Puppet Shows: Part 1

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The first thing you need to know about writing a puppet show for pre-K kids is you’re gonna need more animals.

That’s right: more animals.

Two animals are not enough. Three animals are not enough.

Minimum number of animals: five.

“But wait!” you say, “this is a puppet show! Isn’t one fuzzy puppet with a big mouth enough? Kids, right?”

Nope. And here’s why: dialogue. Your creatures must converse with one another to bring the story to life.

I learned this truth from Stephanie, one of the naturalists at the metro park where I volunteer. I’d agreed to write the script for the upcoming free puppet show, in which I would also perform.

I wrote an OK script based on a picture book, The Legend of Beaver’s Tail. My first draft was five pages. But it turns out that a five-page script for a puppet show is not long enough.

Picture books are great: not knocking them. After all, we got the plot and the moral, Aesop-fable style, from the book. But for the purposes of puppet shows for kids under the age of five at my park, we needed at least nine pages. And unless you have unlimited budget for special effects to make the thing last longer, then what you have is the story, conveyed in words and actions for your audience, along with a few simple props.
So Stephanie had to work on my script. She added two more animals: a toad and an opossum.

And it was great! The show was long enough and varied enough. We had three performances that day and some audiences were wigglier than others, but that’s OK.

And due to puppet availability, there had to be some changes to the cast: a bear instead of a deer, and the blue jay from the book was replaced with a crow.

Next time, I’ll save the naturalist some work. Five animals: minimum.

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