Exploring Aanika’s Elephants with Writer/Producer Annie Evans 

Journey into the African savanna with Aanika’s Elephants—a puppet show with animals!

Header image with look and feel of Aanika's Elephants with a picture of Annie Evans

Created by a stellar team of Sesame Street writers and puppeteers for everyone 6 and up, Aanika’s Elephants depicts Aanika, who develops a bond of sisterhood with a baby elephant named Little. Their relationship shows that a family can be anything—an animal sanctuary, a herd of hunted elephants or an orphaned girl and calf!

We chatted with Annie Evans, writer and producer of Aanika’s Elephants, to learn more about how sisterhood and puppetry are woven together to tell Aanika and Little’s story and engage audiences in the world of the show.

Where did the inspiration for Aanika’s Elephants come from?

Annie Evans: Having studied elephants in Kenya, I was waiting for a story to come to me. It finally arrived during a yoga class—an orphan girl and an orphan elephant taking care of each other in the bush and becoming their own family.

Why is sisterhood important to represent thematically in theater for young audiences?

AE: Female energy is so important and such a powerful force in nature, especially in an elephant herd. It’s important for young women to know they are strong and smart and can be leaders like the matriarch of a herd. Our female energy is needed to help take care of our planet.

How does the puppetry in the show enhance the audience’s connection to the story?

AE: The elephants in the story are simple outlines made of rattan and bamboo. Except for our storyteller, Aanika, people are represented by hats, gloves or a dress. This allows the audience to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps, drawing them into Aanika’s memories and making them part of the story.

Aanika stands in front two faceless puppets

In Aanika’s Elephants, how do the concepts of family and sisterhood expand to include relationships between humans and animals?

AE: I truly believe that all creatures are sentient in some form, whether it’s ants communicating in ways we can’t begin to understand or elephants who we know have their own culture—they mourn, they play, they make art and they care deeply for family. Elephants and humans share these traits, so it’s natural they can love and take care of each other as a family as well.

Hyrax on a rock in the wild A hyrax is a small African mammal!
Photo: gailhampshire

What is your favorite elephant fun fact?

AE: There are so many! Elephants can’t jump. They can feel other herds in their feet by sensing vibrations through the ground. One of their closest relatives is the hyrax.

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