This month is Purim,
a Jewish festival based on the Old Testament book of Esther.
Children dress up and act out Esther plays, celebrate and give gifts.
A few years ago, to celebrate, we created a full-length puppet show based on the book of Esther.
We created simple hand puppets to make King Xerxes, Esther, her faithful uncle Mordecai and evil Haman. A servant or two completed our cast.
We painted two backdrops - a palace scene and an Middle Eastern gateway.
My children insisted on making real props, so we made a shoe box into a banquet table and made baker’s clay food which we glued on to a platter, wine jugs and goblets, and some candle sticks. We baked them and then painted them when they were hard. They also created a scroll for the law and a gallows with some kebab sticks and string.
We hung our backdrops together on a large white board on its stand. All the puppeteers sat on low chairs behind an easel/ a large box/ or couch. To change the backdrop, we simply lifted the painting over the top to show the next painting beneath. We placed the props on a tray in front of the puppets.
We wrote our play in rhyming couplets. I narrated most the play, but an older child can narrate easily, while the characters acted a few lines. We read through the play and discussed and chose the characters. Then we began to learn the script.
Here is an excerpt from the play:
Long, long ago in Media and Persia
Ruled King Xerxes in the city of Susa
For 180 days he held a ball
To show his power and wealth to all.
King Xerxes: ( ‘speaks’ to the servant)
“Tell Queen Vashti to come
And tell her wear her royal gown and crown!”
(Servant goes to Queen Vashti and ‘talks’)
She refused and said,
Tell king Xerxes I will not go!”
This made Xerxes really mad,
“A wife should always make her husband glad!”
Children practiced working their puppets to create life-like actions. They worked in front of a mirror to see how to make their puppets move. The most important technique they must learn to face the head of the puppets down so that the audience sitting on the floor can see the faces. They need to learn to use their fingers to make the arms move realistically and handle the props.
They found it challenging to project their voices, remember their lines and keep their puppets “alive”. We practiced several times each day for over a week. We performed our play twice for audiences. Young children are excellent audiences, laughing and shouting “Boo!” at Haman.
We used Jewish orchestral music for the introduction.
This puppet show works very well as a real play, but I have found that shy children prefer to act via a puppet because they are ‘hidden’ from view.
This year I would like to share it with you.