Shadow Workshop for Teachers: The Art of Puppetry in Education and Therapy, UK

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On 26th -31st August 2015, the London School of Puppetry (LSP) UK ran a week-long program on the Art of Puppetry in Education and Therapy, focusing on Shadow Puppetry. I ran this course with Caroline Astell-Burt, who is the school’s Director of Studies and author of “I am the Story“, a wonderfully practical manual for puppetry in teaching and therapy. She is also a dedicated researcher (she holds two MA’s from Middlesex University and Royal Holloway University of London in performance and performance research and is currently a PhD candidate at Loughborough University and looking at a rare form of Japanese puppetry called ‘Otome Bunraku’).


The participants included 4 kindergarten teachers from Boston USA, an Artist from Spain and students from the London School of Puppetry. They explored various shadow puppetry techniques through play – including body shadows, dancing with cellophane, operating large and small-scale puppets, creating miniature shadow worlds and recreating fairy tales using shadows. Part of the course also involved looking at how shadow puppetry can be applied to therapy. Caroline Astell-Burt ran a session on facilitating forum theatre using an overhead projector, as well as creating shadow stories with people with Special Needs. Kate James-Moore (from Commedia Puppets in London) also ran a session about exploring shadow puppetry and mental illness, which involved unraveling and transforming ready-made baskets (which was a reversal of typical ‘basket weaving’ activities offered to patients in hospitals and therapy).

I created a series of videos to show what the workshop participants came up with, which can be viewed here:

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Playing with shadows (body shadows, exploring overhead projectors, trying out all kinds of shadow puppets)

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Making our own shadow screens

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Making coloured shadow puppets (using paper, paint, oil and PVA glue)

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3D shadows

For more info about LSP go to www.londonschoolofpuppetry.com

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar! Giant Puppets in the UK

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In July 2015, I volunteered as a puppet maker for the Cock and Bull Festival, a music festival near Bath (UK) run by Jamie’s Farm, a charity that’s transforming the lives of vulnerable children in challenging urban schools. The organisation provides a unique combination of farming, family and therapy through a short stay residential and follow up programme. 

I worked with the amazingly creative and talented Ben Reynolds, Camillia Langoux, puppeteer Emma Fisher (from Beyond the Bark Theatre) and a myriad of friendly volunteers to construct a giant puppet of a caterpillar, complete with articulated legs, antennae that lit up like light sabers and a body that could change colours to resemble colossal Christmas lights. It was created to fit in with the festival’s theme, ‘Insect-i-cider’ and made its sweeping debut at the festival’s big parade.

How did our team come together you may ask? Emma met Ben and Camillia at the Giant Puppet Project in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and this is the same project that I volunteered for in 2011 with Emma (you can see our fun photos and videos here). Em and I studied together at the London School of Puppetry and she’s a very good friend (I even stayed with her family once for an Irish Christmas in Limerick!).

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Unlike the Giant Puppet Project in Cambodia (where we had what seemed like a squillion children and volunteers to help create the puppets), our caterpillar puppet team was comparatively tiny but mighty. We built the puppet using cane, tissue paper, PVA glue, masking tape and LOTS of cable ties. I had made giant puppets before but this was the first time I had to shoo away a goat during construction! Ah the novelty of puppet making on a farm 🙂

Kay's paper cut-outs for the giant caterpillar My favourite part of the process was creating the decorative paper cuttings for the caterpillar (seen in the photo above). I used black paper that I folded and cut with scissors and a craft knife. See if you can spot the insect, farming and cider references 🙂

I also very much enjoyed the many farm and insect-related costume puns that went around during the festival, including ‘House fly’ (wearing a house with wings), Venus Fly Trap Williams (A tennis racquet with wings), and my personal favourite ‘I can’t believe it’s not butterfly’ (i.e. a person wearing a giant margarine costume with antennae).

Here are some videos of the Giant Caterpillar in action:

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Caterpillar Highlights (video by Michael Grubb Studio – Creative Lighting Design Agency)

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Caterpillar Parade: Emerging out of the barn and straight to a big parade of dancers, musicians and merry festival goers. Watch for the moment when it ‘releases’ an apple and someone goes to pick it up… and eat it!

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Caterpillar Concert: After the parade, the sun goes down and the fun continues! The caterpillar decides to check out a concert – watch it light up and dance 🙂

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Dance Caterpillar Dance! See the caterpillar rock to the music one more time!

The festival itself was great fun. We camped in tents, ate delicious fare (like wood fired pizzas and BBQ burgers) while sitting on hay bales, tried a ukulele workshop (which sparked a new hobby!), and danced along to some amazing live music – everything from African Rumba, Gypsy folk to Electronic Pop, all while dressed up as insects (my little costume was a ‘Veggie-mite’, paying homage to my Aussie homeland). 

If you’re in the UK this summer, why not go along to Cock and Bull 2016? (22nd-24th July, 2016). The theme this year is ‘Turnip the Beet’ and the puns are already mounting (Rhubarba Streisand, Elvis Cressley and Tina Turnip to name a few!).

For more information about the Cock and Bull Festival and Jamie’s Farm, go to http://cockandbullfestival.co.uk

or check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cockandbullfestival

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Spiders, Masks and a Giant Moon: Visiting Théâtre du Loup in Geneva

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was very excited to visit Théâtre du Loup in Geneva in July 2015. Arguably the ‘Bread and Puppet’ of Switzerland, the dynamic community theatre company was founded in 1978 by Veronique Berthet, Eric Jeanmonod and Sandro Rossetti. A large part of the company’s history was creating puppets to parade in the streets, and in the early days they were part of a theatre collective called ‘The Red Moon’. I was thrilled to have a tour of the theatre and to see many puppets, masks and props that were used in previous shows, as well as take a look at costume designs and photos. My favourite display was the spider!


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Here be Dragons: The Dragon Project with Shopfront

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In May-June 2015, I ran a 9 week puppetry project at Athelstane Public School (a primary school in south Sydney), collaborating with the youth theatre company Shopfront as part of their Room 13 program. Room 13 is supported by Arts NSW & Australia Council for the Arts Fresh AIR 2014-2016 Artist in Residence program funding. The aim of the Artist in Residence program is to improve children and young people’s access to quality school-based arts education by supporting professional artists in residence in public schools. It encourages longer term engagement between artists and public schools with residencies of a minimum of one month.

I worked with students in Grade 3-6 (i.e. 8-12 year olds) including a group  of students with Specials Needs to explore the concept of dragons through drawing, writing, music and puppetry. We made paper puppets, recorded dragon sounds in the playground, wrote stories and drew many, many dragon pictures. We also learned about how different cultures view this mythical creature – from the ‘dark and evil’ dragon vanquished by St George, to the ‘holy, lucky and noble’ dragons revered in Eastern cultures.

The project was inspired by a story that I had started writing called “The Dragon Who Loses its Scales”, which explores themes of bullying, kindness and working together. Each student who participated in the project was given a large ‘dragon scale’ to decorate and attach to a giant parade dragon, which was performed for the school’s Multicultural Day celebrations. The scales had words and pictures to represent peace, friendship, joy (and many had references to the students’ favourite football teams!)

I had become interested in the potential of therapeutic storytelling to touch on difficult issues (like bullying) using an open-ended and creative approach that draws on the power of the story. I was drawn to the symbol of the dragon because of its fascinating complexity – for it can embody darkness, anger and destruction but can also be protective and brave. I think we all have an ‘inner dragon’ and there is much to discover about ourselves when we encounter them. A book that was very helpful for going through this process was “Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour” by Susan Perrow. The project was a fantastic experience that I hopes to develop it further in the future.

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Chickens and Monkeys and Ducks – Oh My! Making Puppets for The Wizard of Oz

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Duckling puppet by Kay Yasugi

Pupperoos got their biggest commission to date when a Sydney-based school approached me to create a whole zoo of animal puppets for their high school musical production of The Wizard of Oz in February 2015. I made 1 Mother duck, 2 hens, 3 flying monkeys, 4 giant butterflies, 6 ducklings, 6 crows, several shadow puppets and a zillion snowflakes! A highlight was also making a giant ‘sparkle ball’ out of fairy lights and plastic cups to represent Glinda’s mode of transport (as we all know, that Good Witch travels by bubble). Apart from making the puppets, I also enjoyed working with the young students to operate the puppets and choreograph a shadow sequence for the show. Below are some photos from the project (some of which feature my dog Louie, who couldn’t resist photo-bombing some shots and taking on the role of ‘Toto’. What can I say – I think my terrier has grandiose dreams of the stage).


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Puppets and Puppies: Woof-Fest 2015

woof fest resized On 8th March 2015, Pupperoos was invited to a furry, friendly (and predominantly four-legged) festival in Western Sydney called “Bungarribee Woof-Fest”. We ran a dog-themed sock puppet workshop as part of this annual dog festival in Doonside, which is hosted by the Western Sydney Parklands Trust. The festival is located at Bungarribee, which has a large dog leash-free area on site and perfect for a fun day out with family, friends, kids and ‘fur-kids’. There were doggy caricature artists, celebrity vets, dog agility and obedience demos, doggy product stalls, sausage sizzles (and ‘hot dogs’!) and, of course, dog shows!

Kay Yasugi with Lindy Jane (LJ) the ventriloquist and her dog puppet 'Doggus Interruptus'

Kay Yasugi with Lindy Jane (LJ) the ventriloquist and her dog puppet ‘Doggus Interruptus’

For more information about the festival check out https://www.westernsydneyparklands.com.au/things-to-do/events-and-programs/wooffest/

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UNIMA Puppetry Master Class with Simon T. Rann from Compagnie Philippe Genty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In February 2015, Master Puppeteer Simon T. Rann from Compagnie Philippe Genty ran two master class workshops in both Melbourne and NSW. I attended the NSW workshop which was run as a wonderful weekend away in Mittagong (1.5 hrs south of  Sydney). The course aimed to explore visual theatre, especially the use of puppetry and object manipulation. There was foil. There was paper. There were rolls of cling film and oceans of plastic drop sheets – all of which were crushed, crinkled, cut (and sometimes caressed) in the aim to explore the limits of what the material could communicate. The experience was surreal and liberating! There were also sessions on puppetry technique – learning about basic principles in bringing a puppet to life. We enjoyed not only working with each other but also having meals together and sharing lots of puppetry fellowship.

NSW Workshop Participants

NSW Workshop Participants

The workshop was open to performers from different disciplines: puppeteers, actors, dancers, performance artists, physical theatre practitioners and to artists working in the related disciplines of puppet making, sculpting, costume design etc. This open invitation drew participants from all different fields of work, including puppeteers, teachers, therapists and even a lawyer and veterinarian/researcher! People also came from Melbourne, Regional VIC, Queensland, Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong and Sydney, as well as the NSW Southern Highlands. The workshops were proudly presented by UNIMA Australia and Mots de Tête Compagnie (France). www.unima.org.au http://motsdetetecompagnie.com/

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Pupperoos goes to the Festival de Marionnettes in France

France collage resized From 18th-20th July 2014, a myriad of French and international performers showcased their puppet shows to enthusiastic crowds of both children and adults. There were tiny puppets in trees, giant puppets in markets, dark tales in the forest, strange mechanical bicycles on the street and lots of meals with puppeteers and puppetry enthusiasts. Set in the picturesque town of Poët Laval in the south-east of France, a rustic farm estate was transformed into a buzzing summer puppet festival. This was the Festival de Marionettes, organised by puppeteer and director Deborah Maurice, who was hosting the event for the fifth year in a row. paper workshopI accompanied the London School of Puppetry to the festival and ran a paper puppetry workshop for adults. I also got to perform my little table top show, “Coffee and Dessert” (featuring a cheeky little mouse and an old lady with a penchant for Yorkshire tea and cake) for the Dîner Spectacle (‘Dinner Show’). I put together a photo story which was featured in the UNIMA Oz Magazine, which you can check out here: http://www.unimaoz.org/40258/23/

The festival is now going on it’s 7th year from 22nd – 31st July, 2016. http://www.spectable.com/7eme-festival-de-marionnettes-aux-estampes-les-samildanach/248628/303942

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Pupperoos goes on Play School


Kay Yasugi being filmed running a kids’ puppet workshop for Play School

Pupperoos was very excited to be invited onto the children’s television programme Play School in their “Through the Windows” segment! This was part of their ‘Making Puppets‘ episodes, which were aired in July 2014 on ABC4KIDS (ABC2). A team from Play School came to film Kay and other puppeteers at the Maldon Puppet Carnival in Maldon, Victoria. The puppet festival went from 8th-10th March 2014 and showcased puppet shows and workshops for children and adults. The Puppets series aired again on ABC iview in November 2014 and has continued to be re-aired on ABC4KIDS. Check out Play School at http://www.abc.net.au/abcforkids/sites/playschool/videos/episodes/  (Check out the ‘Puppets 2’ and ‘Puppets 4’ episodes). 

Play School Puppet Theme: http://www.abc.net.au/abcforkids/sites/playschool/about/weeklythemes/?theme=4044271

Kay also shared her reflections on the Maldon Puppet Carnival in an issue of the Oz Puppetry Email Newsletter (OPEN), published on April 2014: After two years since the successful Tarrengower Puppet Festival, the picturesque country town of Maldon, Victoria was once again buzzing with puppetry. Streets were filled with excited crowds, colourful puppet characters and lots of white vans (a tell-tale sign that puppeteers were in town!). Even ABC’s Children’s Television show Play School came to visit for a day to film some of the puppetry happenings! There were puppet shows to suit all ages and tastes ranging from fractured fairy tales, traditional Punch and Judy, a blacklight show set in space, a shadow show about death and a chance to witness some surreal and surprising puppet surgery. The Puppet Slam organised by Black Hole Theatre was a particular treat for adult audiences who in one evening were ‘ambushed’ (as this was the theme) with a smorgasbord of visual and musical delights including dancing zombies, existential Grim Reapers, political satire and a cheeky Italian Pulcinella who refused to pay his taxes.

Max Dohle with his bird cane puppet

Max Dohle with his bird cane puppet

A personal highlight was running a bamboo/cane puppetry workshop, where participants transformed humble sticks of bamboo and cane into canoes, cherubs, bees, eagles and sharks. After covering them in lights and glow sticks, we then took part in a night parade where the puppets made their ‘glowing’ debut alongside other wacky puppets of the night. One of my favourite aspects of the festival was spending time with other puppeteers – sharing stories, puppet building tips and our mutual love of this amazing art form. There are many people that helped to make this festival happen, and special credits go to Artistic Director Richard Hart for organising such a fantastically diverse puppetry programme, Production Manager Rebecca Anderson and the Maldon team (including Pam Lyons, Harry Koponen and Kelly Murphy) for working their magic behind the scenes, and the amazing tech, sound and lighting provided by Outlook Communications (Greg Ginger).

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Teacher Training Workshops and Lectures: Puppetry for the ESL Classroom


On 4th September 2014, Kay Yasugi visited Sydney University to speak with the Third Year Primary Education students about using puppetry with ESL (English as a Second Language) students. She ran the puppetry lecture with Kate Harris, who is a primary school teacher and tutor at Sydney University. The session included a wide range of puppets suitable for various ages and needs; instructions on simple puppet making and operating; and practical ideas for using puppetry in daily teaching.

Kay ran a similar workshop for Primary Education students at the University of Technology Kuring-gai on 24th March 2015.

Puppetry is accessible to all ages across the primary years and beyond, as well as uniquely engaging for students with Special Needs or Non-English Speaking Backgrounds. It is a powerful tool for communication and fostering literacy in the modern classroom to make learning fun, meaningful and dynamic!

If you are interested in having teacher training workshops with Pupperoos, please contact Kay at info@pupperoos.com

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