By Blake Robinett
This summer while most teenagers were wasting away in front of televisions and computers, five local students participated in a rewarding internship with Paperhand Puppet Intervention.
Paperhand is a local theater company that produces a show every year using giant paper maché puppets. The students landed internships through a close relationship with Paperhand and by proactively working for the internships by contacting the company. They helped with Paperhand’s summer production, Islands Unknown.
Paperhand started taking on interns four years ago. Donovan Zimmerman, who co-founded Paperhand with Jan Burger, said that Paperhand doesn’t seek interns, they just make it known that internships are available. In order to secure an internship with the group, students must get in contact with the directors and display interest in working with the ensemble. People that take initiative have a better chance of being able to land an internship.
Interns become part of the cast for the show, and help both in the studio and on stage. Zimmerman said that he and Burger show the interns how to sculpt and paint, and then let the interns work on their own.
“[Paperhand] is a great group of people to work with, [they] are so open” said Enloe High School student Nora Gardner, 17, who was one of the interns for Islands Unknown. “It’s something everyone should try.”
Gardner’s family consistently saw the shows for eight years, and her sister had been an intern with Paperhand two years before. Because of her family’s close relationship with them, the company asked if Gardner would like an internship. As an intern, Gardner helped with paper maché, set construction, painting, acting and more.
“It’s a wonderful way for [my daughters] to be creative and be part of this artistic community” said her father, John Gardner. “[Paperhand] is like our other family.”
Islands Unknown, this summer’s show, followed a young girl on an adventure which takes her from a mysterious library across many islands. Paperhand Puppet Intervention showcases all of its many talents in this show, including enormous paper maché puppets, stilt walkers, and an amazing musical score in its production.
Although the show never tells the audience what to think, it portrays the message that humankind is having a detrimental impact on the earth, and encourages the audience to change their behavior before it’s too late.
“We open ourselves up to what is happening to humanity at this time, and we hold up a mirror,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not us getting across our agenda; it’s us holding up a mirror.”
Zimmerman has also done work with East’s Theater Department. He completed a residency here two years ago and helped with the production of The King and I. East’s theater director, Hope Hynes Love, said that Zimmerman is a great teacher and working with him was wonderful for students.
“He taught girls to walk on stilts in an hour,” Love said. “He was amazing.”
Love also said there is a chance that Zimmerman will help out with this spring’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. In Fiddler, Zimmerman would help with the creation of the character Fruma-Sarah, who gets bigger and bigger over the course of the show, a transformation requiring someone with Zimmerman’s expertise.
Those who want to get involved with tech for Fiddler and have a chance to work with Zimmerman can find sign up sheets outside the black box theater in the Café Commons. The completed sheets are due by Dec. 6.