Theatre department brought to life with DeltaFusion puppetry

For the fifth summer in a row, Pacific’s Theatre Arts department is being transformed into a scene that looks like something you might see in a Lewis Carroll novel.

Lisa Cooperman DeltaFusion

Lisa Cooperman, curator of education at the Haggin Museum, leads a DeltaFusion workshop for children in the 6-12 age group.

The walls of the DeMarcus Brown Studio are lined with giant papier-mâché renderings of birds, insects, fish, flowers and oversized faces representing the spirits of land and water. This colorful cast of masks and puppets are part of the DeltaFusion cultural and community celebration.

DeltaFusion is an annual workshop and pageant produced by Theatre Arts Professor Cathie McClellan. When she moved to Stockton to begin teaching at Pacific in 2002, McClellan was taken by Stockton’s idyllic weather and cultural diversity. “I was trying to think of a way to celebrate Stockton’s diversity,” she recalls. “I wanted to find a form of artistic expression that all cultures have in common. That’s when it came to me – Puppetry!”

Thus, the first DeltaFusion workshop and pageant was started in 2011 and has become an annual summer tradition.

But don’t be fooled. DeltaFusion puppets aren’t your ordinary marionettes on strings. Some puppets stand 14 feet tall and require up to four puppeteers. Despite their elaborate appearance and colossal size, these masterpieces are made from the most ordinary materials. Scraps of cardboard, newspapers, cans of extra house paint, paper bags, bicycle parts and bamboo all contribute to the works of art. McClellan even received 100 pounds of cornstarch from a local grocery store. It turns out, when cornstarch is mixed with water it creates an excellent nontoxic glue.


Crystal Smith, a College of the Pacific history major alumna, wraps a clay squirrel mask in cellophane to prepare it for a papier-mâché covering.

This year’s theme is “Stockton Steaming Ahead” which will tell the tale of Stockton’s rich history, including the Delta’s abundance and the region’s struggle with the effects of the drought. “It’s about Stockton moving forward and what the city sends out into the world,” says McClellan. This year’s cast will feature papier-mâché squirrels, salamanders, and characters named Delta Breeze, Snow Pack and Drought. The performance also pays tribute to Stockton artists and innovators Benjamin Holt, Dolores Huerta, Janice Mirikitani, Kara Walker, Andy Imutan and Dave Brubeck.

The production of giant puppets, masks, music, and dance would not be possible without the creative efforts of more than fifty children and twenty artists and volunteers. This includes a volunteer orchestra that plays original music composed for the production.

The culminating pageant performance, which is proudly cosponsored by the Haggin Museum, will take place Saturday, June 27 at 5 p.m. in Victory Park. Attendance is free.

Now, to answer the question you’ve all been wondering: Is the cornstarch glue edible?

“Yes,” says McClellan with marked hesitation, “But we don’t recommend eating it.”

For more information or to volunteer as a puppeteer contact Cathie McClellan, Professor of Theatre Arts and Producer/Artistic Director for DeltaFusion, at Follow along with the latest DeltaFusion updates at or on the DeltaFusion Facebook page.



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