For an artist, it’s a gift to be able to see the world through a child’s eyes. That ability helped playwright and puppeteer Amaranta Leyva win the Mexican National Prize for Children’s Theater in 2006 for her work “The Dress.”
She says “the honesty of children” is what draws her to that creative universe.
“They know what they want, and what they feel, and they don’t hide it,” says Leyva, whose stories touch upon children’s dreams, desires, fears and joys. “So it’s easier to get to deep emotions, what I call the emotions of childhood, that will continue with us when we’re adults – like love or hate. Maybe not all of them will be happy things, but they will mark our lives in a way.”
Leyva will bring her company, Mexico’s premier puppet theater troupe Marionetas de la Esquina, to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts this weekend to reprise its 2009 sold-out show “A Moon Between Two Houses.” The story emphasizes our need for friends, because feelings such as happiness and fear are “better shared than faced alone.”
“It’s the tale of two characters: one that loves to be surrounded by people and talks a lot – his name is Feather,” says Leyva. “And the other one is a musician named Taciturn, so he wants to be in silence, introverted. It’s the story of how can these two guys breach their differences to be friends when the night comes and both are scared of the noises outside. It’s for little ones, but very familiar for everybody.”
Leyva, whose other plays include “Where Dogs Go When They Go to Heaven” and “Emilio and the Enchanted Cow,” prefers to use puppets in her plays to better express her stories for children.
“Puppets are great for metaphors,” she says. “I think metaphors are very strong to use with children, because they’re always playing, and they’re easier instead of explaining things to them, which becomes very didactic. Children are very intelligent, so if you find the right metaphor to get to them, they understand the feelings and emotions and what you want to say.”
Leyva wasn’t always so keen about puppets. Her father was a puppeteer and started the company in Mexico in the late ‘70s, and young Amaranta eventually found the puppets tiresome.
“For many years when I grew up I didn’t want to know anything about puppets,” she says. “So I moved to literature and writing.” But once she was away from the puppets, she began to realize they were ingrained in her psyche.
“I missed them so much!”