In the puppetry room of Westby Hall on Saturday, Dec. 3, the Rowan University Puppet Artists (RUPA) held the last event of the semester entitled Christmas Carol Puppet Slam. Puppeteers and club members began filtering into the room at 3:15 p.m. to set up for the 4 p.m. event.
“Muppets Christmas Carol” was played at a low volume and paper pine tree centerpieces sat on every table. Refreshments in the form of soda, chips, cookies, pizza and cake were laid out on a table for all in attendance. Finger puppets were also on display for guests to take on their way out.
Puppeteers began warming up and practicing with a variety of puppets. Puppets included premade marionette and hand puppets, sock puppets and crocheted finger puppets. The club also showed off their artistic craft with handmade felt and papier-mâché hand puppets and masks.
The performances kicked off with group members Jeremy Burns and Sarah Zigner using full chip bags refusing to interact with an empty chip bag to promote a message of anti-bullying and not excluding others based on differences. This was followed by prompt-based puppet shows. Puppeteers broke into teams and were each given 15 minutes to prepare performances based on the prompt “A classic Christmas story with a strong moral.”
“Time’s up. It is time to puppeteer,” said Burns when the countdown clock on the TV had finally run down.
Performances based on the prompt included a puppet representing George W. Bush tasked by a banker with the murder of Santa Claus to save the economy. In another, a group of puppets bullied a papier-mâché Ebenezer Scrooge for not wanting to attend a Christmas party, later revealing he is Jewish, the moral being to respect the opinions and religions of others.
With the completion of both prompt performances, the group voted and moved into improv puppetry performances, where audience members would shout out given circumstances such as characters, settings and plots. Puppeteers would then have to use improvisation to create a cohesive story.
The first situation given was a mom and dad on a cruise, with one falling off the boat. The second was a gynecologist, nurses and a patient in a coal mine for a routine examination, followed by strangers Christmas shopping by robbing the Coca-Cola factory in Atlanta, Georgia. Ex-lovers at Burns’ mother’s house baking cookies crafted the fourth scene. The penultimate improvisation was the group’s social media manager Jake Kantrowitz in “Blue’s Clues.” The final improv performance saw two dentists and one orthodontist in a bar fighting over which profession is better.
The performances lead into a 20-minute pizza break, where attendees got refreshments and socialized with one another.
“Next up, we’re going to do a little lip-syncing to holiday music,” said Burns, introducing the next section of the event.
Lip syncing was done to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “The Chipmunk Song,” Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka,” Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” and Shark Earrings’ “What the Stain Used to Be.”
“We are going to close out the night with one last event.” said Burns. “It’s another prompt: The worst holiday dinner.”
Puppeteers were given another 15 minutes to prepare. The first performance consisted of a grandmother inviting her family over for a Halloween dinner including their uncle who was just released on parole after 10 years. So much fighting ensued that no one even had a chance to eat.
The celebration concluded with attendees talking, discussing group plans for the spring semester and eating for a short time before departing shortly after 6 p.m.
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