On August 11, in the library’s parking lot from 2–4 p.m., we will celebrate the 10th birthday of our in-house puppet troupe known as MOPs. Or is that 10 + 1? Hmmm… Here’s a little history of the MOPs to help us decide.
Our Mobile Outreach Puppeteers (or MOPs for short) were “born” in 2011 when two Outreach staff members, Cindy Consalvo and Laura Didier, attended a workshop called “Put Punch in Your Program.” We thought adding puppetry to our storytime skills sounded like a great idea, but it became much more!
The presenter, Dorothy Kleidon from Pocketful O’Puppets, showed us how to make our storytimes come alive using puppets and a stage. We learned how to make puppets emote, make them move and create some simple sock puppets. As we talked about how exciting it would be to produce puppet plays, we ruminated on the lack of a puppet stage at our library and. But then we remembered some long-forgotten curtains in storage that were custom made for our (at that time) almost 10-year-old Bookmobile.
With newly-found inspiration, we dug out the curtains, purchased some new curtain rods and set about trying to figure out how to fit them on the Bookmobile. Ultimately, we discovered they were made to fit the opening of the wheelchair lift, which luckily formed a makeshift stage right on the Bookmobile.
Ta-da! Instant puppet stage, right? Wrong! Before we could use this setup and produce mobile puppet shows, we had to plan how two staff members would fit knees-to-knees in a less-than-4-foot-wide space, sit low enough so their heads wouldn’t be seen above curtains AND have an “actual” stage to secure props. Brainstorming lasted through the summer of 2011, and Outreach soon had a removable wooden stage (a board), 2 footstool seats, and a way to hang scripts during each play.
It’s All Coming Together
That wasn’t the end of the learning. We had to figure out a lot more, including how to be heard clearly, where to buy puppets, how to keep our props from falling off the stage, how to keep our equipment organized, figuring out stage directions and finding puppet scripts. Fun fact, most of our scripts are adapted from picture books, some come from puppet script books and some are songs that we perform with puppets. On top of all the technical details, we also had to learn different voices for the puppets and attend puppetry workshops to improve our skills.
Finally, in the fall of 2011, we performed not one, not two, but THREE puppet shows in a single day that consisted of four plays each. Our complete repertoire for that first performance included Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox (still one of our favorites), There Was a Princess (a song by The Wiggles), Little Red Riding Hood by Mary Ann Hoberman and Little Blue Riding Hood by Dee Anderson. The response to our shows was wonderful, from kids to adults alike. We were a hit, which meant we had a lot more to do!
In 2012, we added a third member to our MOPS crew to share the planning and puppeteering duties, Melissa Luce. We also began a partnership with the Park District to perform our shows at their local park family events. We also started performing at many Bolingbrook community events like Cavalcade of Planes, Taste of Bolingbrook, the Village Picnic and Parkie’s Last Blast.
We also performed at the library’s end-of-summer celebration, Wednesdays at Winston Woods events and several other events around the area. We have even performed at the American Library Association annual conference and the annual Bookmobile Round-Up event for the Association for Bookmobile and Outreach Services. To date, we have performed over 80 times to more than 3000 kids and adults! It seems everyone loves puppets! And we continue to evolve the puppet troupe: performing at new venues all around town, making a new stage, developing mini “lap” puppet shows and filming virtual performances during the pandemic.
But Why MOPs?
Wait! Don’t you want to know how we became known as the MOPs? Well, when the puppet shows were still just an idea in our heads, we discussed what we would call the puppeteers and whether to create a mascot. We agreed to call ourselves the Mobile Outreach Puppeteers because we were puppeteers on the go, and so MOPs became our new name! This was quickly followed by newly decorated mops with faces and accessories to introduce our shows. So the next time you see someone from Outreach marching or dancing with a mop, now you will know why.
Puppetry is an ancient form of theatre, but we found it to be a perfect complement to the early literacy mission of Fountaindale Library and an essential tool to entertain our youngest patrons in the Bolingbrook community. Creating and performing puppet shows brings us as much joy as our audience!
So please help us celebrate our 10th birthday and 11 seasons of puppetry fun with the MOPs at our special event on August 11.