Marine science takes center stage in new puppet musical

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Attention, Sesame Street — Haddie the Haddock is the newest puppet on the block and she’s ready to teach N.H. students about the ocean.

The UNH Marine Docents have teamed up with the UNH Department of Theatre and Dance to develop a musical puppet show titled What’s All the ComOcean?  The show, intended primarily for middle-school audiences, will teach students about how marine creatures are impacted by warming ocean temperatures and invasive species, and will encourage students to have a positive impact on the ocean, said Mark Wiley, director for the Docent Program and N.H. Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension marine education specialist.  

With brightly colored, charismatic characters, including numerous fish, a sea star, an octopus, a whale, and even a puppet garbage bag to represent trash in the ocean, What’s All the ComOcean? will be on tour with the UNH Little Red Wagon group this summer. The Docents will take the reins in the fall of 2015, incorporating the show as part of their in-school marine science programming.

“I have written a number of our Little Red Wagon plays over the years, but creating a compelling and informative play about marine life and the ocean that would keep a young audience really engaged was a challenge,” said David Kaye, UNH theatre professor who wrote the script and song lyrics and will direct the production. “Mark Wiley and I discussed what we felt was important to include in the piece, like the effects of climate change, invasive species, pollution and over-fishing on the ocean. I spent about two months just researching and thinking, and eventually the story of a lone fish in the Gulf of Maine who senses that there is something amiss in her ocean habitat started to take shape.”

UNH lecturer and puppet master Carol Fisher created the puppets for this production, and Jarred Rocco (UNH ’14) produced the music for the show.

Two people hold colorful puppets of fish and an octopus.

Above: Carol Fisher, UNH lecturer and puppet maker, and Mark Wiley, NHSG/UNHCE marine education specialist, hold puppets made by Fisher for the upcoming musical show What's All the ComOcean?

The UNH Marine Docents, part of N.H. Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension, have long been a presence at schools and public events throughout N.H., bringing their SeaTrek programs to K-12 students throughout the Granite State. Wiley believes this musical puppet show will provide an entertaining addition to their in-school marine literacy efforts, offering an event that serves as an anchor around which they can build their educational programs.

“A musical puppet show offers docents the opportunity to get involved in a different style of marine literacy, particularly for those volunteers who want to participate in something more behind-the-scenes,” Wiley said. “It also offers us the rare opportunity to collaborate with the creative arts side of the University with which we don’t typically get to interact.” 

students rehearse new puppet show about ocean

Above: David Kaye (far right), UNH theatre professor, directs students in rehearsal for new musical puppet show What's All the ComOcean?

N.H. Sea Grant promotes the wise use, conservation and sustainable development of marine and coastal resources in the state, the region and beyond. Located at the University of New Hampshire, NHSG is part of a national network of programs located in our coastal and Great Lakes states as well as in Puerto Rico and Guam.