“Are you scared?” I whispered to my daughter as the lights dimmed and the pint-sized audience anxiously waited to see what would happen first. There was something magical, but also tense, about watching a jungle set spring to life with music that made me feel like I had stepped into the Amazon.
“No! It’s just so beautiful!” she said in the little creaky voice she reserves when she’s pretending she’s so happy she just might cry.
Unlike some of the Center for Puppetry Arts productions, Rainforest Adventures relies on a visual story with almost no dialogue or singing to tell a story of a sprightly little howler monkey exploring his environment. The kids are entertained by all of his adventures including getting caught in a flower that emits a foul odor in a puff of smoke, and a stink bird that won’t leave him alone.
Beyond the howler monkey, we also see misadventures of an Aardvark, fruit bats, and other rainforest animals. The only dialogue is the introduction of the animals, the rest of the story unfolds as the skilled puppeteers make the animals come to life on stage. At one point, my daughter asked me what a particular animal was, and I didn’t know. It turns out it was an anteater, and then we talked about how I had never seen this animal up-close. The show also introduced flying squirrels, which I said I had also never seen.
When the announcer briefly explained the flying squirrels lived in the rainforest in Asia and not the Amazon, the squirrels promptly disappeared and the kids giggled. My daughter loudly announced, “Oh, that’s why you don’t know about flying squirrels, Mommy! THEY LIVE IN ASIA!”
And that reminded me of part of why I love the Center for Puppetry Arts. Although they remind parents to take crying babies and overwhelmed children outside of the theater to calm them during the show, murmuring and laughter; plus the occasional shouts about rainforests in Asia, are just really no big deal. Kids are welcome to be kids and there’s a sense the puppet show is almost an interactive experience where kids respond to what the puppeteers and cheer on the storyline from their seats.
The crowd rushed upstairs after the performance with their member tickets to the Create a Puppet Workshop where we made river dolphins out of paper, string, and of course, plenty of glue. I tried my hand at my own little dolphin to give my 2 1/2-year-old who isn’t quite ready for the puppet show experience. My daughter was sitting through Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer at the Center for Puppetry Arts before she even turned 2, but she’s always loved performances and art. My son prefers to go, go, go. In the meantime, I get to make puppets for him and embrace my inner creative child. Bonus points that it keeps my kids from fighting over the handmade puppet when we get home.
A trip to the Center for Puppetry Arts isn’t complete without a trip to the gift shop. It’s a special treat for my daughter, and she’s usually pretty good at following my directions to keep it small or at a certain budget. The toys in the shop are remarkably unique and I’m always eager to see what new loot they’ve gotten since the last show.
My daughter spotted a monster making kit that involved mixing ingredients in water and baking them to make them grow and become hardened. But she settled on a wall shadow book about fairies where you shine a light on the pages and onto the wall. I made a mental note to pop into the shop when looking for a birthday or holiday gift and being the hero for finding the most unique gift in the pile.
If you have little kids, I highly recommend giving the Center for Puppetry Arts a go. You may be surprised how captivated they are by the activity, and you can rest easy knowing that some whispering and occasional shouts aren’t going to earn you a spot on the “oh no, it’s that parent” list. Not that I’ve ever been there…
Rainforest Adventures runs now through March 4, 2018. Miss it? Check out the other amazing shows coming up at the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts.