By: Famo Musa
The City Heights Puppet Project was an 8 month series of performances at the City Heights Performance Annex. The project was a pilot based on bringing the City Heights community together. The City Heights Puppet Project is a collaboration between Nigel Brookes ( manager of the City Heights Performance Annex at the City Heights/Weingart Branch Library), Lynne Jennings (director of the San Diego Guild of Puppetry), artists, Elijah Rubottom, Mindy Donner, and Armando Delatorre, and The Animal Cracker Conspiracy (Bridget & Iain Gunn). The project was about introducing puppetry to the City Heights community by engaging several age groups and people in the community and celebrating the community’s diversity. In doing this, The City Heights Puppet Project brought art and creativity into the community.
Throughout the year there were eight different puppet performances held over eight months in City Heights. The sequence of the eight month project was: Dia de los Muertos puppets and masks, Zomo the Trickster Rabbit, Cindy the Elf, King Lear, Shadow Puppets, World Day Puppetry Edo Marionettes, and Cinco de Mayo Storytelling & Puppetry.
The first show was a drumming, mask-wearing, and puppetry parade as part of the City Heights Dia de los Muertos Community Altar Festival.
Next up was Cindy the Elf , a show intended for preschoolers that took place in the North Pole at Santa’s gift shop. It was a riveting presentation featuring everything from tiny elves to orange dragons.The show was presented by Animal Cracker Conspiracy Puppet Company, Iain Gunn and based on a Christmas tale from Iain’s childhood about generosity and acceptance.
Lastly, there was a Cinco de Mayo performance. It was a day of celebrations and participatory Spanish/English storytelling with puppets for which the community came out to celebrate with their children.
A lot of people tend to overlook the benefit that comes along with being surrounded by diversity. In City Heights, diversity is something that simply cannot be overlooked because it’s a major part of City Heights’ identity as a community. The vast diversity influences the dynamics of how City Heights is set up. The combination of the different cultures also results in many opportunities. These include sharing ideas, learning from other people using their perspectives, understanding their cultures and traditions, and also accepting the fact that everyone has their own experiences people, yet thrive with the benefit of being in the same community. City Heights is able to adapt its lifestyles to integrate unique traditions from all around the world, exposing people to a variety of languages, food, cultural celebrations, clothing, and many other aspects of people’s lives.The visible diversity makes it easier for other people who are unfamiliar with the culture to connect in ways that everyone can understand and fit into the warm, welcoming culture that is City Heights. All in all, diversity in City Heights is what establishes its uniqueness and the City Heights Puppet project was a wonderful tool used to enhance the richness by adding a little something new.