It wasn't that I could relate, but rather the way in which the story was told with the combination of the music really resonated with me. I ended up watching the movie three times in a row.
There is nothing better than a well told story. The continued popularity of scripted television shows and the massive movie industry show us that stories are very much alive and well. Even "reality" TV tries to construct a story each episode. Stories told through song can bring people to tears, make them smile or even make them angry. It is stories that enlighten the soul.
As someone who teaches and entertains children, stories are very dear to me. The way I most love to tell stories through puppets. This has been the way for over 13 years and is unlikely to change any time soon. What once started as a voluntary helping hand in a children's program, has grown into what I want to do for the rest of my life: the combination of story-telling and puppetry.
Stories and puppets offer a unique blend of entertainment and learning simultaneously. The story continues to be the method through which I communicate, but the puppet (or puppets, and it sometimes is) offers the 'how' that I do that.
It's amazing watching how both children and adults relax and smile within a matter of seconds when talking to a puppet. When a puppet arrives on a scene it's as if instantly the storytelling rules change, and in a manner of speaking, they do.
We have expectations when hearing a story. The story starts. Characters emerge. We wait for story to grow, tension builds, suspense as to what will happen, the possibility of a bad choice or wrong motivation, a continued build as decisions are made and finally the eventual climax of the story where conflict is at its peak. At the end, a resolution is found and the story reaches its conclusion.
If you bring a puppet into this mix the rules subtly change. Our expectations differ as soon as a non-realistic character is present. It doesn't matter if the puppet is a human puppet or not, the realism is both there and not there at the same time. The story can continue to be told realistically, but, once the puppet is there, something is different.
The puppet has the power to say things that a normal story teller cannot. The puppet is outside of the expectations. In a similar way that cartoons and animations can say things that would take much more energy or skill for an actor. When puppets speak people naturally smile. They relate to the puppet, even though they know the puppet is not real, it is 'just a puppet'.
This actually gives the puppet a greater freedom of expression, a licence if you will, to say what he or she wants. This is why very simple movements made by puppets can be very funny. So much is conveyed without words!
Teaching the Bible using puppets
It has been my job to teach children the Bible, also to write material for other teachers. Using puppets gives me and the children watching a chance to learn as the puppet "learns". The puppet can ask questions as the story progresses. The puppet can have its own story that then leads to the telling of a Bible story.
I try to use the puppet quite strategically, where I think there are questions that need to be clarified, or something that doesn't make sense, I never address the topic myself. I always have the puppet ask those questions and it is the puppet to helps make different themes clear. This is particularly helpful when talking about abstract concepts.
Ideas such as happiness, faith, hope, love, grieving, loss, consequences etc. are hard to talk about and explain to anyone, let alone children. Really, the puppets are doing us a favour. The puppets are helping our communication become clearer, more engaging, and easier to understand.
We live in a culture where stories are still incredibly popular. We forget this sometimes, and think that we will be fine if people just see our logic. In a postmodern world where truth is seen to be relative, I think we need to return to stories. Jesus himself often used stories as his main method of teaching.
Stories and puppets are a wonderful mix. They disarm the listener and can help make our teaching sharper. A skilfully made argument may win someone's intellect, but stories address our intellect while winning our hearts.
Stephen Urmston is based in Melbourne and is completing a Masters of Divinity at Ridley Melbourne. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Music and has been involved in children's ministry since 1999. He adores music, puppets and movies, and regularly performs with his puppets in his own church and around Victoria.
Stephen Urmston previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/stephen-urmston.html