Working with adults in prison and with children in Parma Hospital

II International Conference Education and Puppets 2010

CORRADO VECCI CONFERENCE, Psychomotorist. Italy.

Working with puppets: Working with adults in prison and with children in the hospital of Parma

day. My name is Corrado Vecci, I'm a psychomotorist from the cooperative
social Le Mani Parlanti of Parma, president of the Puppet Association
and Salut Italia and vice-president of FILMS (international federation
of puppets and health). First of all I would like to thank the organization and
in particular to Teia Moner for the invitation to this agreement. My
intervention will consist of the exhibition of two activities, linked
absolutely in the title of the day The puppets, an open window.

first part of the presentation exposes the work with the puppets in the
prison and the second, the work done in the Pediatrics section of
the Hospital of Parma.

I'll start
with the presentation of the work done in the Parma prison. Make a
puppet workshop with a final performance in a prison has been an idea
which I have often thought of. That's because I've always believed in the
utility of figure theater as an instrument that promotes stimulus
imaginative and creative, with the addition that a prison is a difficult field.
This idea could not be realized until two years ago, either by the
fact that there were no channels to make my proposals, or because,
working day in and day out with the kids, I figured the difference would be
too large and may not be applicable to adults and
imprisoned techniques used with children.

The occasion
was introduced to me when in 2008 from the Ser.t (dependency program
pathological diseases of the prison) of the health section of Parma goes to me
propose to collaborate with them from the organization of a workshop
of puppets for prisoners. I accepted with enthusiasm and a bit of
skepticism about the new job that was being presented to me.

I will
to specifically request that this workshop end with a show
end, because I am convinced that the value is extremely important
of this work is completed if you go through all the points that
they involve the creation and realization of a show.

The goal
of this workshop was also to offer participants, with the help of
figure theater instruments, the possibility of finding a dimension
creative and stimulate the imagination in an environment where these
conditions do not exist.

Open that one window looking beyond the bars, out of the prison walls with the help of imagination.

from the beginning I had many difficulties. Difficulties related to the
rigidity of the rules of prison life. That rigidity was
justified by the fact that the Parma prison is a maximum prison
security and that is why it has been necessary for me to imagine everything I could
serve to perform the show before entering, before knowing
the participants.

once I thought about the list of materials, I had to modify it. Per
example, we could only use a pair of scissors with spikes
rounded for the whole group of participants; the sandpaper me
they conceded only if it was cut into 5cmx5cm pieces and only three pieces
for each; likewise, they also touched only a needle for sewing and
two brushes per head. The causes of this were also due to the fact that the
prisoners had very long sentences.

that the way of working in this field is totally different from the
way I usually use when working with boys or girls, with
which, for each occasion I have the opportunity to choose the material
which best suits the situation.

I found it difficult to form the group. For this one
workshop was helped by an operator who works in prison every day. Vam
working together and we talked to each other to explain them
contents and purposes of the workshop. So everyone could choose
delivery whether to participate or not.
of them decided to participate without being completely sure, because so
they had the chance to get out of the cell and relate to someone

Once the group was formed, we decided to start the workshop
working on team building, that is, we tried to motivate one
group of 8 people who did not know each other and who would contribute theirs
various personal stories. Generally, it is difficult to create a group that
it is based on a purpose that comes from outside. In this case, moreover,
these were people who lived in a condition in which the
freedom and dignity towards the simplest actions were denied and,
as a result, violent behavior toward others and the

to them, life in prison often requires them to face all
situations individually, unrelated. On the contrary, in the group
which was formed, to achieve the goal of creating a show of
tittelles based on the construction of history was indispensable
share everyone's suggestions.

We dedicated the first sessions of the workshop to doing group therapeutic relaxation, using the brain-storming
with the theme of participation, expectations and about
puppets. All this work to enjoy, for two hours
weekly, of a moment that would help them get out of the difficulties
daily imprisonment.

can I
say we achieved the goal, the weather within the group is gone
return calmer and, in addition, some of them managed to give aid to
others (in the first group two prisoners had psychiatric pathologies and
in the second, three were foreigners). The prisoners who knew how to paint go
help those who did not know, and the same happened to those who did
they knew how to sew. We also worked out the expectations they had towards the
workshop. At first, everyone had their own. Some watched the workshop
puppets as an out of place proposal regarding their age, the
they looked more suitable for children. One of them was anxious at the same time
show your emotions to others. Others said they were not
able to do manual things, not even the puppet with the suit. I
another was so excited and confident that he had to stop
so that others have space.

the stories were very important to them. They were able to pull it off
many of their emotions and lived experiences. Here I found
many similarities with the work I often do with children and with them
Disabilities. The story, however, reflects some of his
desires such as freedom, friendship, love and work. Some wishes
which in the end are made symbolically in history, though the
title they chose returns them to their current condition. Thus, the
first show was titled The Land of Never Again, that was like saying: we dreamed with our eyes open, we imagined our dreams and desires, for we are here, in prison.

We can,
therefore, evaluate the thesis for which the use of puppet one is attributed
important therapeutic value. We were able to stimulate his desire and the
pleasure to externalize deep emotions, positively and
negatively, in an area in which it would otherwise have been
very difficult to express.

I will now send you a comment from a participant:
C: I said things about myself that, in words, I would not have said so easily.

After writing the story we did the stage, which at first was supposed to be one, but then
the enthusiasm and desire to be able to offer a good product made them decide to make two themselves.
security reasons I could not bring material from outside, so to
when choosing the music everyone went to propose titles of
musical themes. Then I recorded them in one pen drive and, thanks to the kindness of a prison guard, we were able to listen and choose the music for good.

In the
final we set the date on which we would act for the other prisoners.
Here we also had difficulties with the rules of the prison. We don't
to be able to rehearse with the puppet theater, neither with music nor the
scene moves, and we had to try it all half an hour before that
start the final cake.

I will
appreciate many changes in the character of the participants throughout the
workshop course. If at first the motivations were superficial for the
the fact that they thought the puppet show was something for kids,
then, over time, and especially during the construction of the
puppet, motivations changed. Each of them invested a lot
of their emotions to improve the product. They took care of him
they farted, it never ended up being perfect.

from a personal point of view, this experience has shown me one
reality of which he had only heard. Surely he was one
knowledge that went beyond the surface and led us to
explore hidden areas inside us.

Are going
come to see our show 150 prisoners and 20 people from outside.
The actors, who from the beginning of the workshop had not demonstrated
worries about showing up to the public, produced a tension that goes with me
seem functional to carry out the show in a way

The show
it was considered a success by the other prisoners, including the actors
greater criticism was expected. Too bad we couldn't document anything,
neither with video nor with photos. We were only able to take pictures of the
puppets I put you down here.

Some comments from the actors after the show:

I really liked it. I understand that in addition to acts against the law, I can
doing normal things accepted outside of here too. I lifted mine
level of self-esteem.

From the beginning he was convinced that he should only write the
story, make the puppet and paint the stage, without having to recite
personally, because I was embarrassed. The night before the cake I had
anxiety because he thought he might have recited. I was excited
also the next day. I thought I had done something that would have ended
with my 20 year criminal reputation. But I saw that
I was wrong when I heard comments from my classmates.
I really enjoyed the show and it made me realize that I had done something
important to myself.

O: It was a very good experience. Everyone congratulated us on the show. I am satisfied with the work we did.

S: I was comfortable with the group. I think I played a good role.

And here are some questions I asked a participant in last year's workshop:

1)    What did you think of this activity?

The initiative seemed like a good thing to me from the beginning, especially
for doing something new and for giving me the chance
forcing me to take advantage of the time, and at the same time distracting me from the harsh
reality of prison. Also because when I was little my mom me
took to see the puppet shows of the Ferraris (company
Parma). This made me curious.

2)    How did you feel during the workshop?

Very comfortable, the group, the others, Corrado and Cinzia have been
great, we set up a good roll little by little. The best example goes
be to build the plot of the show. It was hard to get started though
then we would have continued for days writing the story.

3)    Did you use this experience during your life in prison?

It helped me a lot. It motivated me (in a place where it’s hard
find motivations). Experience has improved the relationship between
us and gave us a good personal memory. I was enriched by

4)    To what extent has it been important for you to build the story, the puppet, and the show?

I was very excited that once the show was over I was
I realized that I could do a job that both the public and I could do
thank you. I thank Cinzia and Corrado for the opportunity
they have given us.

September 2009 we started the workshop again with a
new group. It was a group of 5 people in which one was inserted
apprentice from the University of Education Sciences.

this group, on the one hand, was all the simpler because they were so much
more motivated than those in the previous group; on the other, we had problems
because among them were many more foreigners.

on Monday the 21st of June we did the first and also the last performance, or
be the only one in the Parma prison. This year, unlike the year
In the past, they allowed us to take pictures and also shoot a video of
the show.

Second part

all this and recognized in the puppets a strong descriptive value, I think
that the puppet is the right and appropriate instrument for the children who are
find in the hospital. For children hospitalization is surely one
moment of great tension, anxiety and fear. At the time of being admitted to
the hospital, the child loses daily referrals; everything he did in the
normal life in the hospital stops, the customs of space and time
they change.

You know
that Japanese is expressed through ideograms, which are a kind of
imaginary representation of what they want to represent. I was impressed
much the fact that the ideogram representing the child is translated
literally as a the river flowing between two banks. This one
image explains well the needs of the child. The river itself is one
moving image. An image that flows, an image that goes away as a child
growing up, understanding a change, flowing between two shores and needing be channeled.

now we try to extend this concept with our imagination we will see
immediately if the river has too wide or too distant banks the
the river will be blocked, it will not flow, it will become a swamp. If, on the other hand, the
shores are too closed, no space, the river is running too fast,
tends to accelerate. If the banks are not equal, the river tends to
overflow on the sides where there is no piping.

it seems an image that, beyond many scientific reflections,
it is about the fundamental requirement of the child: to be channeled in the mind,
to be seriously channeled, also physically between two shores.

What's wrong with the hospital?
the hospital is performing the rupture, the fracture of this idea of
positive continuity of existence. The child cannot understand why
its banks do not have the power to channel it inside the hospital. The
parents (in most cases) can do nothing to make the
your child that they are always by your side. The child cannot understand by
what they do not defend against some kind of aggression, or simply from
the feeling of lack, of the breaking of this positive continuation
of existence.

The hospital
it is the place of suffering. Beyond physical suffering (which can be
really strong or not), what you experience is surely a disorder
mental. Those who study developmental psychology a bit
they know that the child who is facing suffering, especially if the parents do not
they can intervene to defend it, you might think that's all an obvious consequence of misbehavior on his part.
The child tends to take responsibility and blame for what
it happens to him and he justifies himself: a child cannot think that his parents are
bad guys, even the kids they hit and the ones who are raped
they tend to justify their parents, and think they are themselves
the bad ones and therefore deserving of the events.

Understand now how important it is for the child to have the opportunity to express, to take away his fear.

And what is the best way to use a puppet?

Some examples:

4-year-old girl with cancer was angry with a doctor
that he often had to undergo very painful therapeutic tests. The girl
he explained this matter to me and when I asked him to speak
of this with the doctor, the girl replied to me that she could not because
I was afraid.
if you think about it, the doctors at the hospital have the power to decide if
you have to stay or leave, whether they have to puncture or not. They have yours
sick life.

I proposed to the girl to build a bee with a very stingray
long using the glove puppet technique. The girl is going
become acquainted with the bee and when the opportunity arose punctured
the doctor's ass with the sting. The first thing the girl said
it was: "It wasn't me, it was the bee!" That way he could
vent your anger without first-person involvement,
delegating the action to the puppet she herself was moving.

another 7-year-old girl, who after surgery in the
cerebellum had momentary paralysis of the left arm, had to
move the fingers of the left hand one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon,
as a duty therapeutic.

Of course
all this was very difficult and the girl had no motivation at all
emotional that pushed him to do so. The consequence was that when the
physiotherapist left the room, she stopped doing the exercise, posing
excuses like: I'm tired, it hurts, etc.…

we built a paper puppet following his instructions, where
each joint was tied with a thread to his fingers. The puppet
it hung on the drip pedestal and five rings protruded from it
that the girl could put in her hand, so with her fingers she could
move her, give her life, relate her to others. This way
we were able to extend the daily physiotherapy time until it reached
do the hours they required.

Planet slide sound

Puppets are also the protagonists of an activity that is done daily with children who have to have surgery.

this activity is allowed for all boys and girls between 4 and 9
years of knowing and experiencing all the objects that can be found in
inside the operating room.

This activity is called: The discovery of the planet SW (Operating Room).

all the trips to unknown places, this one is also scary, but yes
we are accompanied by our parents or someone who experiences them first
objects that are less frightening. This is where our two come into play
puppets, Giacomino and Lucilla, who accompany the boys and girls on the journey and try first of all the things they find.

This activity began in 1998 with the aim of reducing the anxiety of children and their parents.     

studies showed that the goal was achieved, both
that the activity was made official, many years ago, in the bases
hospital surgeons.

The same activity was transferred to other Italian hospitals: Sassari, Reggio Emilia, Turin.

another time when the use of the puppet is important is when
to explain to the child the injection of the central venous catheter, which is applied to
all children with cancer to avoid having to puncture each
once they have to go through antiblastic therapy.

The days before the catheter injection, we show the child this puppet (photo,)
in which we applied a catheter to show where it is placed, how it is
door, why it is used, etc.…, as it will be part of the child's life
for at least 3 years.


I'll show you another video. It's a totally puppet show
made by an 8-year-old boy with leukemia from the age of 2 years. Often
I propose to the children, if they want, to build the story together and the
characters, and the subsequent performance. The representation is made in the
same room where they are admitted, as they often cannot leave
for lack of immune defenses.

I will briefly tell the story of this child. He became ill at 2 p.m.
years. He went through all the cycles of chemotherapy. At the age of 4 the
disease went into recession, meaning there were no diseased cells
in your body. He was in this situation for a year. Then he goes
having a relapse, the disease returned. He did it all over again
chemotherapy process while waiting for a bone marrow donor. The
disease stopped for the second time but at the age of 7 he had the
second relapse. At this point it was necessary and urgent the
bone marrow transplant but no compatible donor was found.
The doctors decided that it was not possible to wait any longer and that the donor
he had to be one of the parents, though the percentage of the prognosis was not
Was good. The boy was perfectly aware of all this, as he had
spent most of his life in the hospital.

One day he asked me if I could do a puppet show using a story he wrote himself.

Here is the show, I will stop the video to read the dialogues.

I am the narrator.

As you can see the theater is mounted on the bed, held straight by two serum pedestals and a cloth between them.

The adventures of Cip and Ciop

Narrator. There was once a dog named Pallino and two birds named Cip and Ciop.

Chip: I will carry the eggs on the tree.

Ciop: I'll be on guard.

Narrator: Suddenly, a hunter arrives.

Ciop: Chip, alert, the hunter wants to shoot you!

Narrator: While the hunter is aiming his rifle, the dog Pallino arrives.

Pallino: Get out of here, you bad hunter!

The hunter escapes in fright. Once the danger passes, Cip and Ciop
they return to the top of the tree and see that the eggs are beginning to open.

Ciop: Look, Cip, the eggs are starting to open!

Cip: Well, I'm really happy.

Narrator: The dog Pallino puts up a sign with an inscription that reads: No hunting, he puts it on the ground and bends down.

Pallino: I'm curious if any other hunter is able to bother me and my friends.

Then Cip and Ciop with the other little birds fly over him
sign and start singing happily. Pallino wakes up with the singing of the
birds, thanking him for his help.

Cip Ciop and the little birds: Thank you, thank you, thank you!

seen how this comic, simple at first glance, actually is
full of meaning and emotions. On the other hand, the child has chosen the
puppets as a form of communication to externalize fears and
anxiety. And I think that's another confirmation of the importance
of figure theater as an important communicative element.


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