Hey everyone. I was recently introduced to this page from viewing video clips on youtube my friend and director sent me. I am part of a community theatre group called Dunes Summer Theatre. We are putting on Avenue Q this June. I was cast as Lucy the Slut, Mrs. Twistletwat and a Bad Idea Bear. I have to portray three characters in the same show. Now, I have performed in many plays and musicals before where I was a number of characters. But this is my first show working with puppets. And 2 of them share a scene together. I was wondering if anyone out there has been involved with Avenue Q, played any of these roles, or has been involved with a show like this before. Rehearsals start later this month. Show isn't until June. But I really want to do these characters and this show justice. And if my puppetiering sucks, the show sucks. And that doesn't work for me. Any thoughts?
Welcome LucyTwistleBear! I am sure there are people who can give you a hand. I can offer you a welcome...
Welcome to Puppets and Stuff!
When do you get the puppets you are going to be using? As soon as you do start working with them in front of a mirror to see how they move and so you can become comfortable with them. As an actor you should have no problem with the multiple characters. It is the same with puppetry really as with straight theater. You develop your character based on voice and body language. The only difference is that the body language is that of the puppet. That is why working in front of a mirror can help. You can catch things in how you move the puppet that helps define the character.
One quick tip that non puppeteers do not often realize is that your puppets lower jaw moves not the top of the head when they talk. Hold your hand up and like it is in the puppets head and try moving just the thumb which would be in the lower jaw. This is actually an exercise you can do before you get the puppet. Your top fingers may move some but you don't really want them to flip up. If you envision eyes on top of your hand you'll understand why you don't want to do that. If you did the eyes would be looking at the ceiling when they talk instead of the audience or other performer.
When I preform cabaret style like Avenue Q is presented, I try to not pull too much focus from the puppet. As a rule I look at the puppet I am preforming. They are an extension of me. That being said the director may have other ideas about that.
Welcome to Puppets & Stuff! Shawn has done a great job getting you started! Another good tip for beginning puppeteers is to make sure your puppet isn't sinking into quicksand when you're performing it. That is to say you want your character to remain at the same level while performing. You're giving the illusion that this is a full bodied character with legs that is standing on a level surface so you have to keep there head and body at the same level. Your arm can't droop as you become tired or loose focus or you break the illusion and distract the audience from your performance. Hopefully that makes sense.
Here's a few video tutorials from Paul Louis demonstrating some of these concepts. He's got a lot of great training out there! There are several short videos to get you started at this site.
Break a leg! Or do we say break an arm for a puppet theater production?
Great tips, Shawn and Puppetainer. Thanks!
One tip with the "flipping lid" that Shawn described is to cross your fingers on the top. When you cross your fingers, it helps to keep the hand level and it is easier to move the thumb up and down. You won't need to do this forever but it helps in first training.
Angel, that's a slick trick. Puppetainer, Paul Louis and his YouTube vids helped me to get where I am today. I've built over 80 puppets that originated and morphed from his simple design. Also, Project Puppet gave me the courage to launch into more complex designs. I can sew, twist, glue and sculpt fabric/foam with a fair amount of confidence that it will look acceptable. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I actually know.
As for perfoming, I need loads of help maturing into the amazing, fantastical puppeteer I was meant to be. Any additional links or books to mastering this art would be greatly appreciated.
Practise, Practise, Practise. That is how you get better and arm gets stronger. I practise at stop lights, I wonder what the traffic thinks. Get some feed back from someone else, they can spot things you might miss. Remember to have the puppet not talking look at the one talking and maybe move ever so slightly so they don't look like a frozen doll but look alive, but don't distract from the focus of the speaker. Just look like they are engaged in listening to make them look alive too. It is tough to to two at a time, usually one arm is weaker than the other for most people. When you have two puppets on your hands then you lose the other hand to work the arms that add so much. Sounds like fun, good luck.
Hey Snail, glad to hear I'm not the only one holding my talking hands up in traffic. I'm pretty sure that's what the rear-view mirror was intended for, anyway. I've also learned a lot with recording myself and playing it back.
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