Consider the sad plight of Willie the Worm.
Disregarding all he’d ever been told, Willie crawled across the intersection, listening to his iPod, without looking to see whether any traffic was coming.
Unfortunately for Willie, his path crossed that of a school bus. And it’s not hard to determine the outcome of an encounter between a school bus and a worm.
“He became bird food!” “Bird food!” exclaimed horrified sock puppet friends of Willie during a safety skit presented Friday at Tahlequah Public Library. The skit on safe road crossing, along with another on bullying, were written and performed by members of a children’s theater class taught this past month at Northeastern State University.
Fortunately for Willie, he survived to squirm another day – and learned a valuable lesson. Never cross a street without looking. And it’s preferable to hold the hand of a parent, grandparent, or older brother or sister when crossing.
The children appeared relieved when Willie’s sock pupped head, adorned with a Band-aid, popped up from behind the barrier separating the puppeteers from the audience. Willie assured them that only his tail had been damaged, and he’d be OK.
The spectators applauded enthusiastically at the conclusion of both short plays.
NSU Communications Instructor Kristopher Copeland said the performances came as a finale to a four-week class conducted online and in class.
“It seems every time we meet, it’s always fun because we’re doing things with drama,” he said. “We’ve examined everything from drama and play to creative drama and commercial children’s theater. This is their final project.”
He said the class started with small dramas and dramatic play, and with drama games for children.
“They wrote their own scripts. They have to tell a story, a moral for children,” he said.
They developed the characters and their speech patterns and made the sock puppets used to convey those characters and their message to the children. Nine students participated.
This was the second year the students have performed their final before an actual library audience.
“Last year there was a huge turnout. I think it’s important that they get to perform for children,” Copeland said.
These children were no novice spectators, either. Most were veterans of the library’s baby lap time and toddler tales programs. Children’s librarian Michelle Parnell called many by name, and they greeted her with equal enthusiasm, ready to see what adventure was in store for them Friday morning.
The children’s library is always an active place, and becomes even more so during the annual summer reading program.
Parnell said 357 kids attended Tuesday’s magic show, and the arts and crafts on Thursday.
Even a simple sock puppet presentation is not without its last-minute jitters.
One student approached Copeland minutes before the presentation saying, “One of Bullet’s eyes just fell off! I’m going to get the glue.”
It was important that Bullet be in shape for the play, because he played the role of the villain in the bullying sketch.
And Steven Denny originally envisioned his Big Bear the Traffic Cop puppet as a black bear. But when it came time to make the puppet, he used a white sock instead.
“My fur fell off. It was summer, and I had to shed it,” he explained before the performance.
Moms, grandmas, and a few dads brought their children in for the performance. Before sitting down, veterans of other children’s programs grabbed small quilts to sit on, and exchanged tales of their adventures so far this summer.
“We went to the zoo!” one little girl told a friend.
Several others, using some of the puppets-in-residence at the children’s library, gave a preview of the show at the small puppet theater.
The anti-bullying skit featured a class, led by teacher Miss Pony (who actually was a donkey, as evidenced by the puppet’s long ears and comments later in the script). Three horse students met their new classmate, Zoe the Zebra.
“Why does she have stripes?” Bullet asked.
“Because she’s a zebra,” Miss Pony explained.
Bullet used such childish epithets as “Dummyhead” to display his disdain for those who dared to be different.
The skit took the sock puppet actors through class and then to recess, where Zoe joined them for a game of hide and seek, but was afraid to come out of hiding for fear of being bullied by Bullet, who was seeking her.
Miss Pony gave the final lesson: “It’s okay to be different. Our differences should be celebrated,” the puppet said. “You see, I’m a pony teaching horses.”
And after Willie’s misadventure in the second skit, the other puppets got the message as well.
“Cars are so big and we are so small,” one said.
Friday’s puppet show may well have inspired a few future puppeteers to try their hand (and maybe some of Dad’s socks) on creating their own shows at home.