Donald Philpot, Executive Director of the Friends of Florida State Parks, presented the organization’s 2016 Long Term Project award to the Wildlife Puppeteers from Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The Long Term Project of the Year honors efforts that result from a partnership of a Florida State Park and their Citizen Support Organization (CSO). The park’s CSO, the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, Inc. partnered with the park to form the Wildlife Puppeteers in 2013.
The Wildlife Puppeteers have performed public programs for four years under the supervision of Vicky Iozzia. Current volunteers include Vicky Iozzia, Judy Hemer, Heidi LaSpina, Renate Wilms-Rovin, and Bruce Mann. The group seeks to involve audiences in illustrated stories that inform them about the Florida State Park’s mission of “providing resource-based recreation while preserving, interpreting, and restoring natural and cultural resources,” now and into the future.
The Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park has donated at least $6,000 for audio-visual equipment, staging materials, puppet stage, puppets, and transportation costs.
Park interpretation to the public requires many different approaches. People interact and learn through a variety of ways. Since fun and learning are great companions, the Wildlife Puppeteers used engaging puppetry to entertain audiences while increasing their understanding of personal eco-responsibility.
Puppet programs, such as the current “This is your Life…Lu, the Hippopotamus,” entertain as well as inform park visitors, school students, public library patrons, community center participants, church members, service club meetings, and other venues. Puppet plays encourage everyone to practice eco-citizenship through their story-telling, simple humor, group singing, colorful staging, and thoughtful post performance conversations.
While Vicky Iozzia supervises puppeteer work, each of the performing volunteers adds their own artistic touches to the many tasks involved in play production. Vicky Iozzia, Judy Hemer, Heidi LaSpina, Renate Wilms-Rovin, and Bruce Mann have added their own skills and interests in such jobs as story creation, script writing, stage development, prop construction and creating and costuming puppets. They also are involved in acquiring electronic equipment, writing songs, advertising in public media, and taking reservations, which together result in a professional quality puppet show.
Vicky Iozzia says “We are always looking for new talent.” If you are interested in joining the team, please contact Vicky at (352)513-4633.