witch punishes the good one accidentally. It turns into a quest to turn herself back human and to turn her bad sister into a bear.”

Check out the theater’s production for some great family fun! https://tix.gobo.show/hobt/impacttheory

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