Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
A clown, who can shoot streams of water from his eyes, is seldom ranked high on the trust list.
But, one just like that endeared himself to two dozen children attending a puppet show at the Morrow branch of the Clayton County Library System on Thursday.
The water-squirting clown-puppet was part of the library's summer programming for children. The multi-talented puppet lip-synched to the Boy George song, "The Crying Game," and every time he got to the part where the song title is mentioned, water shot from his eyes, toward the children in the audience.
Fortunately, they were given a plastic tarp beforehand, to shield themselves from the water.
At one point, after several minutes of shooting water at the screaming youngsters, the puppeteer, Peter Hart, told them the waterworks were over, and they could lower the tarp. They believed him, and put the tarp down in their laps.
It was a trap.
"Suckers!" said Hart, in character as the clown, as he snickered and resumed shooting water at his audience. The children, in return, resumed their gleeful screaming.
The waterworks were not done just to douse the children with water, though. It was all an effort at linkage to this year's Summer Reading Program theme of "Make a Splash ... Read!," according to Hart.
"I kept it in a variety-show-style format, where the preceding acts are just a build up to the clown, which is the big splash finish," the puppeteer said.
The "crying" clown was preceded by a rapping skeleton, another clown who was a break-dancer, a daredevil cat, a family of vaudevillian rabbits, and, of course, dancing unicorns.
"I liked the horses [unicorns] because they did tricks," said 6-year-old Jason Curtis, of Morrow.
Darla Rance, the youth services librarian for the Morrow library branch, said one of her goals this summer was to get a puppet show for the library, because children tend to like that kind of event. "Usually, the most popular programs are puppets and magic shows," she said.
Hart tied reading into his performance, while his puppets were performing, by explaining how books helped him become a puppeteer. "All the puppets you saw today were made by me, because I went to the library and checked out books on how to make puppets," he told his audience.
The children laughed and cheered throughout the performance, but in the end, it was the "crying" clown who several youths pointed to as their favorite part of the performance.
The screaming during the clown's "crying" apparently just hid the truth about what the youngsters really thought of the act. While they were screaming, they were also smiling and laughing, at the same time.
"I enjoyed it when the clown was spraying us with water, because it was fun," said Jonesboro's Courtenay Jackson, 8.
"I really enjoyed it when he tried to get us with the tears," added Asia Reives, 6, of Morrow.