Puss in Boots

by Vicky on September 22, 2012

Since my Puss in Boots doll had portrayed Señor Don Gato last week, I decided that he should play himself this week.  I love this story, and own two different versions.  The title illustration (and my doll) are from Puss in Boots, by Charles Perrault, translated by Malcolm Arthur and illustrated by Fred Marcellino, which is a Caldecott Honor Book.

My other edition is a 1977 pop-up book, Puss in Boots, retold by Christopher Logue and illustrated by Nicola Bayley.

Of course both versions are adapted from Charles Perrault’s original seventeenth century tale, Le Maître Chat, ou Le Chat Botté.

Before the play, I decided to try teaching the children a baroque dance.  I had them line up in two facing lines, with their partner in the line opposite.  Then everyone clapped in time to the music (Prologue to Dardanus, by Rameau) as the first couple met in the middle and marched down the aisle to take their places at the end.  Amazingly, this went very well and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I told them that they would be doing this dance at the end of the story to celebrate the wedding.  Next time I think I’ll get them to bow to each other!

The version of the story I told was closer to the Logue/Bayley version.  I started the story in front of the puppet stage behind a low bench, and I showed the first two pop-up illustrations.  When Puss arrives at the Ogre’s castle, I moved behind the puppet stage.

Other than my Puss doll, my puppets were very simple.  I found an Ogre face, printed it out and colored it, and mounted it on a stick.  It’s clothes were made of plastic bags.  I like to use simple home-made puppets so kids and their parents will get the idea that they don’t need fancy puppets to have fun. 

When the Ogre transforms into a Lion, I swooped a paper plate Lion mask attached to a length of gold metallic fabric above the stage.  Puss runs away and reappears on the puppet stage, while the Ogre reappears above him.  When the Ogre transforms into a Mouse, I tossed a catnip mouse over the theater and had Puss run out and pounce on it (and swallow it in one gulp!).

The miller’s son (transformed into the Marquis de Carabas) and the Princess Celeste were simple rod puppets from illustrations that I printed and painted.

…In the Logue/Bayley version, the King tells Puss that he is so impressed with him that he would like him to come and live at his court.  Puss replies that , while nothing would make him happier, he belongs to the Marquis de Carabas.  During dinner, the King looks thoughtful, Puss looks thoughtful, and the young couple look at each other.

Of course the King allows the young people to be betrothed, and he and Puss sit together at the wedding breakfast.

“Puss, I think we have done rather well,” declares the King.  Purring, Puss replies, “Sire, I think you are right.”

The Marcellino book ends with an illustration of two palace mice looking up at a grand portrait of Puss hanging in a place of honor on the castle wall.

Before the play, I explained to the kids that operas and musical plays usually begin with an overture, a piece of music that helps us get in the mood for what is to come.  I played the first minute or so of the Rigaudon from Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin.  The wedding music at the end was the Prologue- Tambourins I and II from Rameau’s Dardanus, and the Contredanse from Acte IV of Dardanus.

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