From its start, the Center for Puppetry Arts has honored the background in stories of many people. That diversity is central to The World of Puppetry Museum and the Center furthers inclusivity outreach with its programming for Black History Month. “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with Sara Burmenko, Director of the Digital Learning Program, and Brian Harrison, moderator of a panel and employee at the Center for Puppetry Arts in the Digital Learning department. They were joined by puppeteer Jimmica Collins.
The use of puppets allows children to better understand difficult topics such as race, history, and persecution. “I find that puppets are just a universal language,” said Burmenko. Harrison believes that it can be helpful for kids to see themselves in the characters that are being acted out by the puppets.” Even though it may be hyperbolic for the story-telling purposes, we can still feel the nugget of truth in these stories,” said Harrison. Collins agreed, “It helps them understand, ‘you know sometimes people aren’t very nice.’ But when you’re looking at a puppet, it brings a little bit of joy even while you’re learning about something that’s not so full of joy.”
One of the stories that will be performed virtually is “Anansi The Spider.” This is part of their “Stories of Color” program that uses music, stories, song, and puppet-building to explore folktales of the African Diaspora. A special hands-on, interactive workshop will be held on Feb. 24 in regards to this story.
Harrison will be moderating a panel discussion on Feb. 26 called “A Conversation with Black Theater Artists.” Panelists include Jared Brodie, Raymond Carr, Jimmica Collins, Greg Hunter, and S. Renee Clark.