by Amilo Rajandram (age 10)
I recently went to watch a play called Ajijaak on Turtle Island and was performed at the grand Studebaker Theater on 410 S Michigan Avenue. The play was part of the Chicago Puppet Theater Fest, a biannual festival established since 2014.
The story is about a crane called Ajijaak who gets separated from her parents in a fire after her birth, for which she travels to many different territories in search of them. The bird encounters a number of different people and animals along the way, including a tree-deer, a sneaky coyote and a shaggy bison. Before they fly away, Ajijaak’s parents teach her of her responsibility to rid the world of a mystical creature that has emerged from the abyss of the waters, drawn out by damage and harm the humans are causing toward the Earth. It is with the help of these creatures (animals and humans), that Ajijaak must find her way to protect the Earth.
The Play has a lot of Native American influence, ranging from the music and the singing to the language and the characteristics of the people and animals she meets.
An important feature of this play is the use of puppetry. The puppets are used to represent animals as they would not have been able to bring real animals into the theater – imagine three huge bison accompanied by a hungry coyote running onto the stage! These puppets were very stunning and sometimes unexpected – when I saw them I thought to myself “I didn’t see that coming!”
In this play, the puppets were created with the involvement of Heather Henson (the daughter of Jim Henson- creator of the Muppets). In comparison to the original Muppets, these puppets were a lot more elegant and reflected Native American culture.
Overall, I think the play was very interesting. I thought the use of puppetry was brilliant and the songs were spectacular. I would recommend an age range of 7-12 years for kids and most adults.
I would highly recommend catching another show from this festival if you can.
410 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago
The performance of this play ended on Sunday January 20, but the Chicago International Puppet Theater festival continues to run until Sunday January 27 – for more information go to: chicagopuppetfest.org