MSA students picked for puppet show

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Where else would you find characters like Charlie Gator, Mr.Bonejangles and Hickory the Voodoo Doll?

The three are some of the lead characters in a puppet adventuremasterminded by four Mississippi School of the Arts students. Notonly that, but they’ll be spending time in the Mississippi Museumof Art as well, since they were born to be a part of the HensonSchool Film Project sponsored by the museum and Mississippi PublicBroadcasting.

“What the museum and MPR are trying to do is give threedifferent schools the chance to participate in creating a story andmaking puppets, and using their talents,” said Visual ArtsInstructor Robert Bonilla.

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The group recently went to a workshop with four students fromMadison Central High School and four students from the GreenvilleRenaissance Scholars, where they learned the mechanics of creatinga puppet show, from the script to the creation of the puppets andprops.

Literary student Jules Wood said visual students Kristen Price,Aubrey Palermo and Krystyne Rawls, all seniors, gave her thecharacters, and from that she crafted a story with a distinct NewOrleans flavor.

“Mr. Bonejangles is a skeleton, and he smiles all the time, buthe’s not happy, and Charlie Gator tries to make him laugh,” Woodsaid. “I tried thinking about the audience, and tried to make itcute and funny for the kids, and that really brought the storytogether.”

Price, Palermo and Rawls designed the characters, drawing onfavorite characters of the past, as well as inside jokes to come upwith the finished product.

For instance, Mr. Bonejangles came from a skeleton in one ofMSA’s classrooms that Palermo named during an art session. The namestuck, and then he was set to be memorialized in puppet-show loreforever.

And Rawls took a sketch pad and turned the ideas into reality,which has become exciting for the group.

“I want Charlie and Granny Gator in my senior show,” Rawlssaid.

The group will return to MPB on December 10 to have theiroriginal puppet show filmed and edited, and the completed productswill be five to seven minutes long, and will be shown at the museumduring MMA’s Spring Family Day on March 6 as a part of the “JimHenson’s Fantastic World” exhibit.

Bonilla said the workshop was held in the studio where “Betweenthe Lions,” an Emmy-award winning children’s show, is filmed. Hesaid every two years the producers come to Mississippi and film twowhole seasons of the show.

And at this point, the students are waiting on “go” to startfleshing out their creations, which now are still simply ink onpaper.

“We hope we’ll begin making puppets by the end of the week,”Bonilla said.

And MSA officials said they couldn’t be more excited about thestudents’ chance to be a part of MPB and MMA’s exhibit.

“We jumped at the chance, because it’s the whole idea ofreaching out and making ourselves more visible to the public andthe state,” he said. “Being on public television and on display atthe museum is great, especially for the kids to have that.”

In addition, it teaches students that there are potentialcareers out there that they haven’t thought about, said MSAPrincipal Jana Perry.

“This opens career opportunities, to be able to bring thisexperience back and talk about it,” she said. “There are so manypossibilities out there. People wonder how artists make a living,but we do. They wonder how puppeteers make a living, but they dotoo.”