KEARNEY — Andrew Young hopes to disappear as he gives life to the characters from the books of Eric Carle.
“All of the puppets, the set pieces and everything they see on stage is painted with a special fluorescent paint that glows in the dark,” he said. “They don’t see us, the performers, but they see the puppets as they move through space in the dark.”
The puppeteers, covered from head to toe in black clothing, disappear under the effects of an ultraviolet light, better known as a black light.
“We like to think of ourselves as ninjas,” Young joked.
Kevin Olson, also a puppeteer in the production of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Classics,” wants audiences to make a connection with the show.
“The show has been designed to make it look like the pictures from the storybook have come to life,” he said. “The audience sees a story they know and pictures they know, on stage, coming to life and set to music. They don’t even think about what we’re doing. It’s all about bringing life to these stories.”
Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia will present “The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Classics” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Merryman Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students 18 and younger.
“It’s really an immersive experience,” Young said. “Children get to see these characters pop out of the book and interact with each other, as well as listening to this special music that develops it into a more fuller experience. The audience can watch and hear and see all these things happening.”
The puppeteers give a specific personality to the characters as well. They use movements and gestures to tell the stories, things that can’t be expressed in the book.
“There’s a lot of extra personality in the show that you can’t get through the still images,” Young said.
The show’s director, Jim Morrow, worked closely with the author - Eric Carle.
“It was a very collaborative process,” said Benjamin Leger, also one of the puppeteers in the show. “It involved some give-and-take but at the end of the day, Eric Carle did have a lot of say as to how this story was realized on stage.”
Denise Christensen, executive director of the Merryman Performing Arts Center, understands the importance of live productions.
“I just had a season member in my office who told me about a conversation she had with her granddaughter,” Christensen said. “She asked her if she wanted to see the show and her granddaughter said, ‘I remember seeing that in school.’ That was three years ago. Having that impact of the memory of seeing that show is very insightful about the power of live theater.”
More than 1,400 students will experience the show as part of the Scott and Rochelle Morris Matinee series, along with financial help from other community partners, on Tuesday afternoon before that night’s performance.
“We want to give that magical experience to students so their love of live theater can grow,” Christensen noted.