What would you do if the power went out at grandma’s house? The puppet show “Grasshopper Tea and the Basement of Wonder” answers that very question for Emma and Lavonne as they wander into their grandmother’s basement following a storm. There, they discover a storyteller who takes them on a journey through West Georgia’s History.
45-minutes long, the show is a joint creation between the Carrollton Center for the Arts, the Community Foundation of West Georgia and the Neva Lomason Library. Director and co-writer Scott Foxx and writing partner, Mimi Gentry, spent over a year researching for the show’s material.
“We sort of did a lot of basic library research,” Foxx continues. “We looked at the New Georgia Encyclopedia as well as online sources…local historical museum spaces. We went from there, identifying for our purview of educating the third-grade, fourth-grade-aged students, what was appropriate content to examine more closely.”
The choice to have the primary audience be mid-level elementary students was an intentional choice by the team. Being a mixture of tall tales and historical facts, the show aligns with state curriculums for grade levels. Both third and fourth-grade students are learning to comprehend and write stories, identifying messages, lessons and morals through details found within stories.
Activities aligned with the curriculum are provided to educators when attending a show. The team also recognized that for a comprehensive account to take place, older children are the ideal audience, as their attention span can handle the show’s duration.
“To include all the content the show we knew was going to have end up being 45 minutes,” Foxx continues. “Third-grade fourth-grade age range… they are still children enough to have a little bit of suspension of disbelief and have that magical experience people have with puppets.”
One can imagine that the directing of a puppet show is different from directing a show with live actors. Rather than finding individuals who can master both the voices and the movements, Foxx opted for a professional recording of both the dialogue and sound effects, allowing the movements to be the focus in rehearsals.
“So that allows me to say I need three or four puppeteers,” Foxx continues. “Whoever you are, you play whatever character suits that scene.”
The puppeteers performing in the show are all local talents. With the show coming back every season, the cast does change, bringing in new performers. Performers of all levels are used within the show.
“The script stays the same, the puppets don’t get old, so as long as I can train somebody into one of those spots, everything keeps rolling along,” says Foxx.
The show always kicks off its season with a public performance at the Carrollton Arts Center in August before visiting elementary schools in the West Georgia area. Other than the educational message, Foxx hopes that children and adults alike will take away the importance of understanding local history and the part one plays in it.
“[Carrollton] has been there for a long time,” Foxx continues. “Important things and important people have come from here.”
For more information on “Grasshopper Tea and the Basement of Wonder,” visit the Carrollton Center of the Arts website.