WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange Public Library hosted a puppet-show rendition of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale “The Ugly Duckling” on July 15 as part of the library’s seven-week summer reading program for children entitled, “Every Hero Has a Story.” The story of ‘The Ugly Duckling” fit the library’s hero theme because the duckling “had to find its own strength and become its own hero,” according to Head of the Youth Services Department at the West Orange Public Library Faith Boyle.

The puppet performance was presented by Puppetree, a Vermont-based company with a mission to promote an appreciation of the performing arts, with an emphasis on children’s theater and puppets, among diverse audiences. Founded in 1999, Puppetree offers a “unique approach to puppetry that engages the audience to actively participate in the show and interact with its props,” which are qualities that are usually forbidden in conventional performances.

This distinctive feature was extremely evident early in the show, as the about 30 children sitting in the audience were clapping and stomping in order to create rain and making loud “whoosh” sounds to imitate wind.

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Speaking on this particular show, puppeteer Andy Colpitt, who is entering his final year of theatre at Brown University, noted that this show is really about “celebrating difference and uniqueness.” Colpitt has an extensive theatre background, having also studied at the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris, France.

The idea of celebrating individualism was especially apparent throughout the show, as the duckling once called “ugly” and a “dinosaur” eventually embraced loved ones and learned to love itself.

Adding to the matter, puppeteer Karen Huizingh mentioned that he performance should above anything “teach children what to do when they find an injured bird,” with the injured bird directly symbolic of a person down on their luck. Huizingh said he has “been doing puppetry since the fourth grade” and, as of this past spring, is a graduate from the University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts program.

Also part of the Puppetree’s rendition of “The Ugly Duckling” was puppeteer Ana Cavaco, whom finished her theatre degree in Portugal and has since trained in workshops of France’s Compagnie Philippe Genty.

The Puppetree has travelled to several towns within the northeast performing their take on “The Ugly Duckling,” which is “quite different from Hans Christian Andersen’s original story,” according to Genty.

The West Orange Public Library is hosting many more events free of charge to the public, all of which can be seen HERE.

All photos taken by Daniel J. Campbell.