In January, Acting Up! launched a new workshop both for children aged 0-3 and 3-6 and educators/artists. The theme of the workshop, which has been funded by an Irish arts council bursary is the grotesque style and the puppets of Vitalijus Mazuras in Lithuania, now aged 84!!!
Some questions I asked myself with this process:
can puppetry that is so traditional and rooted in one culture offer anything to a brand new population in another culture?
is grotesque appealing as a style? Both as a spectator and as a performer?
why is it difficult to create in the grotesque style for some artists?
what is intergenerational artistic co-operation like?
will there be any interest in my proposal!!!
The workshop toured three venues over the course of a week in Ireland along with a storytelling session for a very young audience. I answered many of my questions but of course, created many more! I discovered that it is as important to have support and understanding from the venue offering the experience, as it is from the parents and children who attend. When offering an artist in a venue with an experience for young audiences, or even babies, it is important that the room is ready when the artist arrives, that the heating is on and a welcome is extended. This makes artist and public feel appreciated and valued as members of society. I discovered that actors can find puppetry a huge challenge… and also that the grotesque style is hugely appealing to all!!! Of course, it depends how the puppets are handled. If you use them to scare the audience, they are twice as scary. But when they are shy to appear and generous with their presence, taking time to establish a relationship with the babies/toddlers at close range, then it is a different story.
I discovered that I am good at interaction and asking questions. And I discovered that when it works, the children do not want to see me any more – they want the puppet back … in one setting it was so difficult to say goodbye to Ana the witch because the children had taken out their reading books from the book corner to share with her … to say thank you for coming to visit them!
I discovered that there are superb early years educators in Ireland with fabulous creativity and curiosity. It was a pleasure to meet you all!
My research will result in a video about the mentorship with the legendary Vitalijus Mazuras, a new performance for 0-6 years with his handmade puppets for me and CPD workshop experiences for educators and artists in the field.
Many thanks to An Grianan in Letterkenny, An Tain in Dundalk and ECI headquarters in Tallaght.