Grades 6-12; Boarding 8-12


Puppet Shows Educate and Entertain Both Audience Members and Show Creators

After sixteen years of shows created by Grade 7 students, who design puppets, craft stories, and construct sets as part of their Art-O-Rama course, the program has carved out some space for sixth-graders to join in on the fun, too. The annual project, which culminates each spring with a joyous performance for kindergarteners from neighboring Toll Gate Grammar School, is guided by faculty members Dolores Eaton, Lisa Houston, and Suzanne Houston; the trio teach the Grade 7 course together. This year, under the guidance of senior Micah Bowser, Grade 6 students acted as emcees, with small groups devising raps, poems, and other songs to help introduce each show. 

In preparation for these performances, students learn a variety of aspects about theater, including lessons in light and shadow and how to use the lighting board. They also learn about visual art, specifically color theory, which they then draw from when crafting their puppets to convey unique attributes and specific personalities. Every detail, from the design and creation of the backdrops to the writing of the script, is a team effort; this year, the seventh-graders were divided into five different groups, with each group choosing a different country in which to set their tale. 

The first stop on the journey was Paris, France, where a spoiled and bratty puppet named Clara learned to be more polite with the help of her fairy godmother… and some quintessentially french food. Sadie C. ’29 and Dilyn E. ’29 explained that not only is Paris known to be the city of love, it is also known for its cuisine, and both girls consider themselves to be “big foodies.” Thanks to some sparkling cider, a baguette, an escargot, and a macaroon—all delightfully embodied in puppet form—Clara learns the importance of good manners, especially when traveling to a new country. This group project really helped the students appreciate the value of collaboration and compromise, according to Dylan: “We figured out how to incorporate everyone’s different ideas and opinions into something that really worked.” Sadie believes that their group “learned a lot about using our time really well to manage the project and divide up the responsibilities so we could get everything done in time.”

In addition to France, kindergarteners journeyed to other areas of the globe as they watched skits set in Fiji, Spain, Djibouti, and Italy. Courtesy of Grade 6, each one-act play was preceded by a special introduction which not only entertained but also informed: sixth-graders used their poems and raps to teach about the colors of the Spanish flag in both English and Spanish;  share facts about the island of Fiji and the national flower of France; offer some insight into Roman times; and even teach audience members how to pronounce the word friendship in Somali, the official language of Djibouti. 

All of the plays took place in the Diane T. McLarty Black Box Theater, and directly following the performances, the kindergarteners were able to ask questions and offer compliments to the Middle Schoolers. Judging from the enthusiastic comments made, these newest arts patrons definitely enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the theater.