There was giddy chatter and nervous anticipation backstage at the Chief Sepass theatre Monday night, as students from Blacklock Elementary Fine Arts School prepared for their year-end show called “One Toy, and a Variety of Other Things from the Toy Box.” While there was a range of drama and dance presentations, one of the highlights of the program were performances featuring puppets created by the children themselves.
Under the guidance of TWU Assistant Professor of Fine Arts and Theatre Claire Goodfellow, and Blacklock teacher and TWU alumni Angela Mitchell, grade 5 students from the I-Pod, intermediate classes, have spent the last couple of weeks making puppets for the evening performance. One class created marionettes for characters from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” and the other focused their efforts on hand puppets for a show focusing around the theme of peer pressure.
Backstage, grade five student Madison Hunter proudly holds up the hand puppet that she made with the help of Goodfellow. The papier-mâché headed puppet took a few classes to build, but Hunter is enthusiastic about the process and about performing. “Performing in front of people is fun,” says Hunter, but does admit she gets nervous on occasion saying, “Sometimes I have stage fright.”
Hunter explains that when making the hand puppets they covered a plastic mask with papier-mâché and then, once dry, painted it and choose their own clothes to cover the puppet’s body. Hunter’s puppet appeared in a skit about peer pressure.
Meanwhile 11-year-old Jordan De Jesus created a marionette puppet called “Dwarf” which he performed in “News in Narnia” a puppet show based on book “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.
Describing the creation of “Dwarf”, De Jesus says, “I got the wood part and then I started to paint it. I then made him a belt, gave him a hat, and then got some cotton to make him a beard and then I covered his feet in black fabric.”
When asked what he liked best about the project De Jesus says, “I liked the whole thing, especially shredding the cotton and putting on the beard.” “Dwarf’s” new home will be on the top shelf in De Jesus’s room.
When asked what it was like to work with the children at Blacklock Goodfellow exclaims, “It was so fun and exhilarating! They are 10-year-old kids. It’s such a cool age as they still have a wonderful sense of play, but at the same time can talk about things on a deeper level.”
Goodfellow was asked to be the Artist in Residence at the school last year by teacher Angela Mitchell. “I really wanted to do this,” says Goodfellow. “I think it’s important to have a working relationship with a local school that allows our TWU students to put into practice what they learn in the classroom.” Throughout the year, students from Goodfellow’s Developmental Drama class at TWU have gained practical experience working with the children and staff at Blacklock.
Mitchell and Goodfellow first met when Mitchell attended TWU. After graduating with a theatre major in 2003, Mitchell kept in touch with Goodfellow. Years later, after Mitchell had settled herself at Blacklock the two began collaborating together and found a project that would be inspiring and doable for the students. Goodfellow then set out to make puppet prototypes and kits for the project. It was up to the children to paint and decorate the parts, transforming scraps of materials into living puppets.
The process has also been very enjoyable for Mitchell. She says, “Having Claire here and seeing her energy as she works with the kids, and seeing the kids interact with her, has been really rewarding. And for the kids, they had a lot of fun making the puppets and now they get to come home with something that isn’t just a kid thing but looks neat too.”
Blacklock Fine Arts Elementary School has a unique approach to classroom learning. Students are grouped into “pods” which consist of four classes led by four teachers who teach the core curriculum as well as specialize in dance, drama, music or visual arts. This type of learning is intended to integrate the arts into each student’s experience and enhance the learning of core subjects.
Would Goodfellow do this again? “Sure!” she says enthusiastically. “I love that when you give them a project you then get to see what they come up with. You get to see the variety and interesting creatures, and what comes out of their imaginations with the materials that they have access to is very exciting and exhilarating.”
Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C., is an independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers 42 undergraduate majors, ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include counseling psychology, business, theology, linguistics, and leadership, and interdisciplinary degrees in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Developmental Genetics and Disease, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.
Last Updated: 2009-06-18