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Jefferson/Silva theater teacher gets Jim Henson Foundation grant

(JEFFERSON/SILVA HIGH SCHOOL -- Jan. 26, 2022) — Theater director Anthony Stokes’ passion for puppetry earned him a $3,000 grant from the Jim Henson Foundation to bring to stage his puppet project, “Scarecrow.”

The Jefferson/Silva drama teacher will use the grant to buy materials, lighting, sound equipment and pay for performer stipends to tell the story of the Scarecrow.

“I am humbled and excited,” Stokes said. “Since I was a child, I have always loved puppetry, Jim Henson and all of his creations: from Sesame Street and the Muppets, to The Dark Crystal and Fraggle Rock.”

He has nurtured his passion and talent for puppetry by training with the Sesame Workshop and the Jim Henson Company.  Two years ago, Stokes was selected for a national Black Puppeteer Empowerment Grant and Creative Research Residency for his film “Bawba Sheep’s Black.”

“Now, to be given this opportunity to create my work from a company that has been so influential to me as a fan, a person and an artist … it is overwhelming and affirming,” Stokes said.

The grant will give him the opportunity to show, build, explore and further share his “Scarecrow” story.

“It will follow a young (black) man who is silenced because of his intellect and ends up being lynched, but mysterious forces are at play, and he is saved by a magic of sorts leaving him transformed into a scarecrow,” Stokes said. “The story follows his journey back to learning who he was and also discovering who he must be, all while he learns to stand up and save others. He was always destined to make a difference, even if society at the time tried to stop him.”

Stokes takes his inspiration from the “Wizard of Oz” but will use the puppetry to explore and breathe new life into his re-envisioned scarecrow.

“The Scarecrow travels and discovers who he was before Oz, before he came to be in the cornfield where Dorothy found him,” Stokes said. “While I have always loved the Wizard of Oz and all its iterations, along with other fantasy stories and fairy tales, I often wondered where the people of color in these stories of munchkins, witches, and magical creatures are.” 

Story by Reneé de Santos