Monday, March 14, 2011

Dog, Cat, and Ham

Story: "Why Dogs Chase Cats" (from The Knee-High Man and Other Tales by Julius Lester)
Program: Family Storytime
Presenters: two
Props: Dog Ears; Cat Ears; Ham; Tree
Video:  How to Tell Why Dogs Chase Cats with Puppets

I’ve been doing “Why Dogs Chase Cats” for years with puppets. It’s a great solo story, easy to do because there are only two puppets. The characters have distinct personalities, and the action, especially when they keep taking the ham from each other in increasingly quicker snatches, is perfect for puppets. When I do puppet workshops I call it a “surefire” story that’s especially good for tellers without a ton of puppet experience. The language and spirit of Julius Lester’s telling in The Knee-High Man and Other Tales, where I first learned the tale, is just right.

For our “Dogs” Family Storytime, though, Sheila and I acted it out, and it turns out that’s just as fun. We just used simple cat and dog ears, a pink paper ham (pretty tattered by the time we were through with it), and that’s about it. Acting it out, we could get more active with the chasing, going in and out behind our backdrops and having a few near misses. We have a nice cut out tree that comes in handy for many stories. In this case we put a step ladder behind it and I (as Cat) climbed up and teased Sheila (as Dog) while I ate that delicious ham.

Our only real problem came on our 4th and last performance, when we decided to switch roles. That was fun to do, since it’s such an easy story to remember…plus I always did both as a solo puppeteer, and I missed being Dog. But we were so confident that we didn’t even walk through it with the reversed roles (we should know better, I know), so only realized mid-story that Sheila actually isn’t quite tall enough to see over the tree once she’s on the step ladder. So she was stretching and hopping on the ladder in order to peek out, and the tree was pretty teetery for a good part of all that. But it all worked out. Cat ate the ham. Dog chased her. And dogs have been chasing cats ever since.


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