Do you speak puppetry
Puppetry as an alternative form of communication
Puppet Stories Based on Real Life Situations
Jason was in the second grade when I met him. I was doing an artistic residency at an elementary school in Boston. The children created puppets, puppet characters, and puppet stories. Jason was not accepted by most of the members of his class. The children felt that he behaved aggressively toward them and often acted strangely. They would usually refuse to interact with him. He was almost always alone and usually appeared to be unhappy. He made a puppet named Mark and wrote the following story about Mark:
Once there was a boy named Mark. He lived near a frog pond. Every day, he went to the frog pond and petted a frog. Soon, the frogs got friendly with him and got in his hand.
One day, a family moved in next door. Mark went to welcome them, and he brought a frog with him. One of the neighbor’s kids pushed the frog off of Mark’s hand, and it died. Mark kicked the kid, and they got into a fight. The parents stopped them, and both of the families went home.
When Mark got home, he wanted to talk to his father about the kid next door because he killed his frog. His father told him to tell the boy that he liked frogs very much and didn’t want anybody to kill them. Mark said, “All right.”
The next day, he went to the neighbor’s house and talked to the kid, but the kid said he was going to kill the frogs. Mark went home and told his dad what happened. His dad thought of a way to solve the problem. They had wanted to do this for a long time. He decided to move away and take the frogs with them.
Jason allowed me to read his story to his class. The hero of the story was Mark; his problem was that his frogs were in danger of being killed; his solution was to move away. The parallels to Jason’s life were clear. However, when we discussed the story, we only spoke about Mark. Jason had to be allowed to stay at a safe distance. Respecting this boundary enabled him to present the situation and to observe it. It also enabled the members of his class to dialogue with him through the medium of the story without threatening Jason. In discussing the story, most of the children in the class said that they would not want to play with some one who carried frogs around with him. However, they also felt that it was wrong to kill his frogs. They agreed that Mark needed to know that if he insisted on carrying his frogs around with him, other children would probably not want to play with him. Some children suggested that he leave his frogs in the pond and play with them when he returned from school. This way, maybe other children would want to play with him. However, if he remained adamant about bringing his frogs to school, he should be allowed to do so without others threatening to kill them. The children almost unanimously felt that running away from a problem wouldn’t solve it. I asked them to offer alternative solutions, which they readily did.
We spent the entire class time working on Jason’s story, and, in essence, dialoguing with Jason. Through his puppet and his puppet story, he had found a safe, positive venue to integrate with his classmates. They spoke puppetry together and the communication was a success!