The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Puppeteer stars in NW Campus play

By Bethany Peterson/nw news editor

Natalie Beech acts as the puppeteer for Fudge while Bridget Cooney checks to see if Fudge ate a flower in NW Campus’ production of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, which opens Feb. 28.
Martina Treviño /The Collegian

College students can play fourth graders, but it’s a little harder to play a three-year-old.

That’s why in Theatre Northwest’s presentation of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing director Josh Blann chose a puppet and puppeteer for three-year-old Fudge and other very young characters.

The play adapts Judy Blume’s book about Peter, a fourth-grader, who feels his little brother Fudge always gets the attention, making Peter feel like a nothing. Performances will be 10:30 a.m. Feb. 28-March 4 and 2 p.m. March 5. Tickets are free for TCC students, faculty and staff, $3 for non-TCC students and $6 for general admission.

The puppeteers have a critical role in making sure the puppets are effective on stage.

“The puppeteers use their face to mimic whatever the puppets are feeling,” Blann said.

The puppeteers are onstage carrying and manipulating the puppets as well as speaking the character’s lines. Being a puppeteer has its own challenges.

“When I’m acting, I can move around and figure out the character,” said Natalie Beech, Fudge’s puppeteer. “This puppet defines how I can move.”

But it’s the same as regular acting since she still becomes someone else, Beech said.

This is the first time the theater has used puppets instead of characters, so the whole cast and crew are learning about them.

“We had the main puppet professionally made, and we are making the other three,” Blann said.

Whether they have a puppet to work with or not, acting like little kids has challenged most of the actors.

“It’s extremes of everything,” said Aaron Sawyer, who plays Peter. “When they are mad, it’s flat out on the floor. When they’re happy, it’s the happiest time in the world.”

Sawyer said he is unlearning the subtleties of adult communication and learning ways to make emotions more obvious.

“It’s taking a lot more movements, not just a glance or a look like a teenager or an adult,” he said.

For Beech, learning to be a little boy is harder because she never was one.

“I was not as little-boyish,” Beech said about her younger days. “I didn’t climb up on things and jump off. [Fudge] falls from a jungle gym and swallows his teeth. There’s a scene where he eats a turtle.”

She has drawn from memories of when her brother was younger to figure out how to play Fudge, she said.

Sawyer, on the other hand, understands his nemesis well. He said he and Fudge have a lot in common.

“I was the youngest sibling, and I can totally remember doing things that [Fudge] did,” Sawyer said.

To help the cast get the younger mindset, Blann has had them try to think like kids.

“Josh had been having us play kids games for 20 minutes before rehearsals to get into the mood,” Sawyer said. “Duck duck goose, Red Rover, you name it, we’ve played it. We played imagination volleyball with an invisible volleyball one day.”

The play and its presentation are geared toward school-age children coming to the weekday performances. The theme is one children experience everyday.

“It’s helping kids identify with someone who feels underappreciated,” Blann said.

The scenery on stage is also designed with children in mind. The production has at least eight scene changes with pieces to be moved in and out, providing a more detailed background than usual for a play.

“The whole scenery looks like a children’s coloring book,” Blann said.

The actors are also adjusting to performing for younger audiences instead of adults.

“Kids will laugh at things we won’t even catch,” Sawyer said. “Things we work so hard to get across they won’t even catch.”

During rehearsal, Blann kept reminding the actors to face toward the audience to draw the children into the play, rather than following the normal rule of never looking at the audience.

“[Kids] aren’t polite,” Blann said. “If the play is boring, they start moving around.”

But cast members said they are sure the play will entertain adults as well.

“When we read through the script the first time, we were all just cracking up,” Sawyer said.

He said he invited his friends to the weekend performances and expects them to enjoy the play as much as the children will.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian