The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 19, 2013

Puppets will tell history of region

JOHNSTOWN — History will be told by puppets in two plays planned for the Internet.

The live filming of two puppet shows created and performed by Gregory Zaborowski, a National Park Service education specialist, will begin at 7 p.m. Friday at Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

If filming is successful, Zaborowski plans to upload his plays to YouTube, where they can be viewed by those interested in the area.

“South Fork Dam is Becoming Dangerous” tells the story of the 1889 Johnstown Flood, and “A Night to Remember” tells about adventures on the Allegheny Portage Railroad and Mainline Canal – both from the viewpoint of animal puppets.

With a background in educational history and theater arts, Zaborowski is passionate about teaching children through the arts.

In addition to writing the plays and creating the puppets, he has made films and written and sang his own music.

Zaborowski works at Johns-town Flood National Memorial in South Fork and Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in Cresson.

He believes his plays will be a great way to tell history to children in kindergarten through third grade.

“In ‘South Fork Dam Is Becoming Dangerous,’ there’s a mouse and a cat in the clubhouse,” Zaborowski said. “The mouse tells the cat if he doesn’t eat him, he will tell a story he has overheard from club members. Worried about their animal friends, they talk to a wise owl and a beaver who are familiar with dams.”

“In ‘A Night to Remember,’ a mouse and cat are at the Lemon House, and they go out to the barn to hear stories of other animals’ adventures on the Allegheny Portage Railroad and Mainline Canal.”

Zaborowski said he wants to film his plays in front of children because his puppets interact with the audience.

Bottle Works executive director Rosemary Pawlowski said she knew Zaborowski needed a place to film his puppet show.

“Our black-box theater is the perfect place,” she said. “We usually get kids sitting on the floor. Both children and adults like puppets.”

Pawlowski said the puppet show is a way to teach history that is not readily thought about and will be similar to puppet action on the television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Zaborowski estimated he will be using other puppeteers in addition to himself, plus several helpers to watch the cameras.

“There will be a minimum of people, but a lot of characters,” Pawlowski said. “It’s so charming and captivating, funny and endearing. You learn more when you laugh rather than just sitting.

“This will be fun and educational.”

The evening will feature performances of the two plays, Zaborowski singing some of his original music and refreshments.

Behind the curtain

What: Live filming of two puppet shows.

Where: Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

When: 7 p.m. Friday.

Cost: $3 per person; children younger than 5 years old are admitted free.

Information: 536-5399 or www.bottleworks.org.

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