NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The papier mâché puppets were so large that it took three Daniel Webster Magnet School fourth-graders to operate just one.
“You are the arm; be the arm,” teacher Adam King reminded the two students who each operated one limb, while another held the torso and head aloft. They were rehearsing with Peacemaker, the main puppet character in a tale about the uniting of the Iroquois peoples.
Forget hand puppets and sock puppets. The main characters in this tale were as tall as the teachers. They are pieces in a play performed by the students and organized by the Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, a performing arts organization from Saugerties, N.Y. that leads theater arts programs in school districts.
Patrick Wadden, co-director of the Arm of the Sea, worked with about 90 fourth-graders on six different days to prepare for the performance, which took place Wednesday.
“The puppets are showing how they lived a long time ago,” said student Kaylee Galvez, one of the performers.
The show was “Peacemaker and the Tree of the Great Peace,” a story of how five Native American tribes joined together to become the Iroquois Confederacy.
“We’re helping the students make something that is larger than oneself, and larger than anything any few of us could pull off,” Wadden said.
In rehearsal, student Keira DeNigris, another performer, said, “I like how the main characters are made. It’s going to look realistic, the way they move.”
The show incorporates puppets and props created in previous years, along with new pieces. This year, the students created a 12-foot-high paper mosaic “Tree of the Great Peace” and a papier mâché otter head.
“It’s a hands-on way of learning about the Iroquois,” said Kathy Coyne, the school’s magnet facilitator. “The value they place on nature, the value they place on animals – that all comes out in the play.”