Students consider alternate uses of everyday items and create costumes and props from these items for skits to entertain children.

 Content Standards

  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process; and
  • Demonstrates competence in the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing.


  • Work with a partner to create something out of everyday objects;
  • Discuss the role of imagination in using common items for other uses;
  • Examine the creativity of a particular performance troupe;
  • Plan and design costumes and props to perform a children’s song or rhyme using everyday objects;
  • Create costumes or props using everyday objects;
  • Write a brief explanation of the items used to create this costume or prop; and
  • Perform skits.

 Materials Needed

  • Copies of the article, Family Fare – In a Plain Brown Wrapper, But Definitely for Children”
  • Large brown bag filled with everyday items
    • Brown luncheon bags
    • Twine
    • Toilet Paper rolls
    • Egg Cartons
    • Empty Boxes
    • Etc



Students will be assessed based on –

  • Creative creation of item for the warm-up activity
  • Participation in class discussions and group tasks
  • Thoughtful planning of costumes and props
  • Creation of a costume or prop
  • Clearly written artist’s statement


















Vice versa



Prior to class, place a large brown bag filled with the everyday items in the center of the room.


Have students pair up.  Each pair takes three items from the bag in the center of the room.  Create something out of them.  Don’t think too hard – you only have 5 minutes!  Pairs share what they have created.


Discussion – Is the item functional or aesthetic?  How did they come up with the idea for this item?  What challenges did this activity pose?  How easy or difficult did you find it to apply your imagination to items that you use every day?



Read the article, Family Fare – In a Plain Brown Wrapper, But Definitely for Children”

  • What characterizes the typical behavior of audiences at shows put on the by the Paper Bag Players?
  • What does the group’s name, Paper Bag Players, signify?
  • Who comes to visit Sesame Street in the “Out of This World” performance?
  • What do the visiting Martians learn during the show?
  • Why is the tea and design workshop a good medium of communication for mothers and daughters about fashion?
  • What connection do Jewish immigrants have to fashion?



Divide the class into four groups.  Each group will act as a performance troupe, similar to the Paper Bag Players.  Each troupe will create a skit for an audience of 3-9 year-olds based around a popular children’s song or nursery rhyme.  Design costumes and sets from the everyday items used during the warm-up.  Allow each group time to brainstorm three different choices.  Monitor the final choice of each group to ensure diversification within the class.


  • What is the basic storyline of your song or rhyme?
  • Who are the central characters?
  • What does each character look like?
  • What is each character wearing?
  • What, if any, props do the characters need?
  • How will you create each costume?
  • Where does this song or rhyme take place?
  • What buildings, signs, or objects will help set the scene for your performance?
  • How will you portray the setting for your skit?
  • What materials will you need to create all the costumes, props, and set?


Once the skits have been organized and the list of materials is completed, group members each choose one item to create.  Students assign roles.  Students do an informal run through of their skits.



Students write an artist’s statement explaining the different items they used to create the costume or prop. 


Groups perform their skit.  If feasible, stage a performance for the intended audience at the local library or elementary school.


  • What information must appear in an event’s review to make it useful?
  • Do you enjoy live performances?  Why or why not?
  • How are live performances different from filmed shows?
  • Why are most young people interested in fashion?
  • Why do many young people disagree with their parents about the types of clothing or styles they wear?


Research the head of a theater department or someone involved in theater.  Find out what types of performances are put on, how they are cast, what types of materials are used for costumes and props, etc.  Write a paper.


The Paper Bag Players’ have a show called “Pineapple Soup!”  Write a brief story using the show’s name as the title.


Create an extraterrestrial visitor.  Prepare a brief “biography” of this being, including an explanation of why they came to visit the planet Earth. 



The review of “Out of This World” in the “Family Fare” article explains the show’s biggest theme – “We’re all different, and we’re all the same.”  What does this theme mean?  Write an original song or poem using this theme. 






Most people don’t go to the theater to dance. To watch dancing, maybe, but not to jump straight up and down, move their arms in swimming motions and hot-foot it into the aisles.

But such phenomena are typical at productions by the Paper Bag Players, and not just among 3- to 9-year-olds. At a recent performance, at least one tall, gray-haired man was hopping and bopping — and he wasn’t even near a child.

That’s because the troupe’s enthusiasm is infectious at any age. And its new show, “Pineapple Soup!,” which opens in Manhattan tomorrow, reveals just how far energy, creativity and a lot of paper will go. As their name implies, the players construct their costumes and sets from brown parcel wrap, empty cartons and other mundane objects. Standouts in “Pineapple Soup!” are little shaggy dogs: small brown shopping bags crowned with the heads of kitchen mops.

Conceived, written and directed by Judith Martin, the troupe’s artistic director, this show is a mix — or rather, soup — of new skits with a couple of adapted old favorites. For instance, fans will recognize “Dinosaur,” in which prehistoric creatures prove remarkably light on their feet as they frolic to the keyboard tunes (by John Stone and Donald Ashwander) that accompany the vignettes.

The newer gems include “Big Bully,” in which the title character (Kevin Richard Woodall) makes peace with the world after mistakenly clobbering himself, and “Laundry Day on Avenue A,” in which Ted Brackett, the troupe’s associate writer and director, plays a flustered homemaker whose defiant dirty clothes — hilariously portrayed by Kathy Dee, Hannah Wolfe and Mr. Woodall — simply won’t go gentle into that good new washing machine.

The 50-minute show’s finale is the title number, which refers to a character and to the wild dance described above; no real edibles are involved. But that doesn’t matter. “Pineapple Soup!” is still delicious.

The Martians Next Door

If extraterrestrial visitors were to land on Earth, they might be dismayed by how fractious and warring our planet tends to be. Unless, of course, they were to touch down in a community where diversity is celebrated, disputes are settled peaceably and friendship always prevails.

Such a neighborhood can be found regularly on public television and, through Sunday at least, in Madison Square Garden. It’s Sesame Street, and while this fictional haven for children might not approximate adult reality, it offers a wonderful spot to visit in “Out of This World!,” a sunny and surprisingly poignant musical from Sesame Street Live.

What better place to investigate Earth than, as one of the numbers puts it, the “happiest street in the world”? In this 90-minute show, two Martians, who look like ambulatory fringed lampshades, arrive in a spaceship and are welcomed by all the “Sesame Street” characters (well, almost all — Oscar is part of the action, too). The Martians, Yup 1 and Yup 2, are treated to some rollicking lessons in geography, the alphabet and Spanish, and a few philosophical observations, like, “I wonder if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about.” (You have to commend the Martians for selecting a location where half the population are fuzzy monsters — no worries about appearing out of place.)

The Yups and the audience also glimpse international versions of “Sesame Street,” like “Plaza Sésamo” Mexico) and “Takalani Sesame” (South Africa). This ties into the show’s biggest theme: “We’re all different, and we’re all the same.” In an often hostile world, that’s a useful message for adults, too.


 Many Stitches in Time

Mothers may find it hard to have a conversation about fashion with their preteenage daughters that doesn’t involve a variation on “You’re not really going to wear that, are you?” But the clothes talk promises to be civil and enlightening on Sunday at the Yeshiva University Museum‘s tea and design workshop for girls 8 to 12 and their parents.

The event will include a special tour of the exhibition “A Perfect Fit: The Garment Industry and American Jewry, 1860-1960” and a meeting with Leslie Sills, author of “From Rags to Riches: A History of Girls’ Clothing in America” (Holiday House, 2005). Both mothers and daughters will learn how lifestyles influenced fashion, and vice versa.

“In the late 19th century, they developed an outfit with a split skirt and pants underneath, so you could bicycle and still be modest,” said Sylvia A. Herskowitz, the museum’s director. “The show also has a hat with goggles attached for riding in motorcars. This is all fascinating for girls.”

Jewish immigrants often rose from peddlers to storekeepers to department store owners, she added. Some also left the garment trade for entertainment — then as now, a shaper of style. “Doesn’t everyone want to look like Britney Spears today?” Ms. Herskowitz asked.

Well, not everyone, but whatever a girl’s role model, she can make a design at the museum, sewing a pocket or a dress inspired by the show. And since the work will be doll-size, even Mom can’t find fault with it.