Friday, March 15, 2013

Stinky Cheese with Scans and Puppets

Book:  The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales  by Jon Scieszka, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Puppets:  Jack, Hen, Girl, Wolf, Giant
Props:  None
Presenters:  3
Technology:  Scans from the book projected on screen, with PowerPoint animations
Audience:  K-2

We featured the books of Jon Scieszka for a recent K-2 Book Adventure.  We chose the theme several months earlier, thinking:  "funny guy, great books, should be no problem."  But once we got down to actually figuring out how present those books in our typical methods (act-out, puppets, powerpoint, in various combinations) it took some thinking.  We had to do Stinky Cheese Man, of course, and finally decided on:  Puppets + PowerPoint.  We didn't do the whole book, since we just had our typical 5-10 minutes.  We focused on several parts with Jack and tried to convey some of the characters interacting with book pages pieces.  Here's how we did it, probably in more detail than you want, but it doesn't make sense in summary form:

In this book, Jack narrates fractured versions of folktales and is regularly interrupted by other characters and interacts with parts of the book itself.  So we decided to use our projection screen as the book, but use puppets for Jack, the Little Red Hen, Red Running Shorts, the Wolf, and the Giant.  So we puppeteers were behind the screen, using it kind of as a curtain.  Side and front view show how this looks:


So Jack opens in front of a scanned image of the endpapers and Little Red Hen accosts him just like in the book. 

The Title Page and Dedication Page are scans that "Fly Down" onto the screen with Jack responding accordingly. 

When Jack describes what "Fairly Stupid Tales" are, the screen shows "Fairy Tales" at first, then a few simple animations show "Fairy" changing to "Fairly" and "Stupid" getting inserted in the middle. 

From that point, we selected segments from the book, hoping to get the kids intrigued about the stories we didn't tell while conveying the inspired absurdity of the whole thing. 

So Jack tells "Chicken Licken" in a couple sentences (with a scanned illustration), skipping to how it ends, with the Table of Contents falling and squishing everyone (another scan, "Flying Down").  He mentions the titles of a couple stories, with an illustration showing for each.  So we don't actually tell "The Princess and the Bowling Ball" or "The Really Ugly Duckling," but the titles and one illustration work to get a laugh and catch some interest.   Then we did a little more with "Little Red Running Shorts."    Wolf and Girl puppets enter and complain about the way Jack tells the story, then take off.  When the puppets are gone we show the corresponding empty silhouette image from the book, then follow up with the blank page (or in our version, blank screen) while Jack silently frets about how to tell the story with no images.

The other story we get into (after another loud interruption by the Little Red Hen puppet) is the Giant's story.  The Giant puppet chases Jack off and tells the story his way:  We have each line of his backward story in reverse order on screen as he recites:  "The end;"  "Of the evil stepmother;"  "said I'll Huff and Snuff and;"  and so on until the last line, "Once upon a time."  And Jack declares it the "Most Stupid Tale Ever" as those words Zoom on top of the illustration:

When Jack tells his endlessly repeating tale (to delay the Giant from eating him) we do something similar with the screen, with each refrain appearing below the previous one, in smaller print like in the book.  And then we end it (after another Little Red Hen appearance) kind of like a booktalk:  "The Giant comes back.  And finally gets to eat something, but I won't tell you what it is, so you'll have to check out the book and read it until...The End (as those words "fly down" on the screen).

It seemed like an effective way to do the story.  It wasn't the easiest though.  The projection-screen-as-puppet-curtain idea is cool, but it's a little awkward to manage as a puppeteer:  Not much mobility and you can't see a thing.    And this story really did need three people.  I was Jack and Sheila did the other puppets, plus we had to have Terri doing the clicking: the timing was too important to try to manage many scan transitions along with puppets.  The book is just so cool, though, and it was fun to go as far as we could to bring it to life this way... 

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