Preschool Pops series offers puppetry, music, animal education

Preschool Pops series offers puppetry, animal education

Lee Bryan performs “Dr. Dinosaur,” for the Preschool Pops series in Conyers on April 15 and 17. (Special Photo)

Lee Bryan performs “Dr. Dinosaur,” for the Preschool Pops series in Conyers on April 15 and 17. (Special Photo)

No need to travel all the way into Atlanta if you’re looking for a live theater experience for your preschooler. The Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts will once again offer its Preschool Pops series, performances designed to provide preschoolers, ages 3 through 5, with exposure to the arts. This season includes shows presented by professional puppeteers, a singer-songwriter and a bird trainer.

Performances are in February, March and April and take place at 10 a.m. at the Rockdale Auditorium, 903 Main St. in Olde Town Conyers. Cost to attend a show is $3 for a child and free for parents.

The shows are open to the general public and the audience is also comprised of children from church preschools and public preschools. Kids R Kids Honey Creek sponsors the series.

Kicking off the season on Feb. 11 and 13 is puppeteer David Stephens, whose career history includes work with Jim Henson Productions, the PBS children’s series “SeeMore’s Playhouse,” Sesame Street’s home video productions and television show, and Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts. Stephens also tours the Southeast with his own puppet performance company, All Hands Productions.

A puppet builder and show creator, Stephens will present his version of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” for the Preschool Pops performance, using Muppet-style moving mouth and rod puppets.

Created in 2006, the show features Jack, a gentle giant named Geoffery and a few unexpected fairytale favorites including Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother Agnes, Howie the Shoemaker’s Elf, and the Hare from the famous Aesop Fable.

“In my version of 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' you’ll still find Jack, a beanstalk and a giant — but those may be the only similarities to the version most folks are familiar with. You’ll just have to come see it for yourself,” said Stephens in an email interview.

Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts Director Jackie Sprague called Stephens, who entertained Conyers audiences with a Christmas puppet show in December, an “awesome” performer.

“He’s mesmerizing,” Sprague said.

On March 4 and 5, Brenda Bean with the Gwinnett-based Parrot Productions presents a program where children learn about behavior, health, food, habitat, and green space required for her feathered friends.

They’ll also be entertained by vocal and physical demonstrations. Parrots might put a marble in a cup, ride a remote control car, hang upside down or allow children to pet them.

On her website, www.parrotpro.blogspot.com, Bean, who has over three decades of experience in training parrots, said the birds are emotional animals.

“Parrots teach us respect. Respect for the environment. Respect for the out of the ordinary,” Bean said on her site. “They make us aware of other intelligent species with which we coexist.”

Coming on March 18 and 20, a long-time favorite of the Preschool Pops series Wendy Bennett will bring her “Alphabet Soup” production to Conyers. A singer-songwriter, Bennett will entertain children with singalongs, guitar playing, puppetry and storytelling with props.

She’ll focus on teaching children their ABCs through songs such as “Family Under One Sky,” “The Yodel Song,” “Wishy Washy Washer Woman,” and “A Alligators All Around.”

Sprague said this the fifth year that Wendy Bennett has performed in the pops series. Preschool directors seek out her shows because she involves the students, giving them roles to play or dressing them in costumes.

“She’s a favorite performer as the children are able to participate in part of the show on the stage,” said Sprague.

Rounding out the season is puppeteer Lee Bryan, also known as “That Puppet Guy,” according to his website, www.puppetryguy.com.

Bryan, a two-time grant recipient from the Jim Henson Foundation, holds credits including work on a Muppets feature film, an Emmy nomination for his work with Public Broadcasting on the award-winning Spanish language series, “Salsa!” and live solo performances with the Center for Puppetry Arts.

On April 15 and 17, Bryan presents a show called, “Dr. Dinosaur.” Dressed as an archaeologist, Bryan will use hand and rod puppets to provide a lesson on dinosaurs, teaching children about carnivores and herbivores, fossils, bones, adaptation and extinction. The musical revue will also include some drama when the cruel king Lizard Tyrannosaurus battles the speedy thief velociraptor.

For more information on the Preschool Pops series, call the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts at 770-922-3143 or visit www.conyersarts.org.