Sunday, June 1, 2014

Storm is Coming with Puppets and Weather

Book:  Storm is Coming  by Heather Tekavec, Illustrated by Margaret Spengler
Puppets:  Dog, Cat, Cow, Duck;  + Puppet Stage
Props:  Farmer's Hat; Thunder Stick (or something else thunder-y); Microphone (if available); Squirt Bottle
Presenters:  2 plus one Parent to manage lights
Audience:  Family Storytime  (mostly ages 3-7)

In Storm is Coming, a farmer warns the animals that a storm is on the way.  They think "Storm" is an actual person, and worry that he will be mean and scary.  When lightning, thunder, and other storm elements come, though, they think those will all help them avoid meeting Storm.  I have to admit, this is not a book that I would have read and said:  Puppet Show!" even though I'm always on the lookout, but Brad and Terri developed this a while ago and worked it out nicely.  The pattern of misunderstood weather elements, a cast of farm animals, and a few simple sound and light effects make it work.

 Brad and I did it for Family Storytime a few weeks ago.  Brad handled three puppets:  Cat, Dog, and Cow, while I was Farmer and Duck, plus managed the weather effects.  Farmer is actually just me in front of the stage to start and end the story.  He could also be a puppet, but it seemed to work better to have him outside of the space where main story takes place.  To manage the three puppets, Brad would sit Cat on stage off and on, since Cat sleeps through most of the storm.  We also used a parent volunteer for each session to manage the lights.  We picked her out beforehand and gave her a highlighted script so she would know when to switch them.
After Farmer warns the animals, Dog sends Duck to look for signs of the storm.  Duck goes to the top side of the stage, calls out "No storm!  No storm!" and then describes what he does see:  "But the sky is getting darker!"  The parent then turns off the lights.  The kids in the audience know (we hope) that this means the storm is  coming and the animals are just confused.  But the animals on stage decide that the dark skies will help them hide from Storm.  
This pattern continues, and if the kids don't get it the first time through, they soon catch on.  Duck hears thunder; I shake a thunder stick; Dog and Cow are glad that Storm won't be able to hear them.  Those misunderstandings continue as Duck sees lightning (parent flashes lights on and off), feels raindrops (I squirt audience with water bottle), and feels wind (blowing/whistling into microphone).  Finally Duck sees that it's light again (parent flicks lights back on) and all of the animals conclude that Storm never came at all.  

As a stage puppet show, there's not a lot of movement among the puppets, but the structure works very neatly.  The focus moves from the Dog/Cow/Cat trio, up to the Duck, then to the weather surprise that comes (rain, lightning, etc.).  Then it's back to Dog/Cow/Cat and the pattern continues with the humor building gradually.  Those regular shifts of attention give the show a strong pace and just enough variety.  I always want to throw in a chase or have one guy hit another guy with a squeaky hammer, but it's good for me to remember that it's really all about good stories....