The Holiday in the Village parade, set for Sunday, Dec. 8 this year, will include puppets created during an after-school enrichment program with Patrick Wadden of Arm of the Sea Theater and Jodi Adams-Hill, a Saugerties school art teacher. Saugerties junior-high students created the masks, and will help bring them to life in the parade.
“[Wadden] came in and met me, and we felt that was a good fit,” said Adams-Hill, who was already working in papier-mache with some of her students. Eight to 22 students per day participated in the seven-week after-school program, creating and painting the masks.
Wadden, co-artistic director of Arm of the Sea with Marlena Marallo, found the junior-high students were at an ideal age to make the project work. “They’re very capable,” he said. “They’re capable of handling a brush and capable of focusing. This isn’t run like a regular school course. It’s more of a voluntary, fun activity. And they proceeded to papier-mache three large heads.”
A form of mask created by Arm of the Sea was used. The work from then on was done by students. After the heads were completed, students painted them and learned about how to transform them into puppets with arms and fabric bodies. Now that the kids have seen how the sculpting process works, Wadden said, they’ll be able to sculpt their own forms from scratch in the future.
Ava Zagoreos, a seventh grader who worked on the project, was told about it by Adams-Hill, who was already teaching her class about papier-mache. “She said it was a mask that they would be making with papier-mache and painting, and I thought that would be pretty cool to try out,” said Zagoreos.
The masks are around two feet high, said Zagoreos, with exaggerated features. Wadden, who is helping the students learn how to wear the masks ahead of the parade on Sunday, December 8, said Arm of the Sea will loan the procession other masks as well. “I’m hoping that they will come out and really help bring these characters to life,” he said. “I hope they have a big presence in the parade.”
The project was initiated by Sue Sachar, who nearly a decade ago was chairperson of the Saugerties PTSA’s Saving Library, Arts and Music (SLAM) committee, which led fundraising after an austerity budget threatened programs in the district. Sachar remains passionate about ensuring Saugerties students have opportunities like the after-school enrichment program.
“I’m always thinking of ways of integrating the arts program,” she said. “We have great artists in our community, and I wanted see if somebody could come for an after-school program. We wanted to put some literary stuff into it, but that part didn’t actually work out. But it’s growing. Sometimes I have these grand ideas, and you have to start smaller and build up to certain things.”
The results will be seen in the parade, with assistance from the Key Club. Some of the kids who were involved in the creation of the puppets, like Zagoreos, would rather watch the parade than participate in it.
As for the future of the after-school enrichment program, everyone involved said they hoped it would continue into the future.
“They can go in any kind of direction,” said Wadden. “I’ve done literally hundreds of hands-on intensive residency projects at schools and neighborhood centers all over this region, usually culminating in a performance of some kind. It can go that way. If time and scheduling allowed, I’m going to invite students to be part of our summer internship program, which culminates in our annual Esopus Creek Puppet Suite. So I’m hoping that there will be some lasting connections here.”