Traveling Tales presents magical, online folktale

Traveling Tales presents magical, online folktale

See The Elephant Theatre & Dance Company based in Placerville has launched a new pilot program for El Dorado County children and youth. See The Elephant will create productions and performances that address current issues children face today and make these available to local schools, families and organizations serving youth.

The goal is to provide these arts education resources at no cost to schools or children’s families.

“Arts education is a vital component to kids’ learning,” said Tiffany Van Camp, See The Elephant program manager. “The arts help us to process our experiences, to express ourselves and to use our imaginations. This is especially important as kids have experienced such challenging things recently.”

See The Elephant’s first Traveling Tales production, “The Bluebird, The Fox Witch & The Story of Stumptown,” is based on a folktale, re-imagined for local audiences.

This story was created during COVID-19 with a team of local artists, often working remotely.

“Initially, we had hoped to tour a live theater production to local schools,” Van Camp said. “Like so many, we had to find new ways to create in challenging times.”

The result is a three-part film that uses shadow puppetry and 2-D color puppets. Kylie Balentine, a local artist currently studying animation at California State University, Long Beach, designed the characters from which the puppets were created. Balentine called the experience “the opportunity of a lifetime” and said she loved the collaborative process.

“I think the film itself is indicative of just that; when you watch it for the first time you truly get a sense of the crew members’ individual creative contributions coming together,” she shared. “The end product is something very unique — a film that captures the heart and soul of our community.

“Working on Traveling Tales actually helped me to discover what I’m passionate about in the animation field, which is character design,” Balentine added. “I fell in love with the process of interpreting what the characters were going to look like and how they would exist within the story. There’s really just something so amazing about drawing from the script and getting to conjure up designs that will help bring a story to life. It’s magical.”

“We want to use puppetry and performance to ignite the imagination, lift spirits and foster empathy,” Van Camp explained.

The film is paired with educational guides and tutorial videos. These free resources can be used in the classroom, at home or in any other setting with youth. The Traveling Tales team encourages viewers to create their own stories and art works, which will be published on the website — a collection of creations from local youth.

“The Bluebird, The Fox Witch & The Story of Stumptown” is live and available at TravelingTales.net.

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