Eli’s question scared me a little. He was calling from a friend’s house, to ask what show we were seeing at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts on Saturday. He’s almost 13, and I thought, “Well, this is it–the time has come that he’d rather be with friends than accompanying his old Ma to a puppet show.”
I told him we were seeing “Rainforest Adventures” and he replied rather nonchalantly, “Oh. OK. See you soon.” And I picked him up half an hour later and we headed into Atlanta for what I feared would be the last of my favorite one-on-one times with my son.
He’s growing up so fast, and even though he’s taken acting classes for years, and loves anything in a theater, and thinks that puppetry would make a really cool career, still — he’s nearly a teenager. His older brother has taught me, rather painfully at times, that my time to enjoy such things with him is running out.
As we settled into our seats, to the din of preschoolers whining and little kids chatting, I leaned over and whispered, “I guess you’re getting a little old for puppet shows, eh?”
He looked at me incredulously. “What? HECK, no! I love these shows. I only asked what was playing because I wondered if it was something we’d already seen before.”
And then I smiled, relaxed and we sat back to enjoy the show.
As always, the artists at the Center did not disappoint. Masters of creating visually stunning presentations, Rainforest Adventures’ set was simply beautiful, a brightly colored jungle scene with trees, greenery, logs and flowers. The premise of the production was rather simple, but more engaging than it sounds typing it out. It’s a series of micro-scenes set to a lovely jazz soundtrack, with a deep-voiced narrator announcing various creatures by name. Then, that animal gives a realistic glimpse into what their life is like in the Amazon rainforest.
This show would be a fantastic addition to a homeschooling unit study on the rainforest. Animals included an alligator, boa constrictors, an anaconda, and my son’s favorite, a mom and baby sloth. We even learned about two animals we’d never heard of before: the flying snake (yes, such a horror exists, but the narrator was quick to tell us that it’s only found in Asia, not the Amazon) and the Hoatzin, or stink bird, which was actually quite a lovely puppet. The toucan was also a beautifully crafted bird. I thought they were all gorgeous, except maybe the monkey who appeared frequently throughout the story. He just looked a little odd to me, but then again, I’m not exactly a fan of monkeys.
One particularly funny scene was when the monkey got trapped between the stink bird (which is said to smell like cow manure) and the world’s largest and smelliest flower, which excreted its odor in little puffs of smoke. We laughed as he tried to get himself out of that situation!
Another favorite scene was near the end, when they turned on the black lights and glowing bats and menacing bat-eating spiders chased one another around the set.
At the end of the show, as they always do, the stage lights came on and the puppeteers removed their hoods to talk about how they made the puppets move. This clip gives you a glimpse into how it’s done.
The puppeteers’ demonstration is always one of my and Eli’s favorite parts of any show, because we find it fascinating to see what all is involved in their craft.
The only negative thing I can say about Rainforest Adventures is that it seemed a little slow-paced for really young children. There was a lot of restless noise from little kids in the audience. I’m glad I didn’t bring my 5-year-old because I’m not sure he’d have been willing to sit still through the entire thing, even though it was less than an hour long. However, if you have older kids (and/or preschoolers more mellow than mine) this is a great way to spend a few hours one afternoon. And don’t forget to walk through the Center’s hands-on interactive museum, which is a treat all by itself.
Rainforest Adventures runs now through March 15th and is totally worth the trip!