During the last four months, I have had the pleasure of teaching with Eastern Michigan University Bright Futures 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
I have been teaching puppetry classes at a handful of the program's sites, ranging from 2nd grade to 8th grade students.
My class was titled "Puppetry 101."
The class was essentially a survey of many different puppetry styles, learning about and designing/performing a new technique every-other week. While we created many, many puppets throughout the four months and were very creative - we focused mainly on developing teamwork and collaborating together in order to bring a puppet character to life and develop performances.
The Puppetry techniques we covered were;
• Paper Bag Puppets
• Hand Puppets
• Rod Puppets
From the Bright Futures Website;
"EMU’s 21CCLC Bright Futures are high quality after school programs.
The weekend before Muppets Most Wanted was released in theaters, I held a drop-in video puppetry class at the Plymouth Community Arts Council. Participants would build their own 'Muppet Style' puppet and then learn basic monitor-performance technique. It was loads of fun - all ages were welcome and many new characters were created and skill learned.
For expediency I pre-cut and pre-sewed pattern pieces in four colors of fur (blue, pink, grey & purple) as well as pre-cut the mouth plate elements. Participants would then assemble the basic puppet, stuff arms and then decorate their puppet with eyes, hair and feathers.
Performance wise, we started learning lip-synch and eye focus with practice eyes (ping-pong balls glued to an elastic band) learning right & left on the monitor (everything is backwards) and then once we had our characters we lip-synched and danced to 30 second snippets of songs.
I was the proud participant in a three day performance workshop at the Sesame Workshop in New York City.
The class was lead by Muppeteers Martin P. Robinson, Matt Vogel & Peter Linz.
Fellow participant Mary Robinette Kowal has several Fantastic Write-ups on her blog, which I really encourage reading.
Photo Credit: Zach Hyman
More Info - www.PlymouthArts.com
Sign-up via phone or in person
Office Hours: Monday - Thursday 9 AM - 4 PM • (734) 416-4278
Ages 10 and up
4 Saturday's 9/21 - 10/12 10 AM - 12
How can an inanimate object come to life before your very eyes? This class offers students experimentation in the many styles of puppetry with an emphasis on how each technique translates into effective characters and story lines. Puppetry is a great medium for the live theatre artist because it combines all aspects of the craft - design, construction, performance and technical arts. It has been a part of theatre since theatre began. No previous puppetry experience necessary
Ages 10 and up
4 Saturday's 10/19 - 11/9 10 AM - 12
In this class we will animate drawings, paper cut outs, clay, wire frame characters and anything else we can get our hands onto. Bringing the inanimate object to life via frame by frame animation. Stop-motion is the animation technique used in such films as; “Wallace & Gromit,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “ParaNorman.” A Great way to amaze your family and create fantastic films! No previous puppetry or animation experience necessary.
Ages 10 and up
4 Saturday's 11/16 - 12/14 10 AM - 12
Utilizing the familiar overhead projectors from classrooms and other light sources, this class will create worlds and images of spectacle in a puppetry technique that has not changed for over 2,000 years, but has still amazed and excited audiences. This class in an exploration and experimentation in storytelling through shadow manipulation. No previous puppetry experience necessary.
Ages 10 and up
4 Saturday's 1/11 - 2/1 10 AM - 12
This class covers performance techniques when manipulating large, multi-puppeteer puppets. Known as "Bunraku," students will learn how to manipulate every aspect of their characters as well as gaining leadership and team working skills. Each puppet usually has three or more performers manipulating a section of the character. No previous puppetry experience necessary.
This summer I'm teaching two Puppetry classes at the Plymouth Arts Council in Plymouth, Michigan.
Intended for ages 10 and up - students can register over the phone or in person at the arts council.
June 24 - 28 // 9 am - 12 pm
How can an inanimate object come to life before your very eyes? This class offers students experimentation in the many styles of puppetry with an emphasis on how technique translates to effective characters and storylines. Puppetry is a great medium for the live theatre artist because it combines all aspects of the craft, - design, construction, performance and technical arts – it has been a part of theatre since theatre began. Class is limited to 10 students. No previous puppetry experience necessary.
August 12 - 18 // 9 am - 12 pm
This workshop will cover performance techniques when manipulating tabletop puppets – which are articulated 20” figures performed by up to three performers on a single puppet. This technique is also known as “Bunraku” and “Czech Black” style. Students will learn how to manipulate every aspect of their characters in this exciting puppetry technique. Class is limited to 10 students. No previous puppetry experience necessary.
If you're interested in hosting a class or workshop like these, feel free to contact me.
Daemen College in Buffalo, NY is having a Day of Puppetry event. I will be screening my film s'Muther and doing a Q&A afterwards. Should be exciting! Loads of Great programming. Organized by Cameron Garrity - there are a handful of O'Neill Conference alumni presenting, as well as Leila Ghaznavi and myself representing CalArts. Here's the link to the Facebook event page.
*Official Description of the event.
Daemen College is proud to host a one day celebration of Puppetry in conjunction with its annual Academic Festival.
The Geppetto Festival is a prime opportunity for members of Western New York to experience puppetry in ways they never have before. Join us, and our phenomenal guest artists, for lectures, workshops, demonstrations, and performances throughout the day.
:: :: ::
& Chase Woolner
& Matthew Krygier
& Franklin LaVoie
:: :: ::
The mission of The Geppetto Project is to share enriching materials that will enable artists everywhere to bring new life to puppetry.
Photo by Alex Griffin
Rest in Peace Jane Henson - I was 18 and attending my first O'Neill
Puppetry Conference, I had just finished performing a late night solo act in the pub and Richard Termine pulled me aside saying; "I'd like you to meet Jane Henson." Puppet in hand I sat at Jane's table and Richard introduced me with a splendid intro, mentioning that in high school I had started a puppetry club/troupe - to which she responded; "Oh!...Like Jim..." Dry mouthed and nervous as could be with adrenaline pumping I stammered out some words. Jane so welcoming and soothing asked; "When did you start doing puppetry?" My answer - like many puppeteers - was 5 years old, to which she replied; "What did you do before?" One of the best questions ever, because what is puppetry but the natural human tendency to play with and personify dolls, toys and inanimate objects. At that moment I didn't have a reply, but it didn't matter because she turned her attention to the puppet on my hand (whom I had kept active like a good puppeteer) and started asking him questions and engaged in a conversation with this character that I had only begun to develop. A great end to a marvelous and inspiring evening and the perfect beginning to a life changing conference. Thank you Richard for the introduction and Thank you Jane Henson for your time, attention, energy and focus.
Henson Co. Tribute Link
The National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center is a very important place where new works of puppetry is created. The conference is for everyone, from seasoned professionals to beginners, both looking to explore and learn.
This year (2012) I was on staff, assisting Martin P. Robinson teach a class in "Puppet Exploration."
** Description of the class from the Martin P. Robinson/the O'Neill website;
The Puppeteers Touch... The Objects Profundity
We Puppeteers know the magic that happens when a performer picks up or puts on a puppet of some kind and starts moving it in space before an audience. Too often, I feel, we rely on this novelty aspect of puppetry to carry the day. We don't buckle down to do our homework, to know our instrument in an intimate way so as to let the character and story shine through. Would any musician with only a passing knowledge of their instrument (or even a fairly good knowledge) attempt a concert for a paid audience? ...Puppeteers do this ALL the time.
I propose a week of experimentation in many styles of puppetry with an emphasis on exactly how well-thought-out technique translates to effective characters and storylines... a respect for the objects and a respect for the audience. I would like participants with some performing experience...applications will be reviewed with this in mind. Mostly, of course...all admonishing and profundity aside; I just want to have a blast with some cool people for a week...
- Martin P. Robinson
** Below is a video with Artistic Director Pam Arciero
In the video at the 0:11 mark, is footage of my project "s'Muther," which I workshopped as a participant project at the O'Neill in 2010.
** From the Highways Performance Space Website;
"Inspired by Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and Alan Lightman’s novel Einstein’s Dreams, this an original multi-disciplinary performance investigates the gap between a current reality and an ethereal existence. In the process, it evokes the vulnerability and tenacity of the human spirit."
Directed by Sam Shay, this story told through dance and art performed at Highways Performance Space & Gallery in Santa Monica, May 3 - 5.
Chase designed and built two bird puppets for the show.
Here is the Official Website for the show.
Below is the show's trailer,
The website for a pilot TV program I worked on named Imaginus Zoo is now live!
From the site; "Imaginus Zoo takes place aboard a contemporary space station with built-in ecosystems. Our satellite ark includes artificial habitats like the arctic, jungles, desserts and oceans. Each habitat always seems to be on the verge of catastrophe, but luckily the IZoo crew saves the day.
The band of animals is led by Memo, a cute teddy bear with special powers who strives to make the world a better place. With sci-fi absurdist humor, the Imaginus Zoo crew’s hilarious space adventures never cease to entertain. Though the journeys are full of laughs, they teach viewers valuable life lessons along the way.
As our heroic animals soar across our solar system, they will encounter robots, aliens and new friends on their missions. The young audience will learn fundamental life skills for the developing mind– while occasionally being introduced to advanced ecological, scientific and technological concepts. Our stories possess something of value for us all!"
I had several duties on this production such as; lead puppet designer/performer and co-writer.
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