Puppet play is easy and affordable to explore at home. All you need is a spare sock plus buttons and some embroidery floss, or two pieces of felt plus scissors and some glue. Using puppets exercises the imagination, promotes storytelling and gives kids a non-threatening way to express their thoughts and feelings.
Taking children to see puppet theater performances when they’re young is a great way to introduce live theater and give kids practice with theater etiquette like sitting down and staying quiet until performers finish their show. Nowadays puppetry for grown-ups is plenty popular too, as evidenced by this sampling of upcoming shows filled with puppet power…
Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix has a repertoire of more than 50 shows, including original stories, classic fairy tales and educational shows. They’re currently performing “The Princess, the Unicorn, and the Smelly Foot Troll” — and readying for unicorn puppet Princess Harriet’s party on Aug. 26, which features an afternoon of themed activities, character appearances and tasty cake. Great Arizona Puppet Theater performs “Baby Bear Goes to School” Aug. 29-Sept. 16, “Jack Rabbit & the Desert Tortoise” Sept. 19-30 and “Little Bunny’s Halloween” Oct. 3-31 — plus more shows in coming months. They also present puppet slams featuring “quirky edgy puppeteers” for adults only, which are currently scheduled for Sept. 7-8 and Oct. 5-6. azpuppets.org.
East Valley Children’s Theatre in Mesa presents two puppet shows as part of its 2012-13 season. Both “Go, Dog Go” (Sept. 29) and “Scared Silly” (Oct. 27) are interactive puppet shows, featuring “puppet lady” Katie Cathcart, and will be performed at the EVCT rehearsal studios. evct.org.
Higley Center for the Performing Arts presents three puppet shows as part of its 2012-13 season. Great Arizona Puppet Theater performs “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” (Oct. 9, with student shows Oct. 4-5) and “Hotel Saguaro” (March 12, with student shows April 25-26). Regular shows are followed by a make-and-take puppet activity for ticketholders. Enchantment Theater Company performs “The Velveteen Rabbit” (Feb. 10, with student show Feb. 11) with life-size puppets, masks and magic. higleyarts.org.
Theater Works Puppet Works in Peoria presents four puppet shows for children ages three and up during its 2012-13 season. “Boo! A Halloween Spooktacular” (Oct. 13-27) features a glow-in-the-dark experience. “The Reluctant Dragon” (Nov. 10) is a show created and performed by David Stephens, who has worked with Muppet Studios, Sesame Workshop and The Jim Henson Company. “Elf Initiation” and “Saving Santa” (Dec. 1-22) feature quirky elves and animated presents. “Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk” (March 2-23) is a tale of magic, greed and revenge based on the book by Caldecott Medal winner Gerald McDermott. theaterworks.org.
Space 55 in Phoenix presents “Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings” by playwright Greg Romero (Dec. 1-16). It’s the tale of a plastic water bottle named Sam who embarks on an epic journey — aided by a a blue crab, a parrot and a sea turtle — after losing her parents in lonely, swirling vortex of trash floating in the ocean. The show features music and puppets made from recycled materials. space55.org.
ASU Gammage in Tempe presents “War Horse” (Feb. 5-10) as part of its 2012-13 Broadway Across America season. The play imagines a boy’s journey to find the horse his father sold to the calvary during World War I. “War Horse,” which earned the 2011 Tony Award for best play, features life-size puppets — including a comical goose, soaring birds and breathing, galloping horses strong enough for men to ride — created by South Africa’s award-winning Handspring Puppet Company. asugammage.com.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presents three touring puppetry productions during its 2012-13 season. Mermaid Theatre of Novia Scotia performs “A Brown Bear, a Moon and a Caterpillar: Treasured Stories of Eric Carle” (Feb. 24), which blends visual and performing arts with the pleasures of reading. The Cashore Marionetttes performs “Simple Gifts” (March 3), which sets a series of touching portrayals and poignant scenes from everyday life against music by Vivaldi, Strauss, Beethoven, Copland and other composers. Both events feature a free family activity for ticket holders. Phantom Limb Company performs “69°S.” (May 4), which explores Sir Ernest Shackelton’s 1914 trans-Antarctic expedition using theatrical performance, puppetry, photography, film and original music. scottsdaleperformingarts.org.
Mesa Arts Center presents “Dinosaur Petting Zoo” by Erth’s Visual and Physical Inc. (March 18-19). It’s a “journey through prehistoric ages” featuring giant puppets, stilt-walkers and inflatable environments, plus aerial and flying creatures. mesaartscenter.com.
Childsplay in Tempe presents a touring production of “Boats,” by Finegan Kruckemeyer, performed by Terrapin Puppet Theater of Tasmania (March 30-31). It’s a tale of two lifelong friends set adrift on the ocean, told using puppetry, sound effects and acrobatics. childsplayaz.org.