Blue Hill School’s Celebration of Puppetry Dedicated to “Mr.
By James Straub
population at Blue Hill Consolidated School
swelled by dozens earlier this month.
not be alarmed, however.
were puppets, many of them created by the students.
The addition of
puppets to the student body was part of the school’s annual Arts
Week festival, which celebrated “Puppet Power” this year.
Prior years had
focused on international cultures and maritime arts.
Margret Baldwin said the theme was selected after students visited
the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland last fall.
students visited the Farnsworth, where they viewed exhibits and
performances by Maine
puppeteers in a show entitled “Characters in Hand.”
Puppet Power week
at the Consolidated School was dedicated to the late Francis
Hamabe, a local artist and puppeteer who taught at the school for
were displayed in the school lobby, as were puppets made by area
artists Richard Merrill, Susan Barrett and Mia Kanazawa.
and performances were given by Waldorf Silk Puppets with Merri Ely
and Diane Fitzgerald, the Temple Stream Players and Figures of
internationally as a painter, printmaker and potter, Hamabe was
also known as “Mister Puppetman.”
A young tyke in
the audience of one of his puppet performances gave the name to
Hamabe back in the early 1950s.
The name stuck.
Although he was an accomplished artist and graduate of the Rhode
Island School of Design, Hamabe continued to get requests for his
puppetry until his death this spring.
For many years,
Hamabe traveled Maine
in a station wagon bulging with puppet stage, props and puppets
ranging from grotesque to hilarious.
According to a
1972 publication from the Maine State Commission on the Arts and
Humanities, Hamabe’s traveling show became a familiar sight to
postmen, school children, truck drivers, gas station attendants
and others as he traveled the Maine roads.
tells of one night when Hamabe was staying in a hotel.
practicing in his room with two girl puppets, using a soprano
voice, when he received a call from the desk clerk demanding that
he remove `those women’ from his room or else pay an extra eight
dollars a night per person,” according to the article.
ran down to the lobby holding his girl puppets aloft and put on a
free and convincing performance for the bewildered clerk.”
dedication to children and puppetry, it was appropriate to
dedicate Puppet Power week to him, Baldwin said.
Puppets can be
entertaining. They also are useful in therapy and as a tool for
Susan Barrett’s hand-woven, hand-felted puppets are used in
therapy to express feelings and issues a person would not feel
comfortable expressing as himself.
Puppet Power is all about,” Baldwin said. “It’s used in therapy and used for advocacy of social
issues and political causes. Puppeteers feel safe because the
puppets get all the attention.”
Students at the
Consolidated School worked with the Temple Stream Players to
construct puppets and sets for a performance of “Real Food and
organized a parade of giant puppets from the school to downtown
Blue Hill, as well as viewing performances and attending workshops
by the Figures of Speech Theater and Richard Merrill.