Do you remember being a kid, and being absolutely delighted and captivated when a puppet show came to your town? Well puppets can be used for more than entertaining the kids in the neighborhood. A psychologist and puppeteer, Fernando Thiel, and his wife, Caroline Pizarro, are traveling the world with their puppet show to help kids, adults, and even business people learn about how to improve their communities and homes. The company, Ticotiteres (Ticopuppets), combines activities and puppets to inspire their audiences to imagine a better world.
Both Thiel and Pizarro have chosen Costa Rica as their new home. Thiel was born into a show business family in Argentina, where his father was a famous puppeteer and his grandfather was an actor. In 1978 Thiel moved from Argentina to Costa Rica to study theater and psychology at the University of Costa Rica (UCR). Pizarro moved with her family from Chile when she was only eleven. She completed her studies in architecture at UCR. They met at a carnival held for the UCR students, eventually married, and initially worked in their chosen professions. In 1990, that all changed when they created the Grupo Ticotieres.
The central theme of their performances is based on “A Community for Everyone”. They have created stories and activities of their own to encourage people to start working together, and see that people are at the center of everything. So far this dynamic husband and wife team has performed in Mexico, South America, United States, Europe, and Africa. They have been invited to present at cultural festivals, art shows, and professional conferences. In Costa Rica they have performed at schools, municipalities and business meetings, programs in the park, and museums.
Thiel is the mastermind behind the characters and stories. The puppets can be cuddly figures, or even outrageous characters. They introduce important themes to the audience for consideration and participation, such as creating clean and safe environments, freedom from violence, and how to design a workable community. Pizarro complements the puppet show with activities that encourage mental challenges and lots of fun, of course. Working with friends and strangers from the audience, the participants use the materials provided, such as plastic tubes, toys, and building blocks, to design a new community. Working together they have to make all the decisions needed to create a new city, such as where to locate the school, the church, the town square, etc.
Pizarro says the scope of ideas and sheer ingenuity is wonderful to see evolving from these activities. Even the children come up with some great ideas. One child wondered whether they could position the water pipes above ground, rather than underground, and that way children could use them for play activities. At one workshop where the local mayor, community officials, and the municipal government were designing their ideal community, they came to realize they had not created a design that actually supported their residents. They needed to revise their thinking to include bike routes, sidewalks, and handicap access. They came away from the workshop learning that people are the heart of the community, not the buildings and infrastructure.
For Thiel and Pizarro, this has grown into a true love story. Love for what they do, as well as love for their own family and the world. For more information about their puppet performances and workshops, you can contact them on Facebook or [email protected].