Since 2015, the WP Puppet Theatre has facilitated View from the Inside, a series of puppet-building workshops to encourage open discussions about mental wellness. Indigenous youth and children, seniors, high school students, Girl Guides, developmentally disabled persons, sheltered women, refugees, and those at risk of homelessness were all given an identical blank mask and asked to embark on a personal journey of self-reflection. The process has proven to be cathartic. It has highlighted the healing potential of creative practice, fostered a greater sense of community and promoted empathy and understanding across diverse groups of people.
The Courage Journey exhibtion is comprised of 7 diptychs representing the inner and outer worlds of anonymous workshop participants, as well as the facilitators of the workshops, Wendy Passmore-Godfrey and Allan Rosales. The exhibition is intended to remind us of the universal nature of mental wellness and to allow us to contemplate the ways in which we all at one time or another wear a mask. —Shannon Bingeman, Curator
In the past year, the exhibition has toured to Lacombe, Sylvan Lake, Lundbreck, Red Deer, and two schools in Calgary. Some of the exhibitions have been accompanied by a hands-on workshop with one of our View from the Inside facilitators.
The exhibition comes with a 50-page comprehensive catalogue of the works of art and education guide including:
- discussion questions like Why do you think working creatively helps people who are struggling with mental wellness? Why do you think it’s important to speak openly about mental wellness? If you were to create your own mask, what would you put on the outside and inside?
- engagement activities like an imaginary Q&A with the person who created the mask, a self-portait activity, or writing a letter to your future self
- Detailed lesson plans for different age groups including Building Empathy Through Shadow Puppetry (see below), Self Portrait Poetry and Collage, and a View from the Inside workshop lesson plan
Upcoming Dates & Locations
Until May 8—Lacombe Upper Elementary, Lacombe
May15-June12—Bert Church High School, Airdrie
June 20-July17—SAIT, Calgary
July 24-August 21—Bighorn Library, Exshaw
Building Empathy through Shadow Puppetry Lesson Plan
For young people, anthropomorphizing animals can be a useful tool to help them to express human emotions—including empathy. Many of the television shows, movies and literature targeted toward children feature animals walking, talking and even dressing like human beings to elicit empathy while entertaining. Puppetry can also be a useful tool to express human emotion. Research has shown that using puppets allows people to project their emotions in a way that they might not feel comfortable doing on their own.
In this activity, participants will be asked to create a shadow puppet animal. They will use their imaginations to develop a persona for their puppet and take turns putting on three-person performances for an audience. In the end, they will be asked to reflect on the experience and identify moments when they empathized with the puppets.
Cereal box, tissue paper, tape, scissors, pencil, table lamp, table, black card stock, popsicle sticks, animal stencils and shaped hole punches (optional).
To prepare the shadow puppets:
Use animal stencils, pencils, scissors and black card stock (or other heavyset paper) to trace and cut out the shadow puppets. There should be one puppet for each participant.
To prepare the puppet theatre:
Open the cereal box and lay it flat on a table top with the outside of the box facing up.
Use scissors to cut rectangular openings on the front and back of the box, leaving a 1-inch border.
Cover one of the rectangular openings with a sheet of tissue paper. Use tape to affix the tissue paper in place.
Use tape to reassemble the box so that the inside now faces outward.
Plug in a table lamp behind the “theatre” and direct the ray of light so that it backlights the tissue paper.
Participants will customize their puppet by using shaped hole punches to add details.
Next, they will tape a popsicle stick to the back of their puppet.
Have participants name their puppet and ask them to contemplate the following questions: How old is my puppet? What does it like to do? What are its dislikes? What does it like to eat? Where does it live? What sounds does it make? If it could talk, what would its voice sound like?
Gather as a group in front of the puppet theatre.
Turn off the overhead lighting in the room and turn on the table lamp.
Invite participants three at a time to perform for their peers using their shadow puppets. Before they begin performing, give them a prompt to spark their role play (see sample prompts below).
Repeat step 6 until each participant has had an opportunity to perform.
You’ve found a map that leads to buried treasure…
You’ve gone back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed Alberta…
You’re lost in the woods…
You’ve gotten into a fight with your friends…
You’re on a field trip with your class…
To see more images or idea for activities check out the TREX Courage Journey catalogue.
Since 1980, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) has supported a provincial travelling exhibition program. The TREX program strives to ensure every Albertan is provided with an opportunity to enjoy fully developed exhibitions in schools, libraries, healthcare centres, and smaller rural institutions and galleries throughout the province. The Alberta Society of Artists (ASA) is contracted by the AFA to develop and circulate art exhibitions to communities throughout southwest Alberta.