Show gets pupils into the act

PUPPETEER UNLOCKS STUDENTS' IMAGINATION

June 20, 1993|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,Contributing Writer

Kathleen Jacobs has one of the best jobs in the world and she knows it.

"I love it," Mrs. Jacobs said. "I tell my husband I'm never going to retire, because what other job can you get the applause, hugs from the little people and get paid besides."

Mrs. Jacobs is a performance artist and puppeteer who tours Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. She brought her

audience-participation puppet show to Piney Ridge Elementary School on Friday, performing two shows before enthusiastic audiences.

"It's funny and entertaining," said Steven Smith, 10, a fifth-grader.

Mrs. Jacobs earned a degree in art education at Towson State University and taught art at Bel Air Junior High School in Harford County until she took maternity leave some 25 years ago. After delivering her son, she began teaching privately. An offer to perform for a family night at a school led to a new career.

Volunteers are picked from the audience to help Mrs. Jacobs act out stories and skits. One tale, "Who's in the Rabbit's House?" taught the students about imagination and exaggeration.

"I am the long one! I eat trees! I trample on elephants! Stay away from me," screamed the students on cue from Mrs. Jacobs. The kids were acting as the voice of the "scary thing" hidden in the rabbit's house.

Volunteers acted as amateur puppeteers, maneuvering Hoppy the frog, Squirt the elephant and Jinx the jackal as they struggled to figure out a way to rid themselves of a creature called the "long one."

"It's just a caterpillar!" yelled one of the children, when Hoppy finally tricked the "long one" into coming out of the house.

Mrs. Jacobs later constructed a "monster" that several students brought to life, and she taught the audience how to make their own monsters out of items they could find in their homes.

"I make my own puppets and sets, except for those that require difficult carpentry," Mrs. Jacobs said. "The whole goal is for them to go home and make their own."

Jeff Anderson, 10, thought that the best part of the show was "that I got to be a volunteer."

Mrs. Jacobs knows the value of allowing children to express themselves.

"The whole point behind the show is not, 'Look what I can do,' but 'Look what you can do,' " she said. "I have them up on stage to show them what they can do, set them up in a can't-lose situation and make them the star."

The children seemed enthralled with Mrs. Jacobs and her performance. Third-graders Michelle Brennan, 9, and Sarah Onheiser, 8, stayed afterward to help clean up.

"I liked when she [as Squirty the elephant] squirted all the people with the water gun," Michelle said.

"I liked that, too," Sarah giggled.

Mrs. Jacobs sent the two girls off with thank you's and big hugs.

"We all have to keep that child within us, that spirit of adventure," she said. "Too many of us have lost that."

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