Dozens of children were enchanted Saturday at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum as puppeteers — as young at heart as their audiences — put on three shows in celebration of the National Day of Puppetry.
Allen Reeves Ware, who just received a doctorate in education from Baylor and is pursuing his avocation with Ware House Puppets while he takes a breather before seeking a position, was premiering his “By George! A Dragon!” performance before about 100 parents and children in the museum theater.
As a solo performer, he plays the parts of a king, queen, the English patron St. George and his page, as well as the dragon.
Confessing worries about things going wrong as he polished his acts, he said, “I just hate the first year of a show. You can drop puppets, you can mess up on the dialogue, any number of things.”
But if anything went wrong, the children didn’t seem to notice at all because they considered themselves a part of the drama. As St. George looked all around for the dragon he was supposed to slay, they shouted, “Behind you! He’s behind you!”
A blundering battle between sword and dragon’s breath finally ended with neither combatant the worse for wear.
Karen Jones of Moody said her 6-year-old daughter Samantha “laughed her head off.”
But Ware said the comic effects are really a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine of moral lessons go down.
“I’m trying to engage the moral imagination to foster character development,” he said.
A member of the Puppeteers of America’s Committee on Puppetry in Education and Therapy, Ware has studied with many national figures including Steve Whitmire, who works with Kermit the Frog.
Another member of the committee, Rick Strot, a senior lecturer in Baylor’s School of Education, presented “Little Red Riding Hood” at the Mayborn later in the afternoon.
The day’s events began in the morning with “The Wild Woodland Adventure,” presented by Waco-McLennan County Library’s youth services librarian Stacy Phillips and a team of four students.
The students are home-schooled senior Jonathan Beechner, Rapoport Academy Meyer High School sophomore Sierra McGee, Rapoport Academy Quinn Middle School eighth-grader Lindsay Moore, and Midway High School sophomore Olivia Madison. They were the hands and voices behind a half-dozen woodland creatures, including a rabbit, raccoon and skunk.
They drew a crowd of about 80, standing-room-only, for the 15-minute show.
Phillips, she does a lot of puppet shows in her free time, said the students will re-create “The Wild Woodland Adventure” at all four Waco library locations during the summer, while planning a new show for next year.
Beechner said he engages in the activity “just for fun,” but it took the team two months to put it together, working three days a week.
Rebecca Tucker Nall, assistant director of communication for the museum, said the Mayborn started giving puppet shows in 2005.
“Typically, puppet shows are offered twice a year, in the spring and fall, thanks to the same core group of puppeteers,” she said. “The shows have evolved over the years thanks to a strong connection to the School of Education at Baylor. Our puppet shows have a strong following among our museum members.”
She said the National Day of Puppetry is usually celebrated the fourth Saturday in April throughout the nation.