Cape Rep Offers Free Online Kids’ Programming

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

Topics: Local Theater

Puppets, Paul & Mary bring toe-tapping fun to virtual audiences at caperep.org. COURTESY PHOTO

BREWSTER – Theaters are still closed, but that hasn’t stopped Cape Rep from coming through with free summer fun for children from the Outdoor Theater, as well as a new musical puppet show that will have kids laughing as well as tapping their toes.

First up is Cape Rep’s Story Time Series, in which some of our favorite Cape Rep actors turn their talents to engaging readings of their favorite children’s stories. The short videos feature page-turning explorations of tales by Dr. Seuss, Pete Seeger, Denys Cazet and others. Episode are being added regularly, so tune in to caperep.org or to Cape Rep’s YouTube channel to catch the latest stories.

In the mood for some melodious fun? Puppeteer Mary Wilson has joined forces with singer/songwriter Paul Kehoe to form Puppets, Paul & Mary. Mary and Paul and their puppet pals have some songs and silliness they’d like to share with you, and children ages 2 to 6 may even learn something while having fun.

Fans of Cape Rep’s Outdoor Theatre summer shows will be familiar with Wilson from her 15 years of Pitter Patter Puppets performances, traditionally hands-on, interactive, in-person performances. Pre-pandemic, the audience participated in a variety of ways including singing along with the puppets, answering questions posed by the puppets and handing the puppets a variety of items/props suited for the show. The Puppets, Paul & Mary program is a new collaboration between Wilson and Kehoe. Each show has a theme and the songs and puppet interactions are designed to include audience participation with sing-a-longs and eliciting audience answers.

“While we would love to be entertaining a live audience,” Wilson said, “we have adapted the program into a virtual format.”
Wilson explained that Puppets, Paul & Mary made its debut at the Cape Rep Theatre in a virtual format. Each themed show includes a variety of songs and puppet interactions that are designed to elicit viewer participation with some familiar songs and questions posed by the puppets, Paul and Mary. The shows are taped at the Cape Rep Theatre’s Outdoor Theater where the traditional children’s programming occurs during the summer. The viewer is guided down the trail that leads to the theater in each show, a woodsy journey that many children will remember with excitement from summertime visits to Cape Rep’s outdoor shows. Each show is taped live from beginning to end. The viewer is then virtually guided back through the trees to the beginning of the trail at the end of each show.

“Of course, there is nothing like a live theater performance, but in order to keep everyone safe and still have the opportunity to be entertained, this was the best alternative until we can be together again,” Wilson said.

Paul and Mary share exchanges with the puppets that lead into songs performed by Paul on his guitar. The two work together to choose the themes, songs and puppet conversations that are included in the shows. Kehoe has an extensive repertoire of songs that are appropriate for children and many that support social-emotional learning.

“The goal of each show is to provide some entertainment and education in a fun, engaging way,” Kehoe said. “We collaborated with Mo Hanlon and Janine Perry (from Cape Rep) who provided us with a set to be used on the stage of the Outdoor Theater.”
“We are fortunate to have a great support team at the Cape Rep that keep us safe while still being able to share a performance experience,” Wilson said.

Pitter Patter Puppets had been creating virtual puppet shows and puppet social stories since the pandemic began. Puppetgrams (a virtual puppet message to a child or adult) have also become a great way to celebrate birthdays and special events where people have had to distance during this time.

Wilson said that earlier in the season, she believed that there would be no programming at all this summer. She was approached by Janine Perry, Artistic Director of the Cape Rep, to see if she would be interested in performing virtually. She wanted to work with Kehoe and asked if they might be able to debut Puppets, Paul & Mary via a virtual opportunity with Cape Rep. Perry was very supportive and invited the pair to work together to virtually produce the shows. Wilson said it has been a great experience to grow creatively, and she believes it gives the audience/viewer a richer experience with the combination of live music and puppets. The duo worked to include intentional learning into each performance so that children have opportunities to participate and learn concepts.

Kehoe said his inspiration, throughout both his childhood and adult years, include children’s programming on PBS such as Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Sesame Street and Electric Company, as well as Captain Kangaroo.

“We try to include moments in the show where we reach out to the audience to elicit answers to questions to share with the puppet,” Kehoe said. “The show’s themes this summer have included summer fun, using your imagination, growing, pets, feelings and growth mindset, creative cooking and a back to school/back to learning program. It really has been a joy!”

Catch Puppets, Paul & Mary, streamed free at caperep.org or on Cape Rep’s YouTube channel. Episodes are available now, and more will be added in the coming weeks.