Master puppeteer to lead children's workshop at The Grand
by Marie Nesmith
Aug 21, 2011 | 3029 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
One of Angie Alexandersen’s puppets is a talking train engine, which is featured in The Grand Theatre’s educational program titled “Tales from the Tracks.”
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
view slideshow (5 images)
From a guitar playing camel to a talking train engine, attendees of The Grand Theatre's puppet workshop will have the opportunity to interact with Angie Alexandersen's colorful host of characters.

A member of the Fellowship of Christian Puppeteers and The Grand's educational support staff, she has been fine-tuning her puppetry talents for more than 30 years. To introduce youth to this creative art form, Alexandersen will conduct a six-week secular program for students in grades two through five on Mondays from 4 to 5:15 p.m., starting Aug. 29.

"We're going to talk about the history of puppetry and puppeteering, and then just basic manipulation," said Alexandersen, who resides in White. "We first start out with a little ring with little eyeballs on it. You stick it to your fingers and your hand becomes a puppet. So it makes it nice and easy. So you learn with just your hand first. And then, I'll bring out all the puppets I have, and then they will practice with that.

"I'll give them a puppet demonstration as far as a song and how to make sure you make eye contact, and you don't bite your words and you don't look at the ceiling and that you make the puppet look alive. Then we're going to do some characterization where if they have their own puppet, [they can] bring their puppet. I'll talk about the puppet that they would like to have and coming up with a name and a voice, just the style and the characterization of their puppet."

Having incorporated Alexandersen's skill into The Grand's educational programming, the Cartersville venue's program director Terri Cox already has seen the benefits of youth-oriented puppetry offerings.

"Kids love puppets and when you perform with a puppet, they all want to come up and see it," Cox said. "They feel like it's a real person and they love to see the behind-the-scenes part of it. 'How did you make him do that? How did you make it look like that?' So [at this workshop] they're going to get that inside look. Angie's going to let them touch the puppets and see the different ways that you can manipulate them. They'll actually get to do it.

"We're planning for them to have several different puppets that they get to actually make and take home with them," she said, adding some of the items will include black light and stuffed animal puppets. "So they'll be able to carry this on after the workshop is over. For anyone, actually getting to do what it is you're learning about is so much better. You retain it more. You enjoy it more, and you remember everything about it. So not just sitting there watching her do it, but actually getting to be the one that's doing it will be a big difference."

During the workshop, the youth also will be entertained by a puppet demonstration, including a skit highlighting Soozy -- Alexandersen's first puppet. Performing with her since Alexandersen's initial puppetry presentations -- with her mother at East Calhoun Church of God -- she has been bringing to life the character of Soozy since she was in her teens.

The big mouth puppet -- a mischievous elementary school-age girl -- also has an alter ego. By switching her hair and wardrobe, Soozy turns into the female jazz singer known as Ruby. In addition to Soozy holding a sentimental place in her heart, some of Alexandersen's favorite skits involve the high-pitched, spirited character.

"[One skit] is about obedience," Alexandersen said, noting she operates Soozy by placing her hand inside the puppet and maneuvering the arms with rods. "And the kids laugh. They understand, and they get it. ... [Soozy] comes home from school and she's hungry and there's a little note there. Her mom has made chocolate chip cookies. She says, 'Only eat one because I'm going to be making dinner soon.' So she comes in and eats one. And they smell so good, and she goes back and she eats another one. So she eats them one at a time, but she ends up eating the whole plate and she gets sick.

"The whole thing is that Soozy takes what you say and twists it around. And there's another skit that we do [where] you read The Lord's Prayer, where she says, 'The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want -- I shall not want to clean my room. I shall not want to eat broccoli. I shall not want to sweep the floor,' that type of thing. She takes what you say and kind of [messes] it up, and she'll take scripture and [mess] it up. And that's when you get a chance to expound upon it and explain it to her and the kids."

Along with teaching children about positive character traits, Alexandersen said puppets also can help bring introverted youth out of their shell.

"A lot of times, you get some shy children. It helps them to build confidence because they're able to say things through the puppets that they wouldn't normally say," Alexandersen said. "They're able to express themselves and say something to someone else, and it makes them feel more confident. [They are] able to [say] 'I've done something. I'm a puppeteer. I can do this.' Because when you're young and you're shy, it's very difficult to approach people. But if you put a puppet on your hand, then that puppet can just come out and say something funny. They can also build their own once they learn to manipulate the puppet, and they learn all the basics and skills, and they develop their character and get their voice in and they bring their puppet to life.

"It's something that they will be able to take with them wherever. I started puppetry when I was 15 or 16 years old and I've been doing puppetry since then. So because I'm married to a military man, I've always been able to just take my puppets wherever [we moved and to] whatever church we were attending or day care and just do a puppet show. I've [also] done birthday party puppet shows and different things like that. So you can just start a song, and the puppets can just come to life and sing that song ... When you hear laughter or you hear applause and when you hear somebody go, 'Ah, look,' it's just an awesome feeling to know that they're catching on, that they like what you're doing. It's just a lot of fun."

Registration currently is under way for the puppet workshop, which will cost $60 for each participant. Parents can sign up their children by calling 770-386-7343 or visiting The Grand Theatre Ticket Office at 7 N. Wall St.