By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
“Having fun is one of the best ways kids learn,” said Bonnie Jakubos.
Jakubos performs with puppets and is co-owner of the Idaho Puppet Theater, performing Thursday, July 24 at the Lewiston City Library’s Read, Play, Learn program at Pioneer Park.
Today’s show, for example, celebrates the Wilderness Act of 1964, a historic event most young audience members — and likely some of their parents — won’t be familiar with. (Hint: It was the congressional act that preserved a number of wild, roadless areas, such as the Frank Church — River of No Return Wilderness.)
But not to worry: This show is not a historical documentary narrated by plush animals. Jakubos said it’s primarily a fun story made up of unique characters and songs, with small bits of learning thrown in. There’s Eagle and Trout, who, along with a few other friends, enact a story that entertains the audience and familiarizes them with the basics of the Wilderness Act.
“One of the things we’re trying to get across is that there are different types of wilderness,” Jakubos said.
The show includes Señor Serpiente, who represents the desert wilderness, and Boulder, the mountain goat, who represents the mountainous wilderness.
The show briefly describes the Wilderness Act in fable form and then the puppets continue with a show that lasts around 20 minutes. But the wilderness isn’t the only thing kids learn from this show.
“One of the things we talk about is universal values,” Jakubos said.
“It’s amazing what kids remember through a puppet show,” Jakubos said. “It might be something about an animal, it might be something about how to behave.”
So the shows aren’t lessons, per se, but they’ve been an effective tool for educating young audiences.
“A Song for Wilderness” was written this last year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The show is being performed throughout the state of Idaho and into western Montana at various venues that are celebrating the event.
With experience in education, wildlife biology and natural history, Jakubos and her business partner, Kristin Fletcher, have co-written several shows for their animal puppets. Jakubos now lives in the Sandpoint area and Fletcher lives near Hailey in southern Idaho, enabling them to bring the show to a wider geographical range. They rarely perform together now, relying on trained volunteers who put on the show.
The idea for shows sprang from their friendship and mutual interests and the two have been writing shows since the late 1990s. Their first show took place at the Pocatello Zoo.
“We had no idea what to expect — would this go over? Wouldn’t it?” Jakubos said. But when the puppet narrator asked a question and the 50-some young audience members yelled back, she knew:
“Oh, OK, they like puppets.”
if you go
WHAT: “A Song for Wilderness” puppet show
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 24
WHERE: Pioneer Park, 203 Fifth St., Lewiston
Schmidt can be contacted at email@example.com or at (208) 305-4578.