Guest Blogger

Mission Not Impossible: Virtual Theater

The Preschool Puppet Show presented by the librarians in Children’s Services at the Allen County Public Library has been a long running and popular event with children and their grown-ups in our community. The Puppet Show is normally held annually in Spring. Our entire department is involved in the event in one way or another, but the bulk of responsibility for the show usually falls on three librarians each year. Who these librarians are has varied throughout the years as the torch has been handed around. 

The 2019 Puppet Show was my first, and I have to admit when 1,200 children and their grown-ups are counting on being wowed, you feel the pressure. The live show traditionally begins with a super active song for our audience members to get the “wiggles” out. We then perform two different plays. In between the first and second plays, we read aloud a big book and do a couple rhymes with the audience. We perform the show live a total of 10 times in four days.

The planning for the 2020 Puppet Show began in November 2019 and after months of writing scripts, designing props, practicing, coordinating with other departments, promoting the show and reserving seats for children from preschools and daycares all over the city, as well as individual families, we were ready. And then we weren’t. For the safety of everyone, we had to cancel. 

Fortunately, we are a determined bunch and it was decided that the 2020 Puppet Show would go on, but as a virtual show. Transitioning our Preschool Puppet Show from a live event to a recorded virtual one presented us with numerous challenges. We realized we had to completely shelve the original 2020 Puppet Show and start again from scratch. 

The live show was always held on stage in our library’s theater that seats more than 200, and the thing that always gives our live show its energy is the interaction between the librarians, the puppets and the audience. One of our main goals was that we still wanted our audience to feel like they were a part of the puppet show rather than just passively watching a production on a stage. As a result, we recorded the puppet show in the local cable access studio rather than the theater to create a more up close and personal experience. We also decided to decorate our puppet theater much more than we usually do to really enhance the visual aspect of the set, and because we were recording, we were able to change the set in between the two different plays we performed. We also wrote scripts based on The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Little Red Hen so we were using strictly copyright free materials. And we wrote the scripts to still make our show as interactive as possible between our now at-home audience, the librarians, and the puppets. 

The recorded virtual Preschool Puppet Show turned out fantastic, especially given this was our first attempt at creating something we had always previously performed live. We learned so many valuable lessons about what future productions can be and look like.


Our guest blogger today is Angie Fetters. Angie works as a Children’s Librarian at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her favorite things about being a librarian are working with children and their families and creating meaningful programming for the community . You can contact her at afetters@acpl.info.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

2 comments

  1. Jacqueline Hernandez

    Hello! My name is Jacqueline Hernandez, and I am a part time library assistant in the Fort Worth Public Library system in Fort Worth, TX. I am searching for ideas for programs to propose for my branch, and I came across your blog. We have re-instated in-person programming, and I love this idea of your Pre-school Puppet Show. Is it possible for my branch to adapt and use this program idea for our Family programming?

    Thank you!

    1. Angie Fetters

      Jacqueline,
      The Pre-school Puppet Show can definitely be adapted and used. Please feel free to ask me questions. I’m happy to help. Thank you!
      Angie

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