Haydee Jimenez Salzburg and I hosted a puppet theatre workshop that combined crafts, music, and learning English as a foreign language as well as girl`s empowerment for 11-13 year olds. In late August, 15 girls gathered together in Salzburg for the Frauen Buro Stadt Salzburg. Firstly we explored well known Grimm`s Brother fairy tales with a female protagonist such as Snow White and Rapunzel. They explored the characters in depth: what they looked like, their characteristics, their strengths and weaknesses to support the girls in understanding the character`s motivation. This was done through a series of games, such as Guess Who and matching the props to the characters, as well as re-ordering the story that had been cut into strips of pictures, conversation and narrative, for them to collect and order in a way they thought best.
Providing this form of stimulus allowed the girls an opportunity to see how a character is developed within a story and how the choices that the character makes are determined by a combination of internal motivations and social circumstances, all of which are entwined.
Once they had these ideas in mind, they were then given a chance to have a go developing their own contemporary fairy and folk tales. Haydee showed them how easy it was to create puppets out of just black card, straws or wooden sticks. After going out to get a little bit of magic, in the fairy tale Mirabell garden, the girls came back with their creative ideas flowing and started to devise the different parts of their story. Some chose to develop their characters first, the others chose to make their scenery. The idea was to be free in which point they accessed their story. Some found it easier to go outside, sit in the sun and write their story and dialogue out, in German first and then I sat with them and help to translate their ideas.
Their stories were really refreshing. One girl took the name Hansel from The Brother`s Grimm story Hansel and Gretal and turned her character into an old man called Hansy who lived alone in a tall dark house on a hill. One day going back into his house he found a ghost. He thought it was a scary ghost, but the ghost only wanted to be his friend. It seemed to me to be a wonderful story of a lonely man who was afraid of his own shadow, but his shadow only wanted to befriend him. All told through the eyes of a 13 year old girl. Another girl decided to directly take the theme of the fairy story. There was a princess who hated being a one. She didn`t like all the things she had to do, all the duties or living in the castle, so she ran away into the forest where she found a wolf. The wolf said he would help her if she would help him find a magic diamond. Just as she found the diamond, she was caught her court who lived in the castle. Taken back to the castle in despair, the wolf came to rescue her. Finding her there, he saw she had kept her promise and was holding the diamond. When the wolf saw the diamond it glowed a bright blue with magic and he turned back into strong man again, where as the princess grew fairy wings and was able to fly away from the castle and live a life of freedom giving happiness to the people and not bound by the constraints and riches of the court.
Stunned at the inventiveness of this story, I remember the girl who looked so fragile, delicate and small had a gigantic imagination that subverted the myth that girls in fairy tales just wanted to be saved by the prince. Both the man and woman helped each other realise the freedom that they were looking for.Another girl decided that music was her access point to the story. Alluding to silent films there was a haunting and magical feel to this shadow theatre that reminded me of William Shakespeare`s Tempest. The girls openly support each other, when one girl is ill for the performance day...lights, camera, action!
In another shadow puppet theatre, Fee (a brave fairy) saves Lorenzo (an adventurer) from being eaten by a Loch Ness Monster (Scottish Gaelic: Niseag) in rough and dangerous seas--oh how symbolic! The girls used their inventiveness to make use of all the light in the room. For another story-The Magical Beach Party, the girl`s devised a narrative where a boy and girl find a disco magical disco ball. This gets them dancing on the beach whilst the rest of the town are working away in their tower blocks. They hear of this magical beach party that has brought joy to this boy and girl and eventually join them for one big magical beach party. This reminds me of the folk tales that banned any kind of enjoyment--sounds like a modern day fairy tale set in late capitalism--people were confined to work and idleness; until the children found the magic and changed the whole town with activating all the joy and love inside of everyone....better than any Goa beach party!