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Puppet Parade to Enact Newtown Creek's Pollution and Promise

By Meredith Hoffman | August 20, 2012 8:29am | Updated on August 20, 2012 1:04pm

GREENPOINT — How do you discuss decades of damage and millions of gallons of oil spills with a kindergartener? Kevin Ray began by tossing toy trucks, a can of black paint-infused mayonnaise, animal figures and pictures onto a Greenpoint map.

"We played music and let the kids pick the objects up and figure out what they thought it meant," Ray recounted of the recent kick-off to his nine-day workshop teaching kids about Newtown Creek with his organization Everybody Act.

And come Thursday, the 70 kindergarten-through-fifth-graders will be using their own creative talents to enlighten locals about the long-contaminated waterway — with their freshly crafted paper-mache puppets.

The spirit of Newtown Creek — a "giant lady" puppet in three forms for her past, present and future — will saunter around McGolrick Park and into the green space's center, where she will meet a "pollution monster" and other creatures who attempt to determine her fate, Ray revealed of the one-time play. 

"We'll parade around the park as one group and then perform in three separate groups," Ray said, noting that one figure will have a "nose made out of an oil can" at the suggestion of a student.

"I've been wanting to have something happen in McGolrick Park about Newtown Creek," said Ray, who founded Everybody Act last year to foster education and awareness through theater. 

The Greenpoint resident, who works with Sherry Teitelbaum and Heather Nielsen (his former classmates from the CUNY School of Professional Studies MA in Applied Theater), successfully applied for a grant with the North Brooklyn Development Corporation for the project and raised another $2000 from neighbors through the site Indiegogo.

"I got really excited. ... We started hearing from residents in Brooklyn," he said of the positive feedback his group received.

And he hopes that the performance both enhances the community and empowers the students with whom he's worked. 

"We can't clean up the creek this week," he said. "There's nothing we can do to solve the problem immediately but we can put on a puppet parade and pageant to create awareness." 

The free public play is at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in McGolrick Park. The event is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the Decentralization Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, both administered in Kings County by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).