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Marionettes come alive at workshop

SHARON — Despite the previous day’s snowstorm, there was a good turnout at the Make a Marionette workshop at the Sharon Historical Society on Saturday morning, Jan. 8.

Led by Joe Brien of Falls Village, the workshop filled the back room of the Historical Society with wooden puppet parts, yarn, strings, screwdrivers, glitter, markers and false eyeballs. Pairs of children with their adult partners (that included parents, grandparents and neighbors) huddled around tables filled with tall structures that held up the marionettes as they worked.

Once the marionettes had all the features of a puppet — hair, a face and clothing — the amateur puppeteers attached strings to the puppets’ extremities and began experimenting with moving them around.

Puppet designs included movie stars, soldiers and a 1960s hippie.

The workshop was sponsored by the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau (HYSB) as part of the For Your Information workshop series. Additional funding for the event was provided by a grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.

Brien has been working with HYSB for seven years, leading workshops on myriad arts, crafts and outdoor skills. He is the owner of Lost Art Workshops in Falls Village, where he conducts workshops where attendees can learn about “the way things were done in the old days.”

HYSB Executive Director Nick Pohl, who has been with the organization since June 2010, attended Saturday’s workshop. Since taking over the position, Pohl has been working to expand  the workshop series, which he said is a core program for HYSB. The workshops will now take place once a month in various locations throughout the six-town Region One School District.

Pohl explained that while facilitating creative activities is very important, the real purpose of the program lies in the pairing of children and adults for the workshops.

“The activity could be anything,” he said. “It’s about parents and kids spending time together. It promotes family communication and bonding.”

Since the location of the workshops continually moves around, HYSB ends up teaming up with many different businesses and organizations. Both Pohl and Liz Shapiro, who is executive director of the Sharon Historical Society, emphasized the importance of collaboration between different organizations in the community.

“The goal is to build a better community,” Shapiro said. “It’s easier for us to work together than it is for us all to go our own separate ways.”

The marionette workshop was the first time HYSB and the Sharon Historical Society worked together, and both organizations were excited about the new alliance.

“Liz Shapiro and the Historical Society have been wonderful. We’re very pleased they’ve opened their doors to us,” Pohl said.

The next workshop in the For Your Information series is planned to be a shadowbox workshop, in which participants will construct a deep picture frame in which collectibles can be displayed. The location and exact date have yet to be determined. Children over the age of 8 may attend, but must be accompanied by an adult. The program is free to all. To register, call HYSB at 860-824-4720. 

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