As Bus Driver, Terri carried/drove a big painted bus cut -out around the room, picking up a couple kids, then dropping them back off at their seats. Then she parked the bus and warned the kids about that pigeon. I had a bird puppet behind one of our curtained backdrops. Not a pigeon puppet, but a cool, big, goofy bird that Sheila made a long time ago that just seems right for a piegeon-y personality. Pigeon pops in and out and delivers his lines. Just like when you read the book, the audience is also part of the telling, reacting to each of pigeons pleas and ploys. The kids were great, getting into the “No!s” just right without totally shouting down Pigeon’s words.
We added a few bits where Pigeon actually tries to sneak onto the bus. We had a long table with a table cloth adjacent to the backdrop. So halfway through Pigeon says: “I guess I won’t get to drive the bus then” and walks down behind the backdrop. Then I sneak behind the table and pop him up, walking along the table towards the parked bus. (Sliding along on the floor on my side with my arm sticking up is not the most comfortable position, but nobody ever said a puppeteer’s life is easy). Then Sheila steps up as guardian of the bus. This first time she plants a Stop sign in front of Pigeon and he retreats back behind the backdrop. Since we had our projection screen down (to use at the end of the story), Pigeon moved along the table, but in front of the screen, so we had the projector shine a blank white slide which worked sort of like a spotlight.
Reappearing behind the backdrop, Pigeon continues with lines from the book, then departs and sneaks along the table again. This time the kids are looking for him there. So is Sheila, who grabs him in a big butterfly net, pulls him off my hand, and drops him back behind the backdrop. Pigeon’s final rant, which is a loud, manic “Let Me Drive the Bus!” is followed by Sheila coming after him with a plastic baseball bat, whacking several times at the top of the backdrop as he barely moves aside. These three incidents add a bit of surprise to the story that the kids know well, plus give some more physical action to complement the personality-based dialogue.
Terri returns as Bus Driver, thanks the kids, and drives off. We thought of moving in a another cut-out vehicle for the truck at the end, but instead used the screen. We scanned the red truck from the book and just had it slowly crawl onto the screen. Pigeon looks up at it and says “I wonder….,” then the truck zips back and forth across the screen (using motion paths) with Pigeon at the wheel.
A two-person version of all of this could have Bus Driver also being the one who guards the bus. You’d just have to do a hat change or something to make it clear that this is no longer the Bus Driver. We even thought of having a volunteer or two from the audience be the ones to stop Pigeon, but decided the timing and interaction needed to be more precise and rehearsed.
A summary of the “Mo Willems Author Celebration” program is coming soon…