Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Land of Oz

By C.J. Hirschfield

Last week, a man and his 5-year-old daughter enjoyed a full day at Fairyland. They were exiting through the gift shop when the man looked up and noticed two puppets in a display that honors the 60th anniversary of our renowned puppet theater—the longest-running in America.

The Alice in Wonderland and White Rabbit puppets that caught his eye had starred in a 1960s Fairyland production, and on the display we noted the person who designed the puppets’ lovely costumes: Frances Oznowicz, who happens to have been the grandmother of our visitor, Mike Oz.

Mike and Frances Oznowicz with marionettes at one of Fairyland's annual puppet fairs in the 1950s.

Although he’d visited Fairyland many times, as both a child and a father, Mike now felt the time was right to learn more about the place that played a key role in the lives and careers of three of his closest family members.

We’re so glad he did.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Day to Play with STEM

By C.J. Hirschfield

By now, pretty much everyone knows that STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, and that mastery of STEM spells success in school and beyond.

STEM jobs in the East Bay pay well –$80,000 a year or more, even without an advanced degree.  And jobs are plentiful: No other region in the nation can boast three national laboratories – Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia – as well as a cross-section of manufacturing companies that use robot operators, 3-D printers, software designers, researchers, and programmers. What’s more, jobs in STEM are only expected to increase.

But many young people in our community are not prepared to take these good jobs. It’s a challenge that East Bay business leaders have been working on for decades, particularly directing their focus on school-age kids.

The trouble is, by the time kids are taught STEM subjects in high school, or even in elementary school, it may be too late. We need to start much younger, getting kids excited about math and science during their pre-kindergarten years.

And – in case you were wondering – that’s where Fairyland fits in.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Forbidden Puppets

By C.J. Hirschfield

The year was 1956. The average cost of a new house was $11,700. Elvis appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” for the first time. The Warriors—the Philadelphia Warriors, that is—won the NBA championship.

And Children’s Fairyland’s puppet theater opened to the public for the very first time.

The Storybook Puppet Theater in 1957.

Sixty years, 150 productions and close to 50,000 performances later, the Storybook Puppet Theater is the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the United States. We think it’s a great time to celebrate this landmark institution, the place where literally millions of kids were first exposed to live performing arts and where the talents of many young puppeteers – including the Muppets’ Frank Oz – were nurtured.

And what better way to celebrate than to do something our theater—and the city of Oakland—has never seen before?