New cultural puppet show

Hawthorn, Melbourne, 1977
Polyglot Theatre

ARTICLE – The Age, 1977

Written by Barbara Hooks

Australian and migrant school children stand to gain a better understanding of each other’s cultures through an innovation theatre idea being developed by the Creative School Holiday Club.

Mrs. Naomi Tippett, the creative director responsible for the idea, described it as a mobile multi-lingual puppet theatre.

Mrs. Tippett, a potter, who also teaches art at Carey Baptist Gramma School, said the plan for the theatre emerged from another project which did not eventuate.

“The Creative School Holiday Club was given a grant by the Theatre Boarrd to bring out an English puppeteer,” she said.

“The visit didn’t eventuate so we got permission to use the $3000 to establish a theatre.

“When I became creative director at the club at the beginning of the year I realized that we had to do something with the money and I also thought that we had nothing to appeal to the migrant child.”

Mrs. Tippett believes the attractive and appealing medium of puppetry “transcends all cultural barriers”.

“It’s a way of promoting a feeling of understanding and tolerance between the many different migrant cultures attending our school.”

The theatre, which will travel around in a commuter bus currently being used as a mobile pottery workshop, would have resources for six languages – Greek, Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Arabic and Serbo-Croatian.

“The first part of the pogramme would be a play set in the Australian bush and performed simultaneously in, say, English and Greek, with the meaning of the dialogue inferred by the actions,” she said.

“The second part of the programme will be a folk story pertaining to that particular migrant culture.

“The play will be read first in English and then performed in fluent Greek.

Mrs. Tippett said the programme struck a balance between the two cultures and served a dual purpose.

“First, it gives the Australian child some conception of what it is like not to understand a language and gives him a feeling of sympathy with the newcomer,” she said.

“Secondly, the Greek child will be able to go home and tell his parents about the play, which dignifies his original culture and the parents will feel that Greek is respected in Australian schools.

“The Greek child will also be better able to relate to their peers.”

Mrs. Tippett said the club, based in Hawthorn, had applied for an $11,500 special innovations grant through the Schools Commission and was hoping to hear the success of the submission by the end of the month.

She said it would take a further six months to set up the theatre.

Although details have yet to be finalized, Mrs. Tippett said several skilled and experienced people had been approached to help with the programme – writers from the Institute of Early Childhood Development, a well know puppeteer, linguists and a researcher into different cultures.

“We have also applied for salaries to pay two puppeteers and a linguist for six months,” she said.

The Creative School Holiday Club began 10 years ago with activities for a handful of children in a suburban back garden.

It now extends to most corners of Melbourne and offers a wide range of arts, crafts, drama, games and specialized interests such as chess, photography and computers.