Theater artist Faye Dupras’s puppet show “I Spy Butterfly” was performed twice at the Ballard Theater on Saturday for audiences comprised largely of small children. However, the youth of the audience didn’t discourage Dupras from including important themes of friendship, kindness and change that are significant at any age.
The show was written and performed by Dupras and Max Weigert, a singer/songwriter, children’s performer and educator who provided live music. The storyline followed young Trudy, a girl fascinated by nature, especially bugs, as she becomes friends with a blue furry caterpillar dubbed Harold and eventually has to come to terms with his metamorphosis into a butterfly, while she remains unchanged.
Clearly intended for children, the set looked like something out of a picture book, along with Trudy’s curly pigtails, bright red overalls and habit of prefixing each of her tools with “handy dandy.” Written into this childish atmosphere, however, were a number of important concepts.
“It’s really about social emotional development for children,” Dupras said, although she emphasized that the messages could be relevant to anybody. “Change can be challenging, but we have to walk through it.”
Dupras explained how even though Trudy was upset about Harold changing, afraid he would leave her behind, eventually she shifts her way of thinking, and realizes that she can’t change with Harold, but she can help him. This is represented in the show when Trudy protects Harold’s chrysallis from squirrels and birds, reattaches him to the branch with a chewed piece of gum after he falls down, reads to him while waiting for him to emerge and protects him from the rain.
“First it’s about her, but then it flips onto how she can serve another,” said Dupras.
Dupras said this holds messages about how we should operate as global citizens, presenting “lofty things in a delightful, silly show.”
Beyond just the messages exchanged within the show, the interaction Dupras and Weigert had with the audience, asking them questions or opinions, added another dimension.
“It was delightful, and the kids added quite a bit, especially the tattle-tale,” Storrs resident Liz Holzer said, referencing a moment in the show when an audience member told Trudy (Dupras) how Weigert had helped Harold hide in a game of hide-and-seek.
“I really love the interplay,” Dupras said. “The audience participation can be unpredictable.”
After the show, a number of the children stayed after to talk with Weigert and Dupras and check out some of the puppets, which included Trudy, who was sometimes a smaller puppet in the distance, and sometimes played by Dupras, a mop-like dog, several birds that could flap their wings, a squirrel and of course Harold the caterpillar.
“I think the show also showed how great it is to tell stories with objects and puppets and sleeping bags,” John Bell, Director of the Ballard Institute said, speaking of some of the props. “You can tell stories by making things and moving them around.”
All of the moving parts to the show, the puppets and props, the music and the interaction with the audience worked together to communicate important themes to the audience in a fun and light-hearted manner.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.