Children and adults alike love "Charlotte's Web." In the book by E.B. White, a gray barn spider takes a fancy to a little pig and saves his life by writing about him in her web. Everyone who sees the web believes there is something "terrific" about Wilbur. So nobody has the heart to send him to market. The spider is brave and good. Wilbur is good, if not quite so brave. But in the end he saves Charlotte's babies.
This story is now a puppet play. The Center for Puppetry Arts produced a lovely version for the children of Atlanta recently that pleased their parents and teachers just as much.
The puppeteers were dressed all in black, from their feet to the crowns of their heads. Their suits were made of the same material as the black curtains at the back of the stage. On their hands were black gloves, on their heads they wore black hoods, and over their faces, black veils made of gauze (a lightweight material you can see and breathe through, but which hid their faces).
The stage lights shone directly down from the ceiling, making a "curtain" of light. The puppeteers stood in shadow, but they held their hand puppets and rod puppets so the light fell directly on them.
You could hardly see the puppeteers! This style of puppetry is called "Czech black puppetry." It originated in the Czech Republic, a country in Eastern Europe.
When Charlotte jumps from the floor to the ceiling, no strings or rods are visible. She looks like a real spider. Life-size body puppets ("Sesame Street's" Big Bird is a body puppet) add to the illusion of reality - these puppets sure seem to be alive!
The wonderful story gets a whole new life onstage. What favorite books of yours could you retell with puppets?
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society