HANAPEPE — Mark Jeffers wants to introduce keiki to the world of puppetry.
“Puppetry is a good way to keep and hold a child’s attention, but it’s also sort of a dying art,” he said.
One of the ways the owner of the Storybook Theatre in Hanapepe is tying to keep the art alive is offering an Art and Puppetry Day Camp during spring break.
Starting March 21, children will be exposed to puppets and set design.
The day camp begins at 8:30 a.m., ends at noon and will be split into two sessions. The first session, led by Caylin Spear, is visual arts, where the children will draw and paint sets for the puppets.
Jeffers, a former preschool teacher and 40-year puppeteer, leads the second session in puppet making.
“I give the children two or three puppet recipes, and let them dive into it. I provide them with hot glue, sewing materials and foam — anything they can use to rise to the occasion; it’s puppetry magic,” the veteran puppeteer said. “There’s something that happens to you when you create a puppet. You’re like Dr. Frankenstein because you’ve created this thing, and you have to breathe life into it.”
Jeffers got into puppetry because he thought it would keep students engaged.
“I needed a bag of tricks,” he said. “I decided puppetry would be my best bet to get me through everyday.”
During next week’s camp, Jeffers will also lead the children in how to handle and perform with the puppets.
Being able to personify the puppet can take practice, and details like the puppet’s name, appearance and personality can help make it believable to the audience, he said.
“Every puppet has a temperament — from Oscar the Grouch to Tweety Bird,” he said.
While it’s important to keep the art of puppetry alive, it’s also important to provide children with an outlet they ordinarily wouldn’t be privy to, Jeffers said.
“With the No Children Left Behind (initiative), the arts got left behind too,” he said. “Music and art classes are available in schools, but you’ll rarely find puppetry or visual arts.”
The stage and puppets tell a story, which is performed to the parents on the last day of camp, Jeffers said.
“I like to pick stories that have lessons,” he said.
Next week, the students will build puppets and a set to tell the story of “Hansel and Gretel.”
The camp, which is open to kids between the ages of 4 and 6, will end on March 24. The class will be capped at about 15 people, he said. The camp costs $15 a day, and the theatre offers scholarship opportunities, as well as transportation, to children who need it, Jeffers said.
“We don’t want to turn any child away; we’ll do whatever it takes to get them here,” he said.