Hiram College

Betsy Bauman’s students in “Introduction to Puppetry” created shadow puppets and short scenes, an Indonesian tradition, for their first major class assignment of the 3-Week.

During the 3-Week semester at Hiram College, students focus on one class for three weeks, after taking a full course load for the first part of the semester. Hiram College News will profile some of the unique opportunities students have to stretch their brains and imaginations during the Fall 2013 3-Week session.

There’s something missing from many college students’ lives, and Betsy Bauman hopes those in her “Introduction to Puppetry” course find it during the 3-Week session.

That “thing” is their inner child.

“They spend so much time on the Internet and phone,” said Bauman, associate professor of theatre arts. “They don’t talk to each other; they don’t see plays; they don’t make things with their hands. I want them to rediscover their inner kid. Our students don’t get enough of a chance to create.”

It’s her first time teaching the course to traditional students, though she has taught it previously in the Weekend College.

Students spend the first part of each day in classroom instruction; they have been learning how different cultures use puppetry, about famous puppeteers and how puppets have been used throughout history, from entertainment to social protest. In the afternoon, the class is hands-on, and they get to create puppets of their own.

During the first week of class, students focused on shadow puppets, an Indonesian puppet tradition. Each of the eight students created characters and scenery primarily using black paper and then acted out a two to 15 minute scene behind a lighted white screen.

Psychology major David Steinberger '17, created and presented a humorous scene between two cows.

Psychology major David Steinberger ’17, created and presented a humorous scene between two cows for his shadow puppet scene.

What they managed to create in just a few days was impressive. (View on Instagram.)

Lydia Snyder ’14, a triple major in art, music and theatre arts, said she is enjoying the class. In developing her shadow puppet scene, she was able to put all three of her majors to work as she created and presented a love story of two birds set to music.

IMG_0884Kyle Huff ’14, also a theatre arts major, said the class has given him exposure to a new area of theatre, which he expects will help him as he prepares to graduate.

“I love working in theatre, so knowing all aspects is important,” he said. “Puppetry is still acting; it’s just through another medium.”

As the class progresses, students will continue to learn more about the art of puppetry, create hand puppets and a marionette head, and present two more short scenes.

Working hands-on in a creative setting has proved beneficial to non-theatre arts majors, too. Kelly Brenizer ’14, a psychology major, said she has a more difficult time learning in the traditional lecture setting, so this course is a good fit.

“I’m a kinesthetic learner, so I learn by doing things with my hands,” she said.

Creative thinking, Professor Bauman said, can help students when they might least expect it.

“It will make them better people, better parents some day,” she said. “Maybe it will make them better athletes and scientists. If they can figure out how to make a puppet’s wing move, maybe it will help them solve a scientific problem.”

Photos by Alan Fink ’17. View more on Flickr.

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