I wrote a puppet play called "Don’t Just Look." As we rehearsed the puppet play with the required social distancing and masks, I noticed a phenomenon. Puppetry has a healing power.
I was unaware of the documented power of healing from puppets. I just knew they were fun and I used them in my kindergarten teaching. I found the puppets in my classroom a good way to understand what the children were thinking. I did not know they are helpful at all ages.
Puppets have existed for some time and used in many places in the world. It is believed puppets were developed in India possibly as far back as 1000 B.C. Puppetry in the United States is said to be one of the oldest types of performance art. The earliest traditions were imitations of old-world forms brought to this country by immigrants from Italy, France and Great Britain.
For HMTC’s first puppet play, master puppeteer, Mark Saltzman, gave a workshop to teach the elements in the Henson tradition. Learning to perform with puppets is a skill and our cast did a marvelous job learning all the elements. The puppet play we are doing discusses bullying. One of our new puppeteers has experienced bullying to a big extent in his youth and was willing to discuss it extensively after rehearsal. He said this puppet show was therapeutic to revisit this wound and come to terms with it.
We also had a HMTC member lend his voice talent for several puppets in this project. He was more than happy to record his variety of voices on a microphone with a 10-foot mic cord. He said he was grateful to do something artistic with the puppets. Our acting classes and events were postponed until 2021 and he sorely needed this artistic opportunity. He said it was good for his soul to participate with the puppet show.
Three home-schooled teens assisted the puppet production, as well. They maneuvered the puppets for the recording. I could see that they looked forward to participating. The newness of the activity seemed to liven them.
I am currently editing the puppet show recording, I am finding it very calming. I feel a sense of peace utilizing creative energy. This peaceful feeling spurred me to search for more puppets to use in our theater. I googled ethnic puppets for a future puppet production. This is when I came to the realization that puppets must have therapeutic qualities. In fact, according to Michaela Glöckler, M.D., puppets do have therapeutic and even spiritual qualities.
She states that, “The puppetry impulse is one of the most important art therapy impulses for the coming century. Why? Because with hand and string puppets something is possible that cannot be achieved in theater or in movies, namely that the spiritual and soul expressions of the players are completely in the service of the images that are created with the help of the puppets.” She goes on to say, “The marionette play is, for adults, a conscious, and for children, an unconscious, education in imaginative vision, and therefore it is an activator of the highest order of the forces of self-healing.”
I knew that puppets were special. I agree that puppets have a therapeutic effect. I find puppetry necessary for any theater company.
Silvia Gonzalez Scherer
November 1, 2020
Silvia Gonzalez Scherer is the Executive Artistic Director and co-founder of the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company. She is also a playwright and an actress.
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