On Thursday evening, October 24, student performers from the Thunder Mountain High School drama department will join more than 150 elementary students in the Glacier Valley School commons to perform the culmination on an ambitious puppetry project, led by Juneau-based teaching artist Ryan Conarro.
The project — “Puppetry: Strong Characters, Expansive Imaginations” — has been ongoing for two months, with the high schoolers and the Glacier Valley third, fourth, and fifth grade students — seven classrooms altogether — building a variety of puppet forms, including shadow, rod, and bunraku puppets, as well as marionettes.
“This Artist In Schools residency is exciting in so many ways,” said Conarro. “It brings together multiple art forms — visual and performing arts — as well as bringing together two school communities in the valley. Many of the TMHS drama students were Glacier Valley students themselves. Our puppetry focus creates an opportunity for teachers to collaborate with each other in new ways.”
The elementary and high school students will perform a series of stories in a unique roving performance event that will move throughout Glacier Valley School. The stories focus on character strengths — Glacier Valley’s theme for positive school atmosphere this year. The high school puppets begin the event, performing a story with their blatch puppets (a Muppet-like design), in which the characters fall asleep and must gather a number of positive traits in order to awaken from their dream. Then, the high school puppeteers will guide audience members through the school building, visiting classrooms to witness the elementary students’ puppet performances, each focusing on a different character strength.
“The teachers have drawn on research from an organization called KIPP NYC, in which a number of ‘Character Strengths’ are identified as key factors for positive personal development,” Conarro said. “The traits are great — they’re juicy, abstract words, like ‘zest’ and ‘optimism.’”
The finale performance for the project will be Thursday evening at Glacier Valley School, beginning at 6 p.m. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.
This project is made possible by the Alaska State Council on the Arts Artists In Schools program which receives funding support from the Alaska State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, with additional support from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Glacier Valley Parent Group, and the TMHS Drama Department.