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Troupe of life-size puppet characters get a helping hand

Published on

Cathy Dobson

The Family Counselling Centre is offering a chance for volunteers to become involved in a 400-year-old style of puppetry that originated with Japanese theatre.

The new launch of The Kids on the Block program uses bunraku, the art of operating large hand and rod puppets while staying on the stage with them.

Puppeteers not only learn a cool new skill, they convey important life lessons to kids attending the half-hour performances, says Kids on the Block co-ordinator Amy Nazarewich.

“The puppets are so lifelike and charming. They are kids themselves and create a safe atmosphere to prompt lots of questions from the audience.”

Volunteers have been rehearsing with three scripts this spring in preparation for the program in July.

Shows are offered free-of-charge and available to non-profits of all kinds. One script deals with bullying and offers children resiliency tools and tips on what to do. Another script is about injury prevention, promoting the use of bicycle helmets and pedestrian safety.  A third story line addresses multiculturalism and respecting and embracing our differences.

One of the big strengths of Kids on the Block is that each play tells a story, and research shows that lessons from storytelling tend to be retained, said Nazarewich.

“It’s a program that captures people’s hearts and imaginations,” she said.

An American education assistant created kids on the Block in the late 1970s as a way to talk to kids about living with disabilities.

For decades, Sarnia’s Family Counselling Centre found donations for the program and recruited volunteers, but placed it on hiatus in 2017.

It’s back now with nine puppets thanks to community donations and fundraising, said Nazarewich.

“Our intention is to present shows throughout the year,” she said.

She’s already training six volunteers and is looking for more. She’s also hoping local teachers and principals, as well as non-profits, put in requests for Kids on the Block shows.

To get things started, Lambton County libraries are hosting 10 presentations this summer beginning with the Petrolia Library July 4 at 10:30 a.m.

The first presentation at the Sarnia downtown library is July 25 at 10:30 a.m. There’s also a show at the Corunna library July 17 at 11 a.m. and the Point Edward branch on Aug. 7 at 1 p.m.

Attendance is free but donations are welcome. For a full roster of shows, check the Lambton County library calendar online.

“This is a program the centre very much believes in,” said Nazarewich. She considers it ideal for children ages 4 – 11, but anyone can appreciate their positive messages and entertainment value.

To inquiry about volunteering or booking a show, call Nazarewich at 519-336-0120, ext. 273.

The Arts Journal reflects all things cultural in our community.  Send your ideas to [email protected].   




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