Navigate students in Nanaimo made their stage debut with a black light puppet show Friday.
The show, held at Beban Park Social Centre, was the premier performance by the 20 K-7 students in Nanaimo taking courses through the Navigate Fine Arts Academy.
Navigate is a fully funded and accredited B.C. school, which operates as a division of the North Island Distance Education School.
“I’m teaching kids how to take concepts and use puppetry to communicate,” said Kevin Flesher, instructor.
The students created the paper puppets from their imaginations and developed the dialogue and music for the production, which was based on the Chinese version of Stone Soup.
The folk tale is about three travelling monks who arrive in a village of unwelcoming people who are, at first, unwilling to share their food.
The monks announce they will simply make stone soup, which tastes wonderful, and toss rocks into a pot of boiling water. The monks then convince curious villagers into giving them ingredients to complete the soup. Before long they’ve cooked up a big feast enjoyed by everyone in the village.
The performance is similar to a shadow play or silhouette puppet show, but performed under ultra-violet lighting. The puppeteers, dressed in black in a darkened room, cannot be seen by the audience, but the puppets coloured with paints that glow under UV light shine brightly.
Flesher, 39, is a professional educator and children’s entertainer who moved to Comox from Drumheller, Alta., where he developed educational conferences.
“It’s really good for kids, no matter how shy they are or how uncomfortable they are with performing, to perform without feeling like they’re putting themselves out there too far,” Flesher said. “You’ve always got those kids who are really out there and want to perform and those who would rather die and this, everybody can do it.”
Bryant Mclean, 9, is learning delayed and suffers from hearing impairment, both symptoms of a rare chromosome 3 deletion disorder.
His mother, April Gogo, began home schooling her son in January and said he responds better and is advancing more quickly than he did while attending public school. He’s happier too.
His puppet, Fisherman Dude Bob, contributed a tasty fish head to the pot of stone soup.
“It makes me happy,” Mclean said, commenting on his first performance in a play.
His performance and participation in creating the production represents a big a big and rapid leap forward in his development.
“Being nine years old with a hearing loss and a chromosome 3 deletion, this is a huge encouragement for him,” Gogo said. “Traditional education wasn’t working for him. He needed to be hands-on, moving around, doing things like this.”