Sunday, May 31, 2015

Jumanji Puppet Show

Book:  Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Puppets:  Boy, Girl, Monkey(s), Lion(s), Snake(s), Shark(s)
Props:  Squirt Bottle, Storm Sounds (optional), Fog Machine (optional), Dice, Game Board (printed and taped to cardboard)

Jumanji is such an excellent book that I hesitated a bit before doing it as a puppet show, knowing I'd have to change it a bunch.  But I justify it to myself by saying it's way closer than the movie version, and by using the usual standby:  kids will check out a bunch of copies of the book.  So we did the puppet show for our "K-2 Book Adventure" program on "Award Winners."  (a separate post will summarize the program).  When I did this show years ago it was a solo show, but we had three people this time (Sheila, Terri, and I) and it was much easier.  I played Judy and Peter, the two kids.  Terri and Sheila were on either side of me and each had one of each animal puppet.

The first change from the book was to jump right into the two kids playing the game.  No trip to the park and finding the game.  So they're bored at home, discover the game, read the rules, and we're off.  As a puppet show, it's the appearance of the animals and other dangers that are the key.  So when one child rolls the die and reads "Lions attack, go back two spaces," Sheila's Lion appears behind Peter on the right, he turns and a chase ensues.  They lose that Lion, head back the other way, and Terri's Lion appears on the left, and a chase ensues.  And that's the basic pattern.

 The next roll leads to "Monkeys pull hair."  I know, in the book it's "monkeys steal food," but that was too complicated.  And having a Monkey pull a girl puppet across the stage by the hair is a pretty funny visual.  When it's "Monsoon season," Terri and Sheila made storm noises with our thunder tube and squirted the audience with water.  Then we did "Python," which was more chasing.  And finished with "lost in fog," which was added because we got to use our fog machine.  Terri held it up right below the puppets and it was a quite effective surprise for the audience.  We did not include the rhinoceros stampede or the lost guide, partly because it had to be a fairly quick show and partly because they would have been harder to manage (once again artistic integrity is trumped by time and convenience)...

When Judy finally reaches the end, we stretched out the action by having her forget to shout "Jumanji."  So the game isn't ended and all the animals (or as many as Terri and Sheila could put out there) converge on the kids until she remembers.  And when she says it, all the animal puppets instantly disappear.  

Since the kids never go to the park in this version, we had to drop the excellent book ending where they return the game to the park and watch two other kids walk off with it (we learn about their game in Zathura).  So we added a basic joke to end it up:  The kids decide to play a safe, harmless game like "Go Fish," and when one of them says "what could possibly be scary about "Go Fish?"....two Shark puppets appear and chase them.

The show was a big hit with the K-2 audience, proving once again that there's nothing like a chase or two to make a puppet show work.  It's one that could be done pretty easily with two'd just have to have animal puppets coming from one side only.  And you just need a bit of pre-choreographing of the chase scenes to make it work, then there's plenty of room for improvising if you feel like it.  The fog machine is not really needed (though we enjoyed using it).  As for the Game Board, we just printed an image of the actual board game which came out when the movie did and taped it to cardboard.  Actually a very good board own kids played it for hours at a time when they were younger.

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