From Pencils to Plants… and Beyond?

The Children’s Theatre team is at it again, applying our theatre skills to puppetry, in Blueberry’s Clubhouse. 

Images by ARPBS

For nearly two decades, Erin Larkin has successfully costumed the Children’s Theatre stage using the rule of thirds: build 1/3 of the costumes, pull 1/3 of the costumes from stock, buy 1/3 of the costumes. It is common in theatre to make costumes with extra seam allowance or to secure trim in a way that can be easily removed. This allows the costumer flexibility when reusing a costume from stock to fit a slightly different body or to accent it with different trim details to fit the new production’s design. In other words, focus your time, energy, and resources where they are needed most. Erin and the fabrication team applied these rules when creating puppets for Blueberry’s Clubhouse

We built most of the puppets from scratch and added accessories we pulled from stock and clothing we bought and altered. However, PBS viewer Giovanni Bruno saw on social media that we were making a puppet show and donated a couple hand puppets he had from his college days to Arkansas PBS for the show. This added two puppets to our stock, one pink puppet and one green puppet. Can you guess which characters we used these hand puppets for? 

If you said Rhubarb and Floret, then you are half correct. They were also used in Season One as pencil puppets! 

In Season One, Episode 4, Blueberry’s End of Summer Jamboree, Max gets help with her writer’s block from Papa Rap in “Let’s Write! / ¡Vamos a Escribirlo Ya!” What do you think of when you think about writing? A pencil. And what color are the erasers on pencils? Pink and green. This was the perfect scene to use the pink and green puppets. Pencil puppet backup singers… coming right up! Erin and the fabrication team built cylindrical bodies and pulled wigs from the costume stock. They temporarily secured the wigs and newly fabricated bodies to the pink and green hand puppets, leaving the original puppets in good condition so they could be reused later. You can see these puppets in action on this clip.

Images by ARPBS

In Season Two, Episode 2, Summertime Friendship Feast, we meet Chef Shawn and his vegetable sidekicks, Rhubarb and Floret. We knew Chef Shawn would need sidekicks and that they should relate to the mess hall or kitchen in some way. Maybe they could be kitchen utensils? But then the idea of vegetables came up. Knowing we had the pink and green puppets in stock, we brainstormed pink and green vegetables – radish, asparagus, beets, Brussel sprouts… rhubarb and broccoli florets… Barb and Flo; thus, Rhubarb and Floret, Chef Shawn’s sassy sidekicks were born! Erin designed and built easily detachable head pieces that resemble the foliage of rhubarb and broccoli plants. 

Hmm… I wonder how we can use these puppets in future seasons?

How should we use these hand puppets next? What character do you want to see in the clubhouse? You can get in on the fun by creating your own puppet design. Print the line drawing of the hand puppet and sketch your ideas right onto the page.

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– Liz McMath, Children’s Theatre and Performing Arts Associate Artist