Several weeks ago I was commissioned to design and build a puppet character for a little girl and her family who spend quite a bit of time in hospitals. This character was intended to lift spirits and entertain while waiting for doctors - what better animal than an energetic and happy little monkey!
The fabrication of this puppet was really interesting and there were quite a bit of considerations, such as;
- This puppet would be used by a young child, so it must be durable and free of things that could be swallowed.
- The puppet would visit hospitals and there should be a way to clean it.
I chose to line the inside of the puppet with antimicrobial fabric so that it could be cleaned easily. The arms, legs and tail were all attached with doll joints as well as sewn on for added security.
The puppet was also designed so that it can wear Build-A-Bear and/or American Girl doll clothes.
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
From the Plymouth Observer & Eccentric 09/04/2013
Written by Matt Jachman
Observer Website: http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20130905/NEWS15/309050096/Arts-movement-Campers-show-off-summer-projects-Plymouth
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.
A few weeks ago I received a lovely package from a group of students to whom I gave a puppetry presentation to. Loads of hand made cards with messages of Thanks and interest as well as drawings of characters I brought with me and their own puppet designs. The presentation that I gave was about the many different styles of puppetry starting with simple shadow puppets, progressing to hand puppets, then animatronics and finally digital puppetry. Video examples of work as well as hands on demonstrations with student volunteers. So much fun. Below are just a few of the many, many cards that I received and that I am immensely Thankful for in return.
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
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