Monday, February 20, 2012

Raven with puppet and people

Book:  Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest  by Gerald McDermott
Puppets:   Raven, Child (we used a doll, not a puppet)
Props:   Box, Sun (ball covered in yellow), Pine Needles, Basket
Presenters:   Three;  Works with 2 also (Narrator as Raven)
Audience:   K-2

For our “K-2 Book Adventure” on Tricksters, we just had to include one from Gerald McDermott’s series of folktales and chose Raven, one of my favorites (plus it's from our part of the world).  We wanted to retain the fairly formal mood of McDermott’s telling, but at the same time capture the playfulness that’s also in the book.  I narrated and played Sky Chief, Terri had the Raven puppet, and Sheila was Sky Chief’s daughter.  I have a more realistic puppet for Raven, but we opted for the goofy puppet with big eyes and an orange beak (neither of which real ravens have, but we’re storytellers, not ornithologists).   

As Sky Chief, I hold up the ball of light (just a ball wrapped in yellow tissue paper), then hide it away into a box at the beginning.  Raven flies around until he spots the light.  When he spots Sky Chief’s Daughter, Raven does the old turn-into-a-pine-needle-get-swallowed-and-come-out-as-a-baby trick.  Which for us was Terri going behind a backdrop, taking off Raven puppet, and dropping a sprig of pine needles into Daughter’s basket.  Then it’s Daughter going behind the backdrop and emerging with a black haired doll we have that actually looks pretty Raven-esque. 

To this point the narration follows the book fairly closely, and the characters follow the actions of the story without doing much more.  But now comes the playful part, where Terri holds Raven-child and tries to get at the box which holds the light while Daughter tries to prevent him from getting to it.  Sheila and Terri had some fun with the humor:  lots of movement, near collisions, and sneakiness, plus the dialog of Daughter’s increasingly irritated pleas to her child and Raven-child’s whining and cawing.  I like the way this bit of silly action is bookended by the more formal opening and the meaningful ending. 

Raven-child finally gets by Daughter and grabs the light from the box.  We initially included the box-within-a-box-within-a-box segment, which works nicely in the box, but it turned out to interrupt the flow in this act-out version, so we dropped it.   Once Raven-child gets the ball of light, Terri ducks behind the backdrop one more time, drops the doll, gets Raven puppet back, and, after a bit more chasing, puts the light high up into the sky for everyone to enjoy.  Which in our version is:  hands the ball of light to me, I step up on a stool, and hold it high over my head…and that works. 

This was one of those stories where we considered some extra stuff we could do with props, but ended up doing none of them: Use an actual glowing light for the sun! Turn off lights and closing drapes for darkness!   Attach ball to fishing line and have it mysteriously rise to the ceiling!  We did none of these and  instead we kept things simple and trusted the story and the kids’ imaginations, which is almost always a good way to go….    

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