Russian Ministries’ in-country affilate, the Association for Spiritual Renewal, is passionate about puppets, and this was abundantly evident at the Puppet Festival that took place by the shores of the Sea of Azov in Ukraine.
In describing the purpose of the ministry, Sofia Gorbatiuk, who was part of the puppet festival team, said, “This is not just an excellent opportunity for Christian artistry, but it is a very effective means to witness to the secular world. Children are our future, and the puppet theater is a unique way to tell them about God and faith.”
Elena Milua, who conducted scriptwriting workshops at the puppet festival, wrote the following article.
They Came to Learn
By Elena Milua
Editor of Pathways Magazine
Each of the puppet teams is unique, and each is needed and valuable because it conveys the good news about Christ to a dying world. We know that each team is actively involved in ministry. We heard amazing testimonies about presenting shows in Internats, hospitals, nursing homes and juvenile prisons. All of these performances are achieving one goal: to show people the way to God’s Kingdom.
No proof is needed to show that children love puppet shows. It is even difficult for adults to hide their emotions when fairy tales are brought to life on the stage. But these tales have meaning and wisdom behind them—the wisdom of God.
This was the first time I attended the Puppet Festival that the Association for Spiritual Renewal has held for six years. Sixty teams with 400 participants came from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan. Some of these teams were formed recently; others have been in existence for several years. Children are members of many of the teams, while other teams are made up of adults.
The shows presented during the five-day festival represented various topics and themes including Christmas shows, Bible stories, moral fables and fairy tales.
During the festival, we discussed topics such as: What is the difference between a miracle and magic? How should evil be portrayed on the stage in a way that does not make it too attractive for the viewer? How can biblical truths be included in the plot so that the plot affirms and explains those truths using the puppet show as a vehicle?
Experienced and strong puppet theaters such as “Candle” from Zaporozhye, Ukraine, “Rainbow” from Odessa, Ukraine ,“God’s Colors” from Kislovodsk, Ukraine and others set the standard that the less experienced theaters strive toward. A valuable aspect of the festival was the generous sharing of ideas, scripts and other resources among teams.
Classes provided participants with the opportunity to improve their skills in the art of puppetry. These classes were taught by professional puppet theater actors and directors. I taught a seminar on scriptwriting during the festival.
During the festival we saw a variety of performances. The “Magic Lantern” theater from Sevastopol gave an effective presentation that used shadows along with live actors. The “Candle” Theater from Zaporozhye made a very vivid impression with its use of actors and marionettes.
But the undisputed favorite of the competition was the show presented by the theater from Makeeva called “My Enemy” which combined live actors with puppets. They used dramatic effects including a battle scene with very realistic weapons and a cannon that actually fired!
A theater from Kislovodsk simply charmed the audience with its surprise storyline, excellent puppet work, and the way that the personalities of the puppets came through in their voices, dialogue and humor.
I would also like to say a few words about the newer puppet theaters. The team from Samara won first place for its performance, “Believe in Miracles.” This team immediately won over the audience. Puppet theater teams from Dnepropetrovsk, Brovarov, Azov, Belaya Tserkov and Tyumen presented interesting shows that revealed a great amount of effort and artistry.