Puppets around the world!

I think my love of puppets started with watching Fraggle Rock with my dad every week. From there I couldn’t get enough! I even had a portable puppet theatre that was designed to fit in any doorway, so I could trap my parents in their room as I put on a show for them.

I was able to see a completely different type of puppeteering during my residency in Japan two summers ago. On a day off from kyogen rehearsals, our professor took us to see a bunraku performance. I knew bunraku was a Japanese puppet show, but I didn’t know much else. I was excited to find out that we had tickets for a special learning performance designed for Japanese students! The performance started with a scene from a bunraku play complete with puppeteers, shamisen players and narrators.

Diagram 1. Click to enlarge!

The performers then stopped and started explaining (in Japanese) the mechanics of bunraku. While we were given short English explanations, it was much more fascinating to watch the puppeteers explain how a puppet was operated, even if I couldn’t understand everything they were saying.

Here you can see the head puppeteer's special kimono, hakama (wide-legged pants he wears over the kimono) and elevated shoes.

In bunraku, most puppets have three puppeteers (except for minor puppets, which can be operated by one person). The head and right-hand puppeteer (omo-zukai), the left-handed puppeteer (hidari-zukai) and the feet puppeteer (ashi-zukai). Their duties are described in this diagram (see Diagram 1). As with all Japanese performance, an actor has to spend years of his life perfecting the art. For bunraku, training begins with the feet, then the left hand and the final stage is to master the head and right hand. These levels of training are also denoted by what the puppeteers wear. The foot and left hand puppeteers are dressed in kurogo, or black robes and head coverings. The head and right hand puppeteer wears a traditional kimono, hakama and elevated shoes, so he is very clearly seen.

The fact that the head puppeteer does not wear black is an interesting aspect of Japanese theatre that I noticed during my studies. While character performance ishighly revered in Japan, the audience still expects to see traces of the actor. For instance, sometimes famous kabuki actors will ad-lib during performances with lines from previous plays they have done and audience members will frequently shout out actors’ names during short pauses in the performance. This is also true in bunraku, the audience wants to see the master behind the movements, but also wants to be given the opportunity to completely focus on the puppet.

Continue reading “Puppets around the world!”

The Market has a new look!

If you’ve been in our Market lately, you’ve probably noticed some changes – new colors, new signs, new food! Beginning this month, Whole Foods Market is sponsoring The Market, and they have lots of great plans for making this Museum favorite feel brand new! While all the changes won’t be done until the beginning of October, over the next few months you’ll begin to see the space transform (but don’t worry, it will still be open for play!).

The focus of this renovation is on healthy New England foods – many of the products you’ll find in The Market are brands made right here in Maine! While you can still shop for products and bring them to the register, the exhibit will also have recipes and puzzles (what do you need to make spaghetti?) that will turn choosing items into a fun game. Figuring out which foods go into healthy meals adds an additional interactive element to The Market and will give families an opportunity to take home what they learned from this game and discuss it during mealtimes!

In addition to healthy eating habits, The Market will also be a space to discover multicultural foods. Local fruits and vegetables will be the focus in the renovated produce section, with signage as to where you can find this particular tomato or that ear of corn. Breads from across the globe will be featured in the bakery and ingredients needed to make many multicultural dishes will be on the new shelves and inside the new refrigerator.

The blackboards and food graphics will be familiar to regular Whole Foods Market shoppers. The blackboards are another great way to convey the emphasis on local and healthy foods as the messages will change throughout the year. Aprons and baskets will still be available for all the little shoppers! We’ve already added a feature the parents will be excited about: a bench in The Market which serves as a little rest area. As we all know, The Market (like any grocery store) can get pretty crowded!

I am really excited about these new changes and updates to The Market. It will be fun to see them happen throughout the summer. I am sad that my AmeriCorps term will end before The Market will be fully complete, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye on the blog for updates and the final product!

Join us on the Green!

Practing for the putting contest!

Please join us at the beautiful Nonesuch River Golf Club on September 20 for our 5th Annual Golf Tournament! A fun day for golfers of all levels, the tournament will be an 18-hole scramble with a shotgun start at 9:00 am. There will be many contests with prizes, including a hole-in-one, closest-to-pin, longest drive, putting, and of course the winning team! During lunch there will be a silent auction and we will also be raffling off four tickets to Boston College’s November 20th football game against the University of Virginia.

Nonesuch River Golf Club Course

The fee for the tournament is $150 per person or $525 per foursome (save $75!), and includes continental breakfast, a barbeque lunch, snacks, golf carts and a goody bag for each golfer! There will also be a beverage cart out on the course and a cash bar available throughout the day. To register for the tournament, or for more information contact Alicia at 828-1234, x242 or alicia@kitetails.org.

You can also register online at http://www.kitetails.org/support/fundraising-events/golf/

Gather your friends and Join us on the Green! Hope to see you there!

Interview With “Pinocchio” Cast Members

As the dates of our preview and opening performances draws nearer, I asked five members of the cast of Pinocchio to share their experiences so far. Here is what Claire, Eden, Kaleigh, Michela and Bianca had to say:

Claire Devlin is playing Geppetta the Woodcarver.

1. Why did you decide to do Theatre at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine this summer?

CLAIRE: I missed the last show due to a school trip and I missed performing!
EDEN: It sounded like a lot of fun.
KALEIGH: I decided to do theatre at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine this summer because I was looking for a new adventure and a fun time, a way to occupy my time this summer.
MICHELA: Because it’s awesome here!  This place is my second home.  I love the atmosphere here and all the people too!
BIANCA:  Because I wanted to keep busy, and it’s really fun. I made the mistake of not doing Tomato Plant Girl last summer due to one week of church summer camp and I regretted it. I didn’t want to make that mistake again!

2. What is your favorite warm-up game?  How do you play it?

Eden Dyer is playing Fox the Count.

CLAIRE: I really love the game What Are You Doing? Someone goes onstage and does a gesture, then the second person asks what they’re doing.  The first player says something different than what they’re doing.  Player B has to do that gesture and then player C enters and repeats the game with different gestures.
EDEN: The Park Bench.  You sit next to somebody waiting for the bus and talk to them in character.
KALEIGH: What Are You Doing?
MICHELA:  I like Bus Stop because it gets your brain working.  One person sits at the bus stop, neutral while another person comes up and starts the scene.  As the scene progresses, the neutral actor must come up with an excuse for leaving. Once they leave the actor left will become neutral and a new scene will start.
BIANCA: What Are You Doing? It’s so much fun!

Kaleigh Colson is playing Master Antonio and The Coachman.

3. What is your favorite moment in the play so far?

CLAIRE: I really like the moment when the blue fairy (Bianca Brown) says “Mastroni thows puppets in the fire!” and she says it in funniest way.  It really cracks me up!
EDEN: When Reed attacks the cabinet.
KALEIGH: My favorite moment was when I had to miss a few rehearsals and when I came back everyone was welcoming and happy to see me.
MICHELA: I think when Pinocchio tells the blue fairy about the silver tree in the field of miracles.
BIANCA: Finding out I got to play the blue fairy.  It was good for me, but bad for the actress originally cast in her role. She got sick and I took her place!

4. What is the craziest thing your character does in the play?

Michela Micalizio is playing Mastroni the Puppet Master.

CLAIRE: At one point in the play, I get swallowed by a giant fish.  I’d probably say the part where I build a fire to make the fish sneeze and let us out is pretty crazy.  I do that part with my cast mate, Reed Foehl, who plays Pinocchio.
EDEN: [picks up some bubblegum off the ground]
KALEIGH: I have two roles.  As Master Antonio I think the craziest thing is finding a talking piece of wood.  As the coachman the craziest thing is turning young boys into donkeys.
MICHELA: Everything!  Well, maybe not everything, but he’s a crazy guy!  I think the craziest thing he does is have the sock puppets on all the time.
BIANCA: Talk in baby talk.  All the time!

5. Why do you think people should come see Pinocchio?  What makes it a great show?
CLAIRE: There are a lot of really talented people in this show, which makes it really fun and interesting.  Also, it’s unpredictable, which makes it a fun show to watch.

Bianca Brown is playing Glissandra the Blue Fairy.

EDEN: We’ve worked hard on it and the plotline is pretty good.
KALEIGH: I think you should come to Pinocchio because it’s funny and very family friendly.  What makes the show great is the fact that there is something for everyone from younger to older.  You can’t help but LOVE it!
MICHELA: I think people should come see Pinocchio because of the fun cast and the great story, which make it a FANTASTIC show!
BIANCA: There’s a surprise around every corner.  There’s a great message for kids and humor for everyone.  The cast works really well together and that makes for a great show.

See Claire, Eden, Kaleigh, Michela, Bianca and the rest of the cast of Pinocchio on opening night, Friday, July 23 at 4pm. For tickets visit our website, call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk!

If you’d like to make new friends and have fun in the theatre like these five girls, audition for Beauty and the Beast! Auditions are Monday, August 30 from 3-5pm. We are also offering a free audition workshop on Wednesday, August 25 at 2:30pm so you can prepare! To register for the workshop call 828-1234 x247 or email reba@kitetails.org.

Bee Cam!

I think besides the Dress Up Theatre, the Ranger Station is my favorite place in the Museum & Theatre. I love going in there to watch the turtles swim around and to search for the queen bee. Bees are a little harder to watch than turtles, though, because they move so fast. But now you can see the bees up close and personal with our new bee camera. If you haven’t visited our beehive or you’d like to see what they’ve been up to since you left, here is a quick video I shot:

The bees are only here in the spring and summer months! Don’t miss the chance to search for that ever elusive queen bee (hint: she has a white dot on her back!).

We’re on TV!

I can’t stop watching this YouTube clip. No, it’s not a cat playing the piano – it’s the new public service announcement created for us by WCSH 6! It’s exciting to see my home away from home on TV, of course, but what really keeps me watching is the spirit of play it captures. When I wander the Museum with a regular still camera, I get a lot of fun shots, but parents always seem to duck out of the way. Nathan, who shot the video, was able to capture the joy, exuberance and silliness that parents get to express when they’re at play here with their children. What I see in the PSA that’s so special is the same thing I see every day, but never seem to capture on film: parents and children learning from each other and exploring together.

We can’t thank WCSH and the team behind this PSA – Caroline, Aimee and Nathan – enough for their great work on this! Keep an eye out for the clip the next time you’re watching channel 6!

Crayfish and drum solos…Get to know Ibe Mokeme!

Teaching about culture is no easy task. In a world where we look for categories and definitions, it can be tempting to say “this is what people in Nigeria eat; this is what Nigerian people do for fun.” However, my favorite pastime (hiking) is very different from my brother’s (computer games), and we grew up not only in the same culture, but in the same family! The We Are Maine exhibit takes a different approach; giving children the opportunity to see a Maine child’s life and heritage, and to learn about his traditions in a unique, interactive setting.

This summer and fall, Ibe Mokeme from Peaks Island will be the featured Mainer. His father, Oscar, is from Nigeria, and Oscar has generously loaned the Museum & Theatre many artifacts from Nigeria and Ibe’s life to help demonstrate their story.

Welcome to our table. The food looks good enough to eat!

At Welcome to Our Table, children can play with food Ibe and his family enjoy, including Ibe’s favorite- macaroni and cheese! When exploring the area, examine the types of food, family pictures, and recipes- and ask each other questions. Do you enjoy fish? What ingredients are new to you? This is a wonderful opportunity to talk about the whole foods ingredients come from, and how some food grows in specific places. Don’t forget to take a sniff of some seasonings that are sometimes used by the Mokeme family (the crayfish will knock your socks off!).

Drumming is an important part of Ibe’s family story- he shares a special drum game with his father and they practice traditional dances together. In the Celebrate with Us exhibit there is a hand drum for anyone to try on and costumes that were once worn by Ibe. Around the exhibit you can find Ibe translating simple phrases into Igbo (pronounced ee-bo), a language spoken by many in Nigeria.

We Are Maine is a great opportunity to learn something new and to explore your own heritage. After watching the video of Ibe, record your own video in the Tell Your Story kiosk. We all have a story to tell, and the more we share, the more we will learn about each other and new places!

A Sneak Peek at Pinocchio!

Who doesn’t love Pinocchio? I remember it was one of the first Disney movies that my brother would watch with me because it wasn’t “girly.” When I was a little older, I remember watching what we called a “real people” (not a cartoon!) Pinocchio movie that was much truer to the Carlo Collodi story. The Field of Miracles quickly became my favorite part of the story and I am so glad that the Museum & Theatre production of Pinocchio includes it!

I ventured downstairs to the Dress Up Theatre last night for a mini photo shoot with the cast. First off, let me just say that costumes look AMAZING! Christina, our costume designer and front desk staffer, has outdone herself once again. If she helps you at the front desk be sure to congratulate her (of course, you should see the show first!).

I also met some new faces in the cast and, like all our young actors, they have already immersed themselves into the Museum & Theatre community. One of the greatest things about our theatre program is the welcoming atmosphere created by the young actors. They accept new faces with open arms and wish good luck to those who move on to other activities!  Along with this, they’ve started a new tradition of creating raps for each show. I got a taste of a rap Pinocchio (played by Reed Foehl) created; the audience is really in for a treat!

Though I only saw bits and pieces of scenes, I know this is going to be a fast-paced and engaging production. With the multiple scene changes (aided by a great signpost that you can see on the Pinocchio poster and postcard) and fun costumes, audiences young and old will be on the edge of their seats! Be sure to buy your tickets to see the adventures of Pinocchio as he discovers what it truly means to be a real boy. The show opens in TWO WEEKS!

To buy tickets visit www.kitetails.org, call 828-1234 x231 or stop by our front desk!

How Does it Teach: American Girls Club

Making Victorian silhouettes during American Girls Club: Meet Samantha

I distinctly remember the Christmas I got a cranberry-colored velvet dress with a lace collar. I must have been seven or eight, and it’s not that I was particularly into dresses – but I also received a matching dress (right down to the buttons) for my Samantha doll. My mom had a friend hand-make them both and we have this picture of me and Samantha, perched on a rocking chair, earnestly grinning as only eight-year-olds can. I loved my American Girl dolls dearly (later Felicity came along to keep Samantha company) and everything that came with them. I’m not talking so much about their accessories (though those tiny hairbrushes, pencils, hair ribbons and the like definitely got my heart racing) as their stories. An avid reader from the age of three, I couldn’t get enough of Molly’s adventures in WWII America, Felicity’s colonial escapades, and Kirsten’s life as a pioneer. My dad even tape recorded him reading the entire Molly series when he spent five weeks away from me and my mom one summer. Needless to say, American Girls hold a special place in my heart.

Final "Me and my doll" silhouette product!

Fast-forward to today, when I get to lead our American Girls Club meetings with my co-worker, Louisa. I can’t even tell you how incredible it is to talk about women’s suffrage, the Underground Railroad, and environmentalism with groups of young girls who are already empowered to a point that is breathtaking. At the last club meeting, during our introductions, I asked the girls to share one thing that they love about being a girl. One, comfortably shifting around in her mother’s lap, shrugged her shoulders and said, “well, I like being a girl because… because I really just feel so free! Like I feel free to do whatever I want, because I’m a girl!” I smiled and told her that was a perfect reason, and in a blink of an eye thought about how far we’ve come. By learning the stories of Addie and Molly, Samantha and Josefina, we teach our daughters about history – not just of women and girls, but of our country — in a way that deeply means something to them.

Visit our calendar of events for the dates and times of the American Girls Club. The next one is this Sunday, July 11 at 3:30pm. We’ll be learning about Julie and her life in 1970s America!

A simple toy spawns chaos!

This month, for Cool Science, we are playing with magnets and pendulums.  A pendulum is simply an object that can swing freely back and forth.  An everyday example is a swing on a swing set.  By adding a magnet to the bottom of a simple pendulum, and putting magnets on the ground near where it’s swinging, the path of the pendulum changes in unpredictable ways.  In fact, I claim that the pendulum’s path becomes so unpredictable that every person has a nearly equal chance of guessing its movements a few seconds before they happen.  Its movement is chaotic, meaning that it’s different every time, depending on the exact starting positions of the magnets below the pendulum, and the pendulum itself.  A packaged toy called a “ROMP,” which stands for “Random Oscillating Magnetic Pendulum” accomplishes the same experiment we’re doing here.

This “Random Oscillating Magnetic Pendulum” is similar to the experiment Hannah leads during Cool Science.

Pendulums and magnetism are both classic physics topics many kids will study in school as they get older.  Besides being fun to play with, swinging things and magnets provide the hands-on experiences that are at the heart of truly grasping these concepts in physics.   Perhaps more importantly, the magnet portion of this program is an opportunity for inquiry-based guidance, which means that when I lead the program, I’ll give kids toys to play with (the magnets), and ask questions to encourage them to learn from their experiences.  We might make piles of things the magnets can pick up, and things the magnets can’t pick up.  For this sort of sorting, I might ask “What’s the same about the things in these two piles?  What is different?” This past weekend, a young boy told me that magnets can’t pick up other magnets, only metal: magnets repel other magnets.  He then proved his own statement wrong by using a magnet to pick up an object he identified as another magnet.  These moments of proving oneself wrong are what being a scientist is all about.

Plus, the complex, chaotic movement of the magnetic pendulum swinging near other magnets is bizarre enough to evoke curiosity and wonder no matter how old you are: that’s why it qualifies as cool science!

Join us this month for Cool Science: Pendulum Play on Friday, July 16 at 3:30pm and Sunday, July 17 at 11:30am and 3pm.