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Puppets at school

creato da Fabio Bonvicini ultima modifica 20/06/2008 15:14

A no-strings approach to education in Reggio Emilia

Puppets at schoolIf Reggio Emilia's nursery and pre-primary schools rank amongst the best in the world maybe this is partly due to the fact that they are among the few (if not only) school boards to have a puppeteer permanently on call.

Mariano Dolci has been "drama executive" in Reggio's schools for the past thirty years, although he prefers to refer to himself as the "Municipal puppeteer". Before joining the local education board Dolci worked for years with recently deceased Otello Sarzi's troupe of puppets and marionettes as well as some of the biggest names in contemporary Italian theatre and culture including Dario Fo, Emanuele Luzzati and Gianni Rodari. In 1970 he started work in Reggio Emilia's schools, bringing his puppets into the classroom and offering the young students a new form of expression or language to use. In a recent interview with the Italian magazine "Il Cantastorie" (The Bard) Dolci says "The most important thing Sarzi and his friends did was to go in to the schools, not only to put on puppet shows for the kids but to give them workshops on making their own puppets and learning how to use them … There is a portable puppet theatre in all of Reggio's pre-primary schools. At any stage of the day the children can go in and put on their own personal shows with their favourite puppets."

Puppets at schoolIt's a great pleasure and privilege to watch Mariano Dolci at work. He takes the most unlikely objects and creates new characters and stories from them. He moves with ease from classic glove puppets to the huge rubber puppets he makes from abandoned tyres, using props built from waste material and creating a series of wonderful characters from a selection of garden vegetables. Mariano Dolci's extraordinary performances are the result of years of experience as a master puppeteer enhanced by his ability to learn from the children he works with every day. In the same interview he says: "When I was working with Otello Sarzi, I was constantly looking for a perfect form of formal communication. Now that I work in education I don't limit myself to a couple of techniques: I'm interested in experimenting with all of them."

I was lucky enough to meet Mariano during a workshop he gave on building rubber puppets, and can vouch for everything he says. I'll always remember his ability to turn everything he touched into a puppet, his sincere interest in everything we did or made, his kind and peaceful nature, and - as Gianni Rodari wrote - his "luxuriant beard, just like Stromboli, the puppeteer made famous by Pinocchio".

The Reggio Emilia Approach - : Information on the by-now legendary Reggio Emilia Approach
Reggio Emilia - : More about the city of Reggio Emilia
Puppets - and
marionettes - : News and information from the Internet. (The
Puppets - site is in Italian only.)

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