This is Eddie. He is a shy rabbit puppet that I made last week in a workshop about art therapy – using art and drama to get kids talking about and expressing their emotions. The second part of the workshop was puppets. Puppets are apparently really good at getting kids talking and interacting in ways they might not talk to grownups. Why? The puppet is not an adult, an authority figure, someone you might get in trouble with; the puppet is usually smaller than the kid – less threatening than talking to a big person; and a puppet can talk or act in a way that a grownup might not be able to pull off convincingly – it can break social norms, ask personal questions, be ignorant of things that kids or grownups should know, play up it’s responses to certain prompts. Kids can build up relationships with puppets over time – in a classroom or a therapy context.
One of the important things about using puppets is to maintain the puppet’s character, and not do anything to break the suspension of disbelief – don’t put on or set up the puppet in front of the kids; if the puppet is visible make sure it has a lifelike stance – perhaps propped up in a special spot, definitely not lying collapsed and lifeless on a desk. The puppet needs to be a person, with a background, a character, a voice, opinions, etc. Eddie is a very shy puppet who doesn’t talk much, but he’s quite affectionate, snuffling at people’s noses and giving them kisses. The other puppets of Eddie’s class we all quite extraverted puppets. Here they all are, from left to right: Eddie, Dude, Croby and Mad King Richard.
I’m very intruiged by this puppet stuff. Some more reading is definitely on the list.
The first part of the workshop was playing with different sorts of materials – pens and pencils, paint, chalks, bits of wire, playdough, and two types of goopy, slimy stuff.The task was to go around to each of the stations, play with the materials, and for each material write down a thought and a feeling that that material prompted. Afterwards we talked about them. It was interesting how different people responded to materials in different ways – some people loved the slime, other people (including me) found it quite disgusting. Materials as tools for prompting discussion is something I’m quite a fan of – I’m not naturally good at the talking to people thing, so I like having something to help me out. Photo-elicitation, using photos as a discussion prompt, is a similar technique in a different context – anthropology/social sciences, and one that I’m quite a fan of. Using materials the same way could make for an interesting research study, say into people’s conceptions of waste and rubbish – what is and isn’t ‘rubbish’, what’s the definition of ‘gross’ (for example, for some people just being in a rubbish bin is enough to make an item irretrievably gross, but others (like me) are willing to rescue it as long as it’s clean).
Altogether it was a very interesting workshop. Thanks to the lovely people from Communicare who came and ran it for us.