New Victory Arts Break: Baobab

There are so many exciting and imaginative ways of bringing the words of a story to life. You can physicalize words through dance and movement, illustrate the scenes you read with pen and paper or even sing the text out loud! In this New Victory Arts Break, inspired by Baobab, we’ll learn and explore different ways of transforming our favorite stories. Let’s get started!

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New Victory Arts Break: Boabab

Some of the videos in this Arts Break were filmed at the New Victory Theater. We acknowledge that New Victory resides on the seized homeland of the Lenape people and the intertribal territory of many First Nations. We celebrate and pay deep respect to all Indigenous peoples, past, present and future.

Before the Show: Bunraku Creation

One very special art form that brings words to life is puppetry. Before you witness the magical puppets that tell that tale of Baobab, learn how to create your very own Bunraku-style puppet using materials you already have lying around. Join New Victory Teaching Artist Curt James as he crafts and breathes life into Suki, a Bunraku-style puppet built around a wooden spoon, with help from New 42 Education Fellow Mana Kurozumi.

Materials: A kitchen tool (like a big spoon), pipe cleaners, paper, tape, markers, buttons or googly eyes (optional)

Step One: Create your puppet body! Try a wooden spoon like Suki, or explore your kitchen for other items to transform.

Step Two: Add some eyes! These can be googly eyes, drawn on paper and attached with tape, or even glued-on buttons!

Step Three: Attach some arms. Pipe cleaners work great for this.

Step Four: It’s time to accessorize! Use paper and markers to design your very own puppet outfit, and tape it onto your puppet!

You have now made your very own one-of-a-kind Bunraku-style puppet. Congratulations! What adventures will you and your puppet go on? Can you invite other members of your family to help you puppeteer?

Name your puppet! You can name it after yourself, your favorite story, or make up a silly name like Sal Ami or Che Darcheez!

On the Way: Give the Narrator a Hand!
While you travel to the New Victory Theater to see Baobab, play with ways of improvising stories—making them up on the spot! This next game requires you to think quickly as you work together to create something brand new. Let’s try it out!

Step One: Assign one person in your group to be the narrator. They will create the story and speak it aloud for the performer to act out.

Step Two: Decide who will be the performer. This person will embody the story that is being told by the narrator! The catch is… you can only act out the story using your hands!

Step Three: The narrator should customize the story below, filling in the blanks to create an original and surprising tale. Don’t let your performer see what you’ve selected!

On their way to the New Victory Theater, character name decided that, rather than walking, they would verb. It was much faster! While they were same verbing, they noticed a noun. This made them feel very emotion. They were so same emotion that they decided to dance like a animal.

Throughout their journey, character name started to feel hungry. Their stomach growled. It sounded like a different animal. They decided they needed to go and eat some type of food. They went to the grocery store and picked up number of them. They ate them all in different number minutes and felt much better.

Brianna from the New 42 Youth Corps and Kyla from New Victory Education narrated and performed their own story below! Let’s see what they created.

Step Four: Switch roles! Now the performer is the narrator and the narrator is the performer. Try it out and be as silly as you can!

If you could come up with one sentence to summarize your story and give it a title, what would it be? Name your story and pick your one-sentence story slogan!

Now that you’ve spent time narrating and performing your own story, you’re ready to see the story that unfolds in Baobab.

After the Show: Bedtime Puppetry
You’ve just experienced Baobab and witnessed how the artists of Motus and the SÔ Company transformed the story using puppetry and music! Before moving on to the next activity, spend some time reflecting on the show with the questions below:

Post-Show Reflection

  • If you could solve any problem where you live, what would it be and how would you solve it?
  • What are some stories or traditions in your family that you enjoy hearing about and would like to continue telling as you grow up?

  • If you could create a puppet out of anything, what materials would you choose and why?
  • How was music used as part of the storytelling in Baobab?
  • What would it be like to visit a rainbow? What would you say to Amondo if you saw him there?

Now, with the day winding down, let’s try out one more puppetry activity before bedtime.

Step One: Pick your favorite bedtime story. This could be one that you’ve created yourself, or one from a book you enjoy at bedtime.

Step Two: Select one person to read the story and another to puppeteer.

Step Three: Find and reuse your Bunraku-style puppet from Curt’s activity, or create a brand new one unique to this story!

Step Four: While the reader tells the bedtime story out loud, the puppeteer will listen and use their puppet to tell the story through movement! You can plan out your steps beforehand and rehearse, or do it in the moment together.

Let’s see how Brianna and Jhaunay from the New 42 Youth Corps transformed a few pages from Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.

And Beyond: Puppetry Party!

You’ve done an amazing job creating and transforming stories through movement and puppetry! Keep practicing your puppeteering skills and exploring ways of bringing the words on the page to life with the resources below.

New 42 Youth Corps members create an ensemble puppet
Press play on a Puppetry Playlist Arts Break full of fun and approachable activities from New Victory Teaching Artists, staff and Youth Corps members.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.