Actors from Z Puppets Rosenschnoz in Minneapolis teamed up with Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts students for a performance of “Monkey Mind Pirates” May 10 in Anoka where they taught families about mindfulness and the art of finding calm.
The Z Puppets Rosenschnoz Company developed the show “Monkey Mind Pirates” in 2009 after seeing the struggles kids undergo.
“Our inspiration for this show came after we started noticing that kids were struggling to stay calm and they were dealing with anxiety, stress and even depression,” said Shari Aronson, who wrote the script. “If kids learn mindfulness techniques at a young age, they’ll be able to regulate their emotions even better as they get older.”
Since 2009, Z Puppets Rosenschnoz has performed the play for more than 200 schools, theaters, community and music centers and organizations across the state.
“Monkey Mind Pirates” is a family-friendly musical that incorporates puppets, rock music and yoga that helps kids find calm.
In the musical, families get to sail with Captain Fitz (David DeGennaro) as he tries to find calm. Things go wrong when his crew members Sir Winston the ferret (Chris Griffith), Lady Bronte the monkey (Shari Aronson) and Ansel the sea monkey (Shari Aronson) cause a mutiny and take over the ship.
Fitz learns how to tame the monkeys by overcoming anxiety, stress and distraction and eventually finds calm.
Aronson said the idea for “Monkey Mind Pirates” comes from the Buddhist term “monkey-mind,” which means, “unsettled, restless or uncontrollable.”
“The term ‘monkey-mind’ is when your thoughts swing from thought to thought like a monkey swinging from tree to tree,” she said. “We teach kids that finding calm is where we tame our ‘monkey-mind’ and stay connected to one tree.”
Over the last six-weeks, Z Puppets Rosenschnoz worked with Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts students in second and third grade in addition to the developmental cognitive disabilities students. During the company’s residency, students learned creative tools to find calm through an approach combining mindfulness, playfulness, meditation, deep breathing, meditation, yoga and music and puppetry.
“We really examined what are the stresses these kids go though and then taught them how to find calm when they really need it,” said DeGennaro, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show. “It’s fun to watch the kids journey to mindfulness and see how they approach it. It’s so great to see them discover calm and then incorporate it into their lives.”
“We learned ways how to feel and stay calm,” said third-grader Logan Hartman. “I now use what I’ve learned.”
“The actors also taught us that we can do anything we set our mind to,” said second-grader Violet Orcutt.
Z Puppets Rosenschnoz also hosted an after-school workshop for 25 students and their families. Those students later participated in the public performance of “Monkey Mind Pirates” at the school.
“What I like about ‘Monkey Mind Pirates’ is it teaches you how to be calm and it’s so much to perform it,” second-grader Evie Sebesta said.
“The actors taught us how to find the calm because it’s all around us and it’s easy to reach,” second-grader Harper Edmundson said. “I like that we get to teach people about being calm in the show.”
“I hope people use our lesson about finding calm,” second-grader Aloe Lee said.
During the performance, the students sang songs with the actors and performed with the shadow and glow-in-the-dark puppets they made in the workshop.
“I really enjoyed everything,” said third grader Elizabeth Seledic. “I loved making the puppets and learning how to perform. It was so much fun!”
“I’m excited that we get to perform this in front of everyone and use the puppets we made.” said second-grader Bailey Helland.
Recently, Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts and the Anoka-Hennepin School District earned a $32,000 Arts Learning Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board that supported the “Monkey Mind Pirates” residency, workshops and community performance.
“I have loved the ‘Monkey Mind Pirates’ project,” said Diane Aldis, the arts curriculum integrator at Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts. “It’s not only just about finding calm, it also taps into the kids’ imagination as they’re teaching families important lessons.”
Aldis said the program really helped teach students not only about finding mindfulness but also about perseverance, creativity, independence, collaboration, staying focused and teamwork.
To learn more about “Monkey Mind Pirates,” visit zpuppets.org.