Why plays and puppet shows should entertain rather than instruct was discussed at the 12th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival
Sharjah, May 29, 2021
Books, plays, puppet-shows and other creative art forms can bring value to children and capture their attention by being more entertaining than moralistic or instructional. This was the essence of ‘The Fun Industry’ discussion held at the Cultural Forum yesterday (Friday, May 28) during the 12th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF).
“Children come to the theatre to have fun, not to learn. Give them what they need. Authors all over the world need to research the psychology of a child. What makes them dance, what makes them scared, what makes them hate, what do they aspire to do? Authors need to be able to answer these critical questions while creating content for children,” said Dr. Hussein Ali Haref, Iraqi Artist and Academician who has authored 30 plays and 13 puppet shows for kids.
“The ethical messages are already being delivered to kids by society, through their families and the school,” he added.
Agreeing with Dr Haref, American award-winning author and illustrator, Kevin Sherry, shared his experience of interacting with school children by using costumes and puppets to create a lively interactive atmosphere.
“When I put on a bear-head costume, make them sing and start telling them jokes, they start having fun and I get their attention. Once you have their attention, the child’s mind becomes receptive to whatever information you may want to give them,” said the author of I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean and The Yeti Files series.
With children moving towards getting their entertainment mostly from social media and digital platforms these days, are playwriters and puppeteers concerned that these traditional forms of entertainment may soon be replaced?
“It’s good to be represented on digital platforms, but I think everyone knows there is a huge difference between a child looking at something on a screen and them experiencing something in real life. When they interact with a live show, they come alive, it brings something out from inside of them,” added Kevin.
“This session is in person,” Dr Haref continued. “If this session was online and you were home looking at us through your screen, would it feel the same? Theatre is one of the oldest forms of art, and despite movies and TV, it hasn’t lost its charm. I don’t think a child will ever lose their interest in a play or a show regardless of what technology comes in future,” he added.