I spent the second half of 2017 in Poland working, among others, with the Academy of Imagination Theater (Teatr Akademia Wyobraźni) in Lądek Zdrój, a charming town and health resort between the mountains in the Kłodzko County in the southwest part of the country. In November 2017, under the leadership of Paweł Pawlik, the artistic director of the theater, and together with Piotr Kochanowski, we prepared and conducted a series of workshops in Paper Toy Theaters of Legends of the Land of Kłodzko (Warsztaty Papierowych Teatrow Legend Ziemi Kłodzkiej). We conducted eight one-day workshops in seven schools in the villages and towns of the county.
At the beginning of every workshop, one of the two of us, the teachers, started with a short introduction and presentation of an example of a paper toy theater, the same kind we would build with the children. He explained the construction of the “theater building” and how exchangeable decorations and puppets are made. Then we explained how the construction and visual elements of the theater influence the structure of the play, the arrangement of the scenes, how the decorations are changed, and how the puppets are operated.
Then one of the artist educators told children the legend we had chosen for the workshop. For each workshop we had chosen a local story, often with some historical elements. We paid attention to make sure that the story was depicted in just a few scenes and that it happened in no more than three places. We made sure that the characters portrayed in each scene were clearly described, and that children could understand the motives for their actions and the actions themselves, as well as what the characters had to say and for what purpose.
While one of the presenters was explaining the methods of work and told the legend, the other one was building a cardboard base, a “theater building” for children.
When the participants got to know the legend, we started assigning tasks and materials. We divided the participants into several groups. The first group worked on decorating the stage frame. Subsequent groups made decorations for scenes. Other small teams worked on puppets for these scenes.
Once the decorations and puppets were ready, we started improvising and rehearsing. The puppet builders turned into puppet actors and began improvising scenes in their small groups. The designers and makers of the sceneries practiced changing the scenery and decorations and prepared to do any other tasks that emerged during the rehearsals. The children, supported and prompted by the workshop leaders, tried their scenes several times with puppets held and moved above the desks. Each group also had the opportunity to rehearse at least once on the stage of the cardboard theater that we built during the workshop.
Then we combined all the separately prepared scenes and decorations changes. Each three-hour-long workshop ended with a short, improvised performance that was a theatrical interpretation of a local legend.
This was a wonderful adventure and experience. Thank you to Paweł Pawlik, Piotr Kochanowski, school principals, teachers, and children from Czermna, Domaszków, Kłodzko, Lewin Kłodzki, Nowa Ruda and Radków, the Kłodzko Culture Center and the County Office in Kłodzko.