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Portable puppet show: LBCC theater hits the road

Portable puppet show: LBCC theater hits the road

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Linn-Benton Community College’s theater department has been staging annual shows for children for almost four decades. But this year, for the first time, they’re also taking a show on the road.

Students in director Tinamarie Ivey’s class will perform a Japanese folktale, “How the Monkey Lost Its Tail,” in a series of traveling shows starting Oct. 14. The college is taking reservations for performances.

The show will be done with small-scale shadow puppets behind a 4-by-6-foot screen. It’s specifically geared for children kindergarten through second grade.

Leslie Hammond, associate dean of the college’s Liberal Arts, Social Systems and Human Performance department, said that’s because it can be tough to put on a show that’s equally enjoyable for very young children up through late tweens. Sometimes younger children might find show elements “a little too scary,” she said.

It’s also getting harder to bus an entire elementary school to the college for the annual children’s show, which has been a tradition for 38 years (and will continue this February with another Japanese folktale, “The Crane Wife”). It’s more affordable, and efficient, to take a show to the audience.

Creating a portable show is a new challenge for Ivey’s 10 students, however. Many are theater majors who are used to having their props in the same place each night for a stage that never changes.

“There’s a lot more chance for things to get lost. It’s a little risky,” said Sara Smith, 20, of Corvallis.

Emma Barry, 21, of Albany has worked on outdoor shows, which call for similar flexibility. “You pretty much have to pack your show in a van,” she said, and then set up and tear down after each performance. “It’s, like, twice the work.”

Both are excited, however, about bringing their work to a new audience. “If we’re going to the students,” Barry said, “it’s involving people who might not have the opportunity to see it.”

Taylor Hagey, 18, of Albany spent his Thursday class period cutting the foam core and attaching thin wooden sticks to the puppet figure of Buddha, who narrates the show. Hagey was the life-sized shadow figure of the Hairy Man for last year’s children’s production, “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” and said he enjoys the additional complication of adding puppets to a shadow performance.

“You have to use movements to express what’s going on,” he said. “It makes it harder. I enjoy that kind of challenge.”

Schools that book the show will receive teaching materials to extend the show’s lessons, Ivey said, such as how to build your own shadow puppet to perform a story of any kind.

“People who have not had the opportunity to witness shadow puppetry performances will be delighted in seeing how much of your imagination is engaged during the performance, and how important it is for youngsters to have that experience,” Ivey said. “We thought this would be a beautiful offering to our local students in the elementary schools.”

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