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Puppet Theatre Project

Pakrac November 24, 1996

Origin and aims

A sub-project of Volunteer Project Pakrac, the Puppet Theatre Project began in Pakrac in November 1995 as a non-threatening method of reintegration and reconciliation. In particular, it seeks to address the reintegration of Serb children into the local school system. Following the military action in May of the same year, children from both sides of the town began attending the same schools in Pakrac. After four years of living in essentially separate communities, the reintegration process has been slow and difficult and remains so. In addition to this, with the exception of formalised activities such as daily school attendance, no extra curricular activities were available to children from either side of the formerly divided town. The Puppet Theatre was one of the initiatives developed to address this problem and facilitate the recovery of the war traumatised communities. It offers children a creative avenue to develop communicative and cooperative skills and to build self-confidence and esteem in a non-threatening environment.

gril with puppits The Puppet Theatre Group is designed to be entirely dependent on the children's participation. By encouraging the children to make the puppets, construct the stage and play all the roles in the performances, they learn to take initiatives, handle responsibility and work well with others. It is also an activity with flexibility, it can travel and engage children in an activity wherever they are based.


Under the direction of two international volunteers with knowledge of the local language, the Puppet Theatre has held a number of performances, including a production of "Sleeping Beauty," and "The Flint." After immense positive feedback to our initial efforts we were convinced of the value of this project and began to organize another production involving both new and experienced participants.
Two months after our first performance, our second group completed the preparation of three small skits. The children then began a tour performing in the Pakrac kindergarden, the youth club in Pakrac, the Lipik orphanage and finished their season with a show in a refugee camp in Varazdin. Attendance at all events was excellent. In addition to providing relief and entertainment to both local and refugee children, those involved showed an increase in self-esteem and confidence. The children conducted themselves as professionals, constructively criticising their performances as well as taking over some additional roles in the production.

Future Goals and Objectives

In light of successful attendance and an on-going enthusiasm from children in the community we will continue to use the theatre to facilitate the normalisation and reconciliation processes. The project will continue to involve many children from the area, linking both youth and adults within and beyond the local community. We hope to work with other puppet theatre groups based in Zagreb sharing experiences and hopefully performing together. More puppet making, stage set designing, performances and excursions are planned.

puppet group Through the theatre, the project aims to support the rebuilding of trust between the two communities as the parents and children from all sides of Pakrac engage in this non-threatening activity. It is our immediate goal to continue and expand our work. After being based solely in Pakrac for nearly one year, we have just recently expanded our activities to Gavrenica. In addition to puppet theatre work, we also conduct an alternative theatre with the older children from Gavrenica. Activities in this group include pantomiming and shadow theatre as well as combining elements of classical theatre. We also have started holding workshops with this group, in which the children make puppets, draw and paint, play games, dance, sing and participate in other artistic forms of expression not necessarily related to theatre. In the near future we will introduce these activities to the Pakrac group as well. Through these workshops and theatres we directly support the community in trauma healing and conflict resolution and hope in the near future to add more diverse workshops and seminars for children, educators and parents.

It is the final goal of Volunteer Project Pakrac to find local people who will support the children in making this and other activities sustainable long after the international volunteers project is deemed necessary. Therefore, we plan to identify two local people and train them to work with children. This means providing opportunities for them to attend workshops that focus on work with children traumatised by the effects of war, issues involving conflict resolution and other peace skills training available.

In order for this project to continue to realise its goals, we are appealing for funding both for the established part of our project and for its expansion. We are currently seeking allocations for rent and maintenance fees for a new work and performance space as well as the theatre infrastructure. We are also seeking funding for excursions and trainings. We would greatly appreciate any support you could offer for all or any part of the budget for this project.

For Puppet Theatre:

Anna Sypniewska & Ivica Jalcova

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