Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by davidm1969 on Apr 04, 2011
OK - so, I have a few questions. I'm considering a simple and easy stage design that Noreen Young features in her video for a puppet stage that is built to the puppeteer's height.

I'm building a puppet program for elementary schools assemblies. There are two schools of thought that I'm wrestling with. If I build the puppet stage standing height, I would assume to build it to my height 5'10" - 5'11". If I have shorter actors working with me, I'm assuming platform shoes would be in order and taller actors would have to duck a bit more [?]

The second option would be a shorter stage with seated puppeteers. We could use a seated device with casters to roll around. My concern is the noise the wheels would create on a wooden stage or - could you purchase something quiet enough? If anyone has used this option - any particular place I should look for plans on the rolling seats?

If you have experience in either or both options, I would appreciate any feedback - especially where the casters are concerned and where to start that build.
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by Na on Apr 05, 2011
I can't answer the question/s, but thought I'd put this out there:

Puppeteers on rolling seats I would imagine could create a lot of safety issues. I'd rather not have puppeteers worrying about whether or not if they go too fast they'll end up knocking something over (or hurting themselves), as well as everything else they have to do on stage. I'm sure there are other solutions out there that are just as low-tech/easy but more safe for everyone involved. ... My 2 cents anyway.
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by Shawn on Apr 05, 2011
A lower stage can work fine but you need to think of the venues you are going to be playing in the most. If you think you'll always be elevated (on a stage) then often the lower stage is better. The rolling seats are very easy really. They are simply a piece of plywood cut in a square with rounded corners that you screw casters on to. If you want you can put foam on the top and cover for a cushy ride.   Casters can be noisy but it has never been a problem in any show I've done. You can get more expensive casters that are not as noisy but not sure it is worth the investment. Is your puppet show really going to be full of quite tender moments?  

If you are going to be playing a lot of gymnasium where you might not be up on stage or platforms then you might want to do the taller stages simply because it gets your puppets up where everyone can see them better.

When I was with StoneLion Puppets we used a shorter stage for the most part and when in a gym environment required them to provide a platform or at least let them know the show would present better elevated. This worked well because the height difference between me and the other main puppeteer was quite a bit. I am tall and she was short.   Her stool was I would say about six to eight inches off the ground and min on a few inches off the ground. This kept either of us from having to stoop or stand on tippy toe.  The way to make a higher stool is with two pieces of plywood that you put an X frame of plywood in between them to get your height.  Ever seen how you take a piece of paper or wood and gut a slot half way to center then do it again and join the two to make an X? That is how it is done.  Sorry no plans for this because it was so simple. Wood glue and screws and you have a stool!
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by Shawn on Apr 05, 2011
P.S. Na is correct... you can fall off these stools and we did quite often but no one ever really got hurt that bad. You do need to be aware of your surroundings and things lying on the ground since you are rolling about but really even with a stand up stage you need to be doing that.
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by davidm1969 on Apr 05, 2011
Thank you for all that great info Shawn! The stool plans definitely sound simple enough.
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by Shawn on Apr 05, 2011
You are welcome!   BTW in regards to the sound. If you can find rubber wheels instead of plastic wheels they will be a lot quieter. I just happened to think of that after my last post. Also you do want wheels or casters that pivot 360 degrees or you can only move in one direction.
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by TerryPrice54 on Aug 04, 2011
I do plays where the puppets move around, so a tall stage works best for me.  If the puppeteers are too small for my stage, they stand on a stable chair.  I make sure that I help them to get on the chair and off of it so they won't fall. I have seen others who use a short stage effectively.  They use different thicknesses of foam pads, for their knees, to give them the right elevation.
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by TerryPrice54 on Aug 05, 2011
Years ago, I built a three tier puppet stage that could accommodate puppeteers of all sizes.  I used PVC pipes, felt and velcro strips which costs about $150 to put together.  The first tier was about 4 feet high, the second was about 5' 8" high and the back tier was about 7 feet high.  This stage was very versatile (we could reduce it down to a 1 or 2 tier stage) and could use any puppet play with it.
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by cruppetman on Aug 05, 2011
When I was performing more (several years ago), I couldn't kneel due to bad knees, so I took a secretary's computer chair (the kind with a moveable back brace and no arms), removed the back piece and had a seat which could adjust about 6" up and down.This allowed me to sit and move around while the shorter kids could be standing or kneeling beside me. Find one at a yard sale for about $5, remove the back and you're set.

Saw "The Wiz" several times, on stage, and this was how they made the Munchkins. Actor sitting on computer chairs with castors on bottom and the costume flaired out, like a skirt, to touch the stage.
Re: Stage Height Options and rolling around Posted by Shawn on Aug 05, 2011
The computer chair is a good idea. We always used a similar concept but built the chair/stools ourselves. The nice thing about the office chair is that you can adjust the height easily.   My partner and eye varied in height quite a bit so our stools where built specifically for us. From time to time we ended up on the other persons stool which made it a bit difficult to perform. One warning I would give about this method, is to be careful when moving around. Even on our stool which where lower and hand a wide base we some times ended up on our butts because we move to fast and tipped the stool over.   Never really hurts since you close to the ground but makes your puppet look like they just stepped off into a hole.

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