Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our local newspaper, The Nisqually Valley News,
published this rockin' article this week:
Program offers hands-on fun

Puppetry is an ancient art form that has meaning and purpose in today’s world.

“Our children respond with enthusiasm and big hearts to the hands-on, living experience that making and using puppets offers them,” said Jeannie Isaacs, owner of Acorn & Rose Puppet Theater.

In her Young Author Programs, Isaacs (sometimes known as Molly Piper, author, designer and illustrator of several books) has worked with more than 75,000 students, parents and teachers across Washington. Last year, she was offered a grant to teach creative writing to fifth- and sixth-graders at Lackamas Elementary in Yelm. But her students declared they were burned-out at the end of long days preparing for standardized testing.

“They were hungry for hands-on, interactive activities,” Isaacs said. “They needed to do something beyond pencil and paper, to bring something to life.”

That’s when she got another grant from the iCreate Program, this time for puppetry. Isaacs had worked as an artist and teacher most of her life, but taking the step into puppetry expanded her and the students beyond her wildest expectations.

“I believed I had done it all — drawing, painting, sculpting, design, carpentry, writing. Then I had this chance to teach puppetry, and every skill I ever developed took on new use and meaning,” Isaacs said. “It was a fabulous unfolding with the kids.”

Instead of pen and paper, Isaacs put a clump of clay into each student’s hand, and that’s where the magic started.

“It calmed them down and excited them at the same time,” Isaacs said.

Students were shown how to mold the clay into heads. They worked diligently with papier m√Ęche, paint and cloth to make their puppets walk out of their imaginations into reality.

“My students made puppets that were used in a wonderful little production. They could also use them as learning partners, reading companions, fun and communication,” Isaacs said. “Suddenly we were all involved with a living experience that was filled with vibrant interaction and meaningful change.”

The so-called more difficult students were so absorbed in the design and creation of their puppets, they became true participants in their work.

“It was really joyful,” Isaacs said. “The puppets were brought to life through these children, and they experienced themselves in a way that no other art form could have offered them. I saw that puppetry offers a way for a kid to reinvent himself — in a moment!”

“They see a puppet, or they have a puppet in their hands and express something totally new and different. I’ve seen it happen with well-adjusted kids, autistic kids, with unruly, difficult ones and with the shy ones. All of them feel free to have their puppets say things they would not say themselves,” she said.

After that experience, Acorn & Rose was born.

“I decided to take a leap and open my own puppet theater,” Isaacs said. She built a stage, wrote scripts to perform, made a Web site and blog, and, of course, spent a lot of time dreaming and making puppets for the plays.

Acorn & Rose’s first performance was at Yelm’s Blue Bottle Cafe.

“She’s awesome. The kids love her,” said owner Michelle Jones. “The kids really respond, and the parents are into it, too. She pulls them out of their shell and gets them into it.”

Isaacs has performed in old people’s homes, restaurants and schools. She put together an evening class at Evergreen State College for parents, starting this week.

“Children ten and under may attend for free with a parent. We’ll work four hours a week through March 4,” she said.

She will be teaching through the iCreate Program at some schools in Yelm, and the Yelm Timberland Library.

One of Isaacs’ specialties has become birthday parties, complete with a giant puppet, a show and puppet-making activities.

“There’s nothing like having a puppeteer come in with giant puppets,” Isaacs said. Rose Petal and the Green Man are seven feet tall, and draw attention wherever they go.

Her mentor across the country is amazed at what she has done in so short a time. Normally a puppet company does one show a year, yet Isaacs has created four shows in only seven months.

“I feel passionate about getting this out in the Thurston County community, because puppetry has it all: it is hands-on, it is communication, it involves teamwork, and it brings together all different kinds of people.”

Here is the link to the NVN online article:

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