The Puppet Co. is spinning marionette strings into inspiring fairy tales at the Maryland Historical Society this month.
Based in Glen Echo Park, the company -- Allan Stevens and Christopher and Mayfield Piper -- weaves original fairy tales with modern issues that affect children.
"By combining elements of artistry and education, the Puppet Co. provides a positive theater experience for children," says Mr. Piper.
The first tale in the series, "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," will be performed tomorrow at 11 a.m. Children can also learn about puppets during the program. Before the first performance, the company will put on three variety numbers providing an overview of the types of puppets used in the series, including rod puppets, shadow puppets, hand puppets and marionettes. Other scheduled productions include "Hansel & Gretel," July 17; "Pinocchio," July 24 and "Cinderella," July 31.
Issues of independence and respect for elders are stressed in the productions of "Cinderella" and "Pinocchio," respectively. The Puppet Co. integrates a touch of feminist philosophy into the classic "Cinderella." Unlike the sugar-coated Disney versions, in which Cinderella submits to the cruelty of her stepmother and stepsisters and is saved by the prince, the Puppet Co.'s version allows Cinderella to stand up for herself and define her identity.
"Our shows tend to present conflicts in which children or younger characters in the story are always empowered. Kids learn problem solving," Mr. Piper says. However, the shows aren't just for children -- they play on several levels, he says.
The Puppet Co. has performed at the historical society since 1988. "What distinguishes the Puppet Co. from other troupes is their enthusiasm and dedication," said Amanda DiPaul, education specialist at the historical society, "They want kids to develop a love for the theater."
Tickets are $4; $14 for the series. Pre-registration is advised. If tickets sell out for any 11 a.m. show, another will be scheduled at 1 p.m. The first two programs are recommended for children preschool through grade 4. The second two shows are suitable for children in kindergarten through grade 8. Call (410) 685-3750 for ticket information.
The society will donate tickets to organizations serving financially underprivileged children. Interested organizations should call for information.