Cambodia Trip Inspires Puppetry

Isabel Owens, Lifestyle Editor

Jill Langston’s Art 2 and Advanced Art classes and Jamie Donohoe’s Drama 2 classes are collaborating to create shadow puppet performances inspired by Langston’s trip to Cambodia.

“There’s an orphanage that makes shadow puppets. We went out to the orphanage and that was the idea behind this, to raise money by selling these puppets for the orphanage in Cambodia,” said Langston.

“The orphans make these amazing shadow puppets out of leather and they’re all based on the tale of the Ramayana and so we started to figure out what kind of story we could do and we came up with Alice,” she added, referring to a Sanskrit epic poem ascribed to the Hindu sage and Sanskrit poet Valmiki. “They make these puppets to bring in money for their program. That was the inspiration for this project and it’s still the hope that we can raise some money for them,” Langston said.

Though Langston originally hoped to hold a performance on campus, time constraints have prohibited this from happening. “We pulled way back. Langston originally wanted to do something after school to raise money and have it be this cool night, but after we got into it she realized that’s too big of a scope for this year,” Donohoe said.

The art classes started their projects right after spring break, but according to Langston, AP testing, Smarter Balance testing, and finals have taken away from time for the project. “I’m not sure if we’ll have a reception or a performance this year or maybe do something around it next year at the beginning,” she said.

“We’re running out of time because it’s the end of the year, but the puppets are coming along well and the scripts are coming along well and we’re just getting to start to collaborate so we’ll definitely get the [in-class] plays and the puppets done,” she added.

Because Langston’s students “tend not to be as good at performance,” she asked Donohoe for his students to voice the scenes. “I think that they’ll [the art students will] probably work their puppets and drama will provide the voices and I think that they’ll probably provide some helpful hints on how my students can perform better with their puppets,” Langston said.

“I didn’t know much about shadow puppets so she [Langston] taught me a little bit about it and it sounded like something new that we had never done before so I was definitely willing to jump in and learn,” said Donohoe.

Each of Donohoe’s 6th period students will provide voice for a different character. “They took Alice in Wonderland, the book itself, and took scenes from it and basically just edited them down to the dialogue,” said Donohoe.

“They are learning those scripts and they actually performed them for us, or part of them for us, 6th period last week. They’re going to do more of that today [May 26] and then we’re going to pair them up with their puppet groups and start performing with the puppets,” Langston said.

“We are getting together with them in groups and talking about what kind of characters they’ve made and how we can incorporate them into the scripts, and we’ve been running through the scripts doing some voice work so they can get a feel of how they’ll need to work the puppets or their characters to make it all flow together,” said sophomore Drama 2 student Kendall Schmidt.

According to Donohoe, performances will take place during 6th period next Thursday and Friday. The set-up will be in Langston’s room. “It’s a big white sheet and Polina’s putting together the sheet. It’s going to have lights behind it and the puppets are going to be on sticks and they’ll be behind the sheets performing and you’ll just see the shadows moving,” explained Langston.

According to sophomore Art 2 student Mariah Brown, each group will put on a scene with a unique theme. “They can be in any style the groups want, so we have Alice in space, a scene inspired by shadow puppets from Thailand, and a lot of other styles,” she said.

“My group is doing the scene where Alice talks to the flowers. We changed it a little bit by making the flowers into flower girls and the scene is set in a high school,” Brown added. “Each member of our group created 1 character or 1 piece of scenery. We just came up with a lot of ideas when we were starting and it was the one Ms. Langston liked the best.”

“This one’s actually pretty cute. This is Alice talking to the flowers and the flowers are mean girls and everything’s been brought up to modern times and they text,” said Langston of Brown’s group.

Langston said “There’s a Thai inspired group, a surrealist group, an Over the Garden Wall group, a Mardi Gras inspired group, Alice and the Cheshire cat in space. This drawing is actually floating around here, Grant’s got it, and it’s Alice meets the Cheshire cat in outer space, and Carl’s got the Cheshire cat who’s part spaceship, part cat.”

“I’m doing Tweedle Dum for the scene with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” said Schmidt. “I think it’s going pretty well. We’ve done some voice work on it. We haven’t gotten extremely far yet but we’ve made progress.”