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There's no butts about puppet video

August 05, 1998

Puppet MasterBy KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN GILBERT / staff photographer [enlarge]




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As a special education teacher at Berkeley Springs High School, Joe Santoro said he's watched group after group be brought into the school to try to steer students away from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

But when he asks students what they learned afterward, they never seem to carry away a strong message, said Santoro, 46, of Berkeley Springs.

That made him think he'd like a shot at conveying the important message to students, he said.

Thanks to co-worker Melanie Files, the opportunity came earlier this year, when Martinsburg Elks Lodge No. 778 commissioned him to produce an anti-smoking video to be shown in area schools using his puppets.

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Files, a science teacher and head of the lodge's drug awareness committee, said she thought it would be an interesting twist on the standard drug awareness arsenal of poster contests, essay contests and coloring book giveaways.

"It turned out great," said Files, the voice of one of the six Muppets-style puppets featured in the video.

Santoro chose a humorous talk show format to look at how the issue is commonly addressed and send a clear message to students that the choice is up to them.

"It may look like cutesy puppet stuff, but I think the message is strong with each of the characters," he said.

The roughly 20-minute video, titled "No Butts About It," was taped July 27 at Trinity Teleproduction Studios in Hagerstown, Santoro said.

It took six hours of taping to get the final edited version, he said.

But that was only a fraction of the time put in by Santoro and the host of volunteers who worked with him on the project.

After coming up with the concept and developing characters, it took about 30 hours to build the six foam-head puppets, about four hours of audio recording time, not including editing, and about eight hours of rehearsing to get the puppets in synch with the voices, Santoro said.

In addition to Santoro and Files, voices used are those of teacher Don Kawalek, Elks lodge member Rick Lowan, and Barbara Orlando of the Eastern Panhandle Tobacco Control Coalition, who also supplied all the resource information for the video, Santoro said.

Santoro recruited students Jimmy Bennett, Carolyn Cabral, Tara Gaumond and Bobby Painter from his after-school puppet club at Berkeley Springs High School to assist him as puppeteers.

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