ZIPPER JUNCTION

Felicia Cooper

This week’s guest is a Hawley native and theater artist. She is a living example of one finding their passion, following it, and beginning to make a living at it, and we’re very happy to have her share her perspective with us here this week. 

I hate that we believe that children are appeased in front of television screens for hours on end when the potential for delight exists in them joyfully taking part in something wonderful, or even begrudgingly taking part in something that might eventually inspire a grand idea or even a really funky dance move. Creativity exists in this alternative to cartoons, in the cracks of the things we divert attention from in order to unwind or to escape. This is an invitation to exploration, a provocation to innovation, and harkens kids (and grown-up kids) to new ways of thinking.

 

I believe that kids deserve more than shouting back at a screen, or shuffling around on an app. Kids deserve opportunities to explore and flaunt their creativity and their joy in doing so. Kids deserve good art, and humans deserve great storytelling.

 

Integral to our humanity and our cultural endeavors, the sharing of stories and imagination is an art that appears to be dwindling out a slow and painful death in the face of quick-fix entertainment and truly boring art.  Instead, I propose that adults dedicate time and talent to sharing their art with a younger generation in whatever way they can. This person-to-person passing on of tradition and culture will undoubtedly enrich our personal and public well-being. It doesn’t have to be an extraordinary experience. It can be puppets! It can be cheap.

 

The Cheap Art movement is one that began with Bread & Puppet in the 1960’s, and encourages the populace to view art not as something for field trips and the bourgeois. It embraces art as a part of everyday life: something for everyone, readily accessible and easily found. It should be cheap and it should be plentiful. I’m inspired by this approach in that it affirms that everyone is an artist.

 

Since graduating college and working professionally in theater, I’ve witnessed a shift in the necessity of my art – rather than a regimented, studied, and approved endeavor for an eventual commercial audience, my work has become more tailored to the people in my immediate community and that which I deeply care about. This sustains both the urgency to pour out creation and the joy of sharing art. This furthering of culture and society through expression is incredibly important to me. The meeting of the fantastical and whimsical to the terrifying, alien, and altogether inhuman is something I hope to deeply imbibe in my work. I have found that the most compelling work is that which explores new ground and new ideas of art itself. All theater and art is an experiment of the humanistic medium of storytelling, and should be celebrated as such. This is why I created the puppet show, The Girl Who Swallowed the Sun. All of the puppets, including a marionette, shadow puppets, and a six-foot-tall woman, are made entirely of recycled and repurposed materials.

 

In July of this year, I developed a workshop in this practice at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and intend to teach kids how to make puppets out of unconventional materials in addition to sharing a puppet show that weaves together heliocentric mythology and folklore in order to tell the story of a girl who swallows the sun in the midst of a town lightbulb shortage. Whimsy ensues. In the interest of sharing this with communities outside my own, I will be touring this project throughout the east coast starting in late October. Because I intend to tour to places that aren’t necessarily acclimated to art, like community centers, local book stores, and shelters, this often translates into not being paid for my work. I need money to stay fed and warm on tour, and so I’m crowdfunding my work so that I am able to share it with kids in towns that aren’t used to hosting wayward puppeteers.

 

I remember, in first grade, walking down the hallway of the Wallenpaupack North Primary School, my patent leather Mary Janes scuffing the floor. I approached the library, which was all popsicle-stick projects and beanbag chairs, and found a picture book on the early work of Picasso. I marched up to the librarian, filled with all the bravery and relish of a seven-year-old who just nailed her times tables exam, and asked to check it out. She chuckled and raised her eyebrow behind round glasses. “Picasso?”

 

I said, “Yes.”

 

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” The indulgence of imagination, and the exploration into that which we have not expressed, is emulated in some of Picasso’s most magnificent and game-changing art.

 

Note from the editor: If you wish to make a donation to Felicia’s tour, to support her art, or to get more information, please visit her Kickstarter campaign: kickstarter.com/projects/35942673/the-girl-who-swallowed-the-sun

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