Puppet workshops part of Conway ArtsFest preparations

Carol Rolf Contributing Writer Published September 8, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Hendrix College seniors Anvesh Kompelli, left, and Xan Clark will conduct a puppet workshop on Sept. 26 and Oct. 1 and 3 at the Faulkner County Library. The workshop is in preparation for public performances of a show Oct. 4 at the library and Oct. 5 in Simon Park during the Conway ArtsFest.

— ’Tweens in the community are invited to join in the fun of the Conway ArtsFest by bringing puppets to life on stage. But before they present the show to the public, the youth must first learn the ins and outs of puppetry in an upcoming workshop at the Faulkner County Library.

“In a unique collaboration with Hendrix College and Conway ArtsFest, the Faulkner County Library will sponsor a puppet theater workshop and performance for students 9 to 13,” said Nancy Allen, adult services and reference librarian at the Conway library.

Workshop dates are 4-5:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and Oct. 1 and 3 at the library, 1900 Tyler St. in Conway.

“If they sign up, the students are expected to attend each workshop and the public performances,” Allen said. “They will be an integral part of the whole thing.”

Performances will be at 4 p.m. Oct. 4 at the library and at 1 p.m. Oct. 5 in Simon Park in Conway.

Two Hendrix seniors will conduct the puppet workshops under the guidance of Jim Wiltgen, dean of students at Hendrix and co-chairman of the Conway ArtsFest, which will be held Sept. 27 through Oct. 5 in and around downtown Conway.

Anvesh Kompelli of Shreveport, La., and Xan Clark of Tupelo, Miss., will assist the younger students in making their own puppets, creating scenery and writing the dialogue to accompany the script, which, Wiltgen said, will be revealed soon.

“I’ve always loved puppets,” said Kompelli, who worked with the puppet show in its debut at last year’s festival. “I grew up on Sesame Street.

“The dean (Wiltgen) asked if I wanted to participate this year, and I said, ‘Yes, I am.’”

Kompelli is a biology and chemistry major at Hendrix and plans to attend medical school, hopefully in Shreveport at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine, he said.

Clark said he, too, grew up on Sesame Street but also enjoyed watching Zoboomafoo with the Kraft Brothers, which was also a PBS television show. This is his third year to work with the Conway ArtsFest, and he is a college intern with the event.

Clark is a psychology major at Hendrix with a minor in Asian studies. He just returned from a semester of study in language and culture in Nagoya, Japan, and hopes to attend graduate school abroad and earn a master’s degree in intercultural communication. Clark has applied for extra credit for his work with the puppet project through the Hendrix Odyssey Program.

Wiltgen has worked for the past four years with the ArtsFest kids’ events, which are held in Simon Park on the last Saturday of ArtsFest week.

“Last year, we built a portable 5-foot-wide puppet stage and installed it on the side of the main stage,” Wiltgen said. “In this way, we would use the puppet theater while the main stage was changing acts. The stage is constructed out of three-quarter-inch PVC pipe.

“This year, I have added an additional section to the theater so that we are able to involve hanging props or marionettes. However, it will all be based on the book and the abilities and interests of the participants.

“Last year, we had a group of volunteer kids, ages 6 to 12, perform three separate shows on that day. They performed Julius Is the Baby of the World, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and the last show was a rendition of the Muppets’ song ‘Mahna Mahna.’ It was a fun show and really added to the activities in the park.

“It was really fun to see the kids in the audience at last year’s event. They really enjoyed the plays, and we would like to provide more opportunities this year to involve some of them in the performances.”

Preregistration is required for the puppet workshop, but it is free for participants. To register, call the library at (501) 327-7482 or email Nancy Allen at Nancy@fcl.org.

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