Museum summer students/heritage interpreters Charis Tazumi (left), Dakota Nelson and Maxwell Cossenas and their puppet friends give kids a different look at local history. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Museum at Campbell River using puppets to teach history to kids

Story of Japanese connections is added to the repertoire this summer

The Museum at Campbell River often looks at different ways to tell stories, and for 32 years, it has been using puppets as a way to teach local history to children in the community.

This summer, the latest chapter tells the story of the gate that welcomes visitors to the city.

The puppet theatre repertoire includes favourite topics such as Ripple Rock and the Steam Donkey, or characters such as Roderick Haig-Brown and Sybil Andrews. Each year though, summer students working as heritage interpreters at the museum challenge themselves to come up with a new story to tell as part of the schedule, which also includes some of the favourites from past years.

For the new show, Charis Tazumi, Dakota Nelson and Maxwell Cossenas researched the history, put together the dialogue for the story, wrote new lyrics to a familiar tune for the show and made the puppets.

“We have our regulars who come every week,” Nelson said.

She says the puppet theatre helps bring history to life for kids.

“It’s more interactive for them, and they kind of pick it up better,” she said.

This year’s addition, “How Torii Got to Campbell River,” looks at the story behind Sequoia Park’s Torii Gate, which lies across the old highway below the museum.

The gate was a gift from Campbell River’s sister city of Ishikari, Japan, which sent the gate over in 1993. It was the first gate of its kind erected in this country. In response to the gesture, the community gave Ishikari a totem pole by carver Bill Henderson. This year marks the two communities’ 35th anniversary as sister cities.

From her own Japanese ancestry, Tazumi wanted this year’s show to make the museum’s repertoire a little more diverse.

“I felt like I had that connection, so I could bring it to the repertoire,” she said.

She says she was aware of the story and the sister relationship, but the project allowed her to learn more too.

“It’s something I’ve been aware of, but writing this play definitely gave me more information and insight into it,” she added.

This year’s show revolves around Torii, the gate, and his search for a missing piece that makes up one of his legs, and includes a few touches to help entertain the kids, such as Torii coming face to face with an evil octopus.

The museum’s season is winding down, but there are still a couple of repertoire shows. For more information on the show or the museum, see www.crmuseum.ca, call 250-287-3103 or email general.inquiries@crmuseum.ca.