by Allyson Yoder
Paula and Teresa spent Saturday’s rehearsal getting messy. They spoke with me as they were crafting an original paper mache puppet who will be a feature character in their play. Although their hands and shirts were covered in paste, they were still ready to share about RYT, an experiment on the light rail, and the art and magic of puppetry.
When she’s not doing the light rail plays: “I go to school at Genesis Academy in Phoenix. And I like music, I love going to concerts.”
How she got involved with RYT: “I did Disengaged with RYT, and then they came to our school and told us we could sign up to do Light Rail Plays, and I signed up on the internet, and then they sent me an email saying I was going to be an actor. I was so happy, and I was excited about it too.”
How is working on the Light Rail Plays different than Disengaged? “This is different because on Disengaged, the play was already written, and they told us how to move and everything. And here we have to do it all ourselves, we’re more independent. It feels cool—I feel responsible.”
Something that has surprised her so far: “I have never worked with puppets before. I didn’t know they would be that fun and creative.”
What is it like to work with puppets? “You can use your imagination, and do any type of puppet you would like. I like using my imagination, so that’s the fun of it, and you can talk with it… I think it’s pretty fun. I’m learning that they’re not that hard to make, and each of them has a personality, and a type of voice.”
The cast for Light Rail Plays: “I think people are really respectful here. I think people are really nice and welcoming. I feel awesome. I feelthey’re awesome!”
When she’s not doing the light rail plays: “I just actually got a job at Childsplay as the engaging teacher’s coordinator, and I graduated with a Ph.D. from ASU in April.
On getting involved with RYT: “I had been wanting to get involved with this company since they started. I’ve seen almost all the shows that they’ve done, so I’ve seen some of the kids grow up. I also worked on Disengaged as a set designer and costume designer. I’m super excited [for the Light Rail Plays] because I’m not necessarily an actor—I perform, but I’m more of a director, puppeteer, I like to work with my hands, but I’m also thrilled to be performing again.”
How their piece has evolved: “At first we started off with a piece that was a little mean. Paula’s character was kind of picking on my character. And then after we went on our scavenger hunt, and we did our experiment, where each of us decided to smile at five different people and then write down their reaction, and we were kind of surprised that hardly anyone smiled back at us, I think that’s when our story changed into something sweeter, or kinder. So Paula’s character now is not trying to antagonize my character as much as she is trying to connect with my character, and make my character smile, because my character is very grumpy and unhappy with life. Each different puppet that she’ll bring out is a different attempt to make the old man smile.”
Why work with puppets? “I’ve been puppeteering since high school. I love puppets themselves in that they can represent things that human actors can’t. And I think…there’s something wonderfully childlike or innocent about puppets. There’s something about puppets that turns everyone into a child. And I love the range that puppets have, they can be, you know, like Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, or crazy creatures that can be terribly, horribly scary. So despite the fact that they’re not human, they have an otherworldly quality and yet there’s something essentially human about them.”
The magic of puppets: “I think a lot of shyer performers—I was very shy in high school, and I got to hide behind my puppet, and really explore character through my puppet, and I didn’t have to be me, alone onstage. And when I work with young people, with puppets, I find that that’s a very liberating aspect of puppets, that when they have that barrier between them and the audience, they can really let themselves go.”