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Puppet master: In its 11th season, Therese Donohue’s Picture Book Theatre performs at the Eric Carle Museum

  • The rehearsal of The Very Quiet Cricket at the Eric Carl Museum directed by the founder of the Picture Book Theater and Puppet show, Therese Brady Donohue. —Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Therese Brady Donohue is the founder and director of Picture Book Theater. Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “The Very Quiet Cricket” is one of two Eric Carle stories being performed by the Picture Book Theater, at the Eric Carle Museum. Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • left Bev Boykan and Margaret Arsenault during the rehearsal of The Very Quiet Cricket at the Eric Carl Museum. —Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Therese Brady Donohue, founder and director of Picture Book Theater Puppet show, works with Barbara Aldrich during the rehearsal of The Very Quiet Cricket at the Eric Carl Museum. —Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Therese Brady Donohue, founder and director of Picture Book Theater Puppet show, during the rehearsal of The Very Quiet Cricket at the Eric Carl Museum. —Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Therese Brady Donohue, founder and director of Picture Book Theater Puppet show, works with Brenda Cortina who does the lighting during the rehearsal of The Very Quiet Cricket at the Eric Carl Museum. —Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • From left, Therese Brady Donohue, Margaret Arsenault and Barbara Aldrich during a recent rehearsal for “The Lamb And The Butterfly” at the Eric Carle Museum Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Therese Brady Donohue, founder and director of Picture Book Theater Puppet show, during the rehearsal of The Very Quiet Cricket at the Eric Carl Museum. —Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS


For the Bulletin
Thursday, November 10, 2016

By JAKE JOHNSON

These aren’t your average sock puppets.

Picture Book Theatre will celebrate its 11th season by staging puppet shows based of two books by Eric Carle, “The Very Quiet Cricket” and “The Lamb and the Butterfly” (with text by Arnold Sundgaard), this month at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

The shows, which are geared toward children ages 5 to 10 and their families, feature three puppeteers, using both stick and string puppets, created by Therese Brady Donohue, the troupe’s founding director.

Each puppet is an exact replica of the pictures in the books, painted and textured to look just like Carle’s illustrations, Donohue says, so children can see the familiar characters in motion.

The stick puppets are made of lightweight foam and are handled from underneath the “stage” by puppeteers who hold them up with sticks. The string variety is dangled from above.

Some of the Picture Book performances at the museum will be open to the public, while others will be performed especially for elementary-school children who have been invited by the troupe to see the plays during school hours; many come from local schools, including Northampton and Ware, as well as from across the state. Some children will arrive on buses from as far away as Marlboro, Vermont.

At the performances for schools, each child will receive a copy of the book being performed. They will also have a chance to talk with the performers and will take part in an art project in which they will create their own stick puppets, using tongue depressors.

“Our shows are about educating kids, not only entertaining them,” Donohue said. “We want the kids to be able to see how it’s all done, from creating the puppets to the performances themselves.”

After the public shows, troupe will meet with audience members to talk about all aspects of the plays.

“I want the kids to relate to what they see on stage and the page,” Donohue said. “It’s like the book is coming alive.”

Changes coming

Picture Book Theatre was founded in 2006, and since then has fused the visual arts of puppetry, dance, music and costuming to recreate the characters from nine stories by Carle, including “A House for a Hermit Crab” and “Rooster’s Off to See the World.”

The troupe gets an assist for each show from Karen Tarlow, who writes original music, and from local celebrities such as storyteller and author Onawumi Jean Moss and award-winning children’s book author Norton Juster, who have prerecord story narrations in the past.

This will be the last year the troupe will produce puppet shows at the Carle, and plays that draw on the famous illustrator’s work, Donohue said. In the future, the puppeteers will more broadly explore children’s literature from across New England, such as works by Tomie DePaola and Jane Yolen.

And there will be other changes. Until this year, for example, ballet dancers have been incorporated into the shows by Donohue, 79, who was also the founding director in 1971 of Amherst Ballet; she retired in 2004. These final shows at the Carle, and future shows, will step away from that practice.

One goal in the transition is “simplification,” Donohue said.

Performances that are open to the public will take place Nov. 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m. and Nov. 25 and 26 at 1 and 2:30 p.m at the Eric Carle Museum, 125 West Bay Road in Amherst. Tickets cost $6 ($5 for museum members). To reserve, call the museum at 559-6336.