‘Zoo’ Comes To Library

Published 6:00 pm Friday, July 22, 2011

The summer reading program organized by theLincoln County Public Library concluded Thursday with a specialperformance for the children by the Puppet Arts Theater group basedin Jackson.

    The professional puppeteer group performed a play called “SaharaZoo,” which consists of African folk tales told through the manyanimals that make up the wildlife native to that continent.

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    Peter Zapletal, artistic director, and Keri Horn, actress andwriter, tour the state performing for elementary school children.The organization is able to thrive through grants from theMississippi Arts Commission and other funding agencies.

    The theater group was formed in Mississippi in 1991 and has arepertoire of 13 shows including Pinocchio, Hansel and Gretel, andPeter and the Wolf.

    Donna Kenney, children’s librarian, said around 500 childrenparticipated in the summer reading program this year.

    “We’ve had as many as 50 preschoolers in one class,” Kenney said.”So we’ve been really, really busy this summer.”

    The theme of the program this year was “One world, manystories.”

    “We’ve traveled through the world through stories,” Kenney said.”For example, we had a missionary visit from Africa.”

    Kenney had several volunteers this summer to help with thedifferent age groups of the children.

    Erica Nelson, one of the volunteers, racked up community servicehours for 4-H Club while enjoying the children.

    “It was a lot of fun,” Nelson said. “The toddlers can be a handful,but they are really interesting to me.”

    Artial Robertson, another volunteer, enjoyed her summervolunteering as well.

    “I just like helping people,” Robertson said. “I liked being ableto get to know the kids. Now I see them all and know all theirnames.”

    Zapletal is an emigrant of the former Czechoslovakia, where hegraduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He hasbeen interested in puppeteering since he was 4 years old when hisfather took him to see a show.

    When his family came to America in 1967, he immediately pursued hispassion in New York City. Shortly after he moved to Mississippiwhere he started working for PBS as puppeteer-in-residence.

    Horn also works for the state’s PBS station. In addition to actingand writing in the plays, she also writes for the criticallyacclaimed “Between the Lions” show that airs on Mississippi PublicBroadcasting. The show won an Emmy award for writing in 2009.