I created with the children a whole puppets theatre world. A world full of imagination, of personal and fictive characters and stories, a world where it is fun to create, colorful and alive. It was a long term project, with different aspect to it; the story, the puppets and the performance.
This project was inspired from a visit to Liat Binyamini’s studio as I called her in my search for inspiration around the puppets world. She unfolded before me her many tresors, puppets, beautiful papier-mache marionettes and this theatre box. Liat generously explained to me the working of this magical box and its puppets, from here the project was born. Thank-you Liat.
The children were asked to invent a personal story or find inspiration through a book that they liked. They wrote the story with their own words, sharing feelings and personal experiences, like a diary. Each story was bounded in a small individual paper book; the pages were illustrated with their own drawings. From the story, each child chose up to 3 characters that he created as a puppet.
There are several techniques to create a puppet: Finger puppets, socks puppets, papier- mache marionette and more … It will depend on the time you dispose of and the abilities of the children.
I advise to start with the socks puppet. It a happy puppet that likes to talk because of its big mouth! And it has this joyful funny look.
The individual Theatre is both the theatre the children will use to perform their play and other invented stories and it is also the box they store all their puppets inside, waiting to come to life through stories. It’s practical, esthetic and sized for the children.
We will be using the technique of collage to decorate the box. It can be done as a decorative setting or following the theme of the story the children wrote.
Cardboard box of packs of 6 x 1 liter Water or soda
White acrylic paint and other colors
News paper and magazines
8mm wooden stick the length of the box width
Fabric and tulle
Knitting wool or ribbon
Threads and needles
Paint the cardboard box with white acrylic using a small sponge. It’s easy for the children to handle on large surface. Let dry
Prepare for the collage:
Cut out from news paper and magazines pictures that will make up the collage according to the theme you want to represent. You can also prepare a set of cuts just for the back ground coloring. Put a side.
There are several possibilities at this stage; you can chose according to the children’s age and independence in working.
Pasting the collage:
Prepare a plate or low jar with white glue; add a little water to the glue to thin it. It will be easier for the children to spread. The best way to spread the glue is with one’s fingers, but if the children have a hard time with this use old paintbrushes.
Spread the glue on parts of the front side of the box. Glue the paper collage. Children work like a drawing, they slowly fill up the “page” with creativity and imagination. They have fun doing so and work independently at this stage. Remind them to be generous with the glue, it will disappear and leave a soft shinny glow at the end when it dries off.
Slowly cover the box on all sides except underneath. The top of the box also needs to be covered. This stage will take several days, when the children get tired, stop and start again the following days.
The collage below was created by Avital BaronIzackov and her daughther Noga. Avital is very creative artist that uses collage as her media and taught the children during our summer camp how to proceed with their work. Thank-you.
Cutting the openings :
In the front,
Cut out a double front door, like a window. Start about 8 cm above the bottom of the box. It enables to hide the hands of the children when performing. Leave a frame all around for the box to stay steady.
In the back,
Cut out a square shape without cutting out the bottom side. This door will open downwards. This opening is important to insert the hand with the puppet.
Painting the inside of the box:
I suggest painting the inside of the box in black to give a drama side to the box.
The inside of the front door can be painted in color, matching the collage. These doors stay open when the show begins.
Door set up:
Sew a large button on each front door of the theatre. And attach a small ribbon on one of the button. It will enable to close the doors when the theatre is inactive.
Do the same with the back door, one button on the box, on button on the door and a ribbon. The door now can close.
Curtain rail and Curtains:
The curtain rail is made out of a standard wood stick of about 8mm diameter.
Pierce two holes on each side of the box, (Upper right, and left side of the box, in front of the box) to slide the wooden stick.
Cut out two pieces of fabric that covers the whole window opening, taking into consideration the hems and the folding around the stick. Saw the hems and then saw the curtain rail folding.
You introduce at this point a new knowhow. Sewing. Children like to sew; they feel they are learning a knowhow that will enable them a lot creative independence.
For the curtains to open easily, saw a thick double thread on the upper right side of the left curtain. Run the thread into the folding until it comes out on the left side of the curtain. Make a small hole in the cardboard box near the curtain rail hole. Bring the thread of the curtain outside the box, leave about 10 cm hanging and finish with a few decorative beads. When you pull on this thread from outside the box it will open the curtains.
Do the same for the right side curtain. The sewing of the thread should be on the upper left side of the right side curtain.
I advise the back curtains to be slightly seen through, for the children to be able to see their hands and puppets. I used black tulle. It hides a little the faces of the children, to be able to concentrate on the show, but it leaves them in the picture!
Creating a handle:
The children create a handle to their individual theatre, so that they can easily carry it around. The handle can be made out of knitting wool that they plait together.
Make two holes on each side of the box, on the top of the box. Insert the plait and then make a knot in the inside. The knot will hold the plait.
The individual theatre is ready! It’s a piece of art of it own.
The building of the puppets … To be followed…
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