Puppets Teach Peace and Life's Harmony
Theatre of Life troupe offers students solutions to troubling times
By Julie Huss 

THE SIMPLE WORDS and fun antics of some lovable, wisecracking puppets were all some middle school students needed to learn about how to handle life's stresses and conflicts. Students at Londonderry Middle School were taught how to handle conflict in their lives and how to deal with hard situations through the colorful eyes of Lesley Smith's Theatre of Life Puppets. The puppet troupe visited the school last Friday to offer advice and to teach methods for controlling anger and resolving conflicts. 

Smith, an accomplished ventriloquist, puppeteer and entertainer came to the school with her special show to teach the middle schoolers the right way to handle troubling situations. After doing alot of television, theater and musical performances, Smith told the students that creating the puppet show was a successful way to bring these positive conflict messages home. "'I've done a lot of theater," Srnith said, "and I finally found a way to make education fun. This is the way I like to learn." 

The puppet show, "Peaceable Kingdom" involved several puppets finding themselves in some bad situations with friends and peers. 'The musical lyrics that Smith offered spoke of conflict being a part of life, but "it depends on how we handle it." The show included singing and musical accompaniment with keyboards and drums. Several middle school students took part in the interactive show. 

"Peaceable Kingdom" was presented through the school's guidance department and used a colorful Sam Snail and his cohorts to teach conflict resolution and how to handle bullies or other bad situations in a nonviolent way. After the puppets resolved their conflicts using the CAPS method of resolution, an acronym standing for various ways to deal with conflict, all was well in the kingdom with all animals learning to get along without the use of violence. 

Smith has been described as having a 'warm smile and welcoming presence" and "the emotion and life her puppets exude is something even adults can relish." She has traveled extensively throughout New England and the United States, taking her show on the road to schools and to other groups, and giving information on how to handle conflict, bullying, tobacco and other substance abuse issues as well as environmental issues. She told the Londonderry students that she travels with about 30 puppets, each having a unique personality and role to play in the shows she presents. 

As the show concluded amid boisterous singing and the thumping of percussion, Smith then asked the audience to help Sam the Snail come up with ideas on how to handle one last conflict situation concerning some angry horses and dragons. Using the CAPS techniques they learned, the students were a big help with some ideas on how trouble could be avoided. 

Smith encouraged students to continue to get involved in the arts as well as urging them to take E.S.R.'s conflict resolution formula with them in their everyday lives. "I am encouraging you to use conflict resolution techniques in your families, and in your school," Smith said. "It works."