Castle, Cats

castle cats

It’s a castle, it’s a tossing game, but mostly this project is about an awesome abundance of…CATS!

We read A Castle Full of Cats by Ruth Sanderson (Random House, 2015). The Queen looooves cats, and they are everywhere in the castle. The king, despite all the cats’ winning efforts (scratching art into the wall, leaving dead mice in his shoe) feels more then a little left out. So he gets a dog. Is the dog there to chase away the cats? NO! The dog’s job is to play with the cats. With the felines otherwise occupied, the king can now spend a little time wooing his beloved wife.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (ours was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too!)
  • An assortment of toilet paper and paper towel tubes
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished cat castle

First, the castle! Cut the top off a box of your choice, then decorate it with construction paper and/or markers. Our castle towers are shortened paper towel tubes with cone water cup turrets. The flags are mounted on wooden coffee stirrers. We used self-adhesive foam to add some texture as well. Like THIS castle. Just look at that texture!

awesome castleWe also decided to add a carrying handle to our castle, so our towers are hot glued slightly to the front of the box. The handle is a 1.75″ x 16″ poster board strip that pivots on 2 brass fasteners.

finished cat castle handleFinally, the CATS. These are variously-sized toilet paper and paper towel tubes decorated with construction paper. We used self-adhesive foam bits and eye stickers to create the faces, but plain old markers work too!

all the castle catsTo play the game, place your castle on the floor, and then try to toss all the cats into the box. The more cats that land in the box, the more likely the last few will bounce out, so warning…a major case of the giggles may occur!

From Arwen to Zombie

from arwen to zombieGet into character with a little bit of stage magic! This winter, we hosted a fantastic hands-on (or arguably, a face-on) workshop about how actors use makeup to transform themselves into a character. The workshop was expertly and enthusiastically taught by Jenny Scudder from Youth Stages, a local arts-in-education organization.

Jenny began the workshop by sharing visual examples of literary characters – Queen of Hearts, Arwen, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Wicked Witch of the West, Dracula, Frankenstein, Count Olaf, and a few Cats from the musical of the same name (you might recall that Cats is based on poems by T.S. Eliot). There were also zombies, which might have been a stretch unless you consider Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? The Walking Dead graphic novel?

Here’s Jenny, taking the kids through examples of all the characters:

jenny scudder, youth stages 1Next, Jenny discussed how, in addition to makeup, actors can also use their voices, gestures, costumes, props, and sets to bring their characters to life. She described what stage makeup is (big, bold, and expressive) and what it isn’t (it’s not meant for close-up photography like a fashion shoot). As she was lecturing, Jenny was effortlessly applying her own stage makeup, which was Grizabella from Cats.

jenny scudder, youth stages 2Jenny also talked about the names of the different brushes, and techniques for application. Finally, she brought out some latex scars and gashes she had prepared in advance. My forearm became the test subject for a massive latex scar, some red base makeup, a loaded stipple brush, and some fake blood. Here I am, modeling the finished product in my usual subtle way.

scar demoFinally, it was time to turn the artists loose on the makeup! There was plenty of it. Jars, palettes, sponges, pencils, brushes…the works!

makeupJenny divided the kids into pairs so each pair would have someone to assist with the application of his/her makeup. I really liked this because it meant that the kids weren’t sitting passively, having their faces done by adults. They were actively involved in the whole process.

applying makeup

However, Jenny, Katie, and I did jump in to help. For awhile, I was running the “soon to be bloody flaps of skin” corner of the room.

Ready to see some results? Even though there was quite a bit of smiling and laughing, I did encourage the kids to try to stay “in character” while I was photographing them. I’ll begin with Arwen, who you saw at the beginning of the post:

We had no less than 3 Queens of Hearts…

As well as 3 Cheshire Cats.

A pair of Vampires…

Rum Tum Tugga from Cats

The Wicked Witch of the West…

And a quartet of zombies. I told them to give me their best undead look…

Do you recognize the zombie on the far left from the beginning of the blog? The funny thing was, we never planned to photograph her with her hood up. As it turned out, she had to walk home from the program in full makeup. In order to not freak anyone out, she pulled her hood up. It looked so fantastic, I had to take a photograph!