Overhead vs Eye Level Posted by MarownIOM on Jun 21, 2016
Maybe there is a term for this style difference in Puppeteering -- sorry I don't know it.

"Overhead" -- sitting/kneeling/standing with your puppet over your head. 

"Eye-Level" -- the puppet is directly in front of your face with a curtain in between. 

Our home-made puppet stage is wood with a square opening and a curtain.  This seems to only lend toward "Eye-Level" style.  This has caused some difficulty with some of my more "active" scripts with lots of movement.

Most puppet stages I've seen in churches have been Overhead style. 

Here's a bunch of questions regarding these styles:
What do people prefer?
Doesn't your hand get tired holding it up for so long?
We don't use microphones so would the voice be heard coming from below the puppet?

What issues have you all run into regarding these styles?

Thanks!
David
Re: Overhead vs Eye Level Posted by Crazy Kyle on Jun 21, 2016
David,

I use both, curtain above my head - thus I build riser to kneel on with padded carpet.  Down side this limits your movement of your puppets.  I currently am building a puppet stage at church that is 20' wide with 12 different locations to perform puppets from (these will be either behind a curtain or underneath a opening in the crate).

Your arm always get tired regardless of the what type of stage I use.  You voice just has to project louder than you think, if the audience can hear you then your projection is good, if not talk louder.

Kyle
Re: Overhead vs Eye Level Posted by Chris Arveson on Jun 21, 2016
Yes, my arm definitely gets tired. I try to do exercises to build endurance. Also, A high-action show with puppets coming and going can give the arm a rest and helps the show stay interesting.
Re: Overhead vs Eye Level Posted by pagestep007 on Jul 02, 2016
I think it depends a lot on your audience or your situation. If you are with small groups, like in Sunday school class or library, eye level is good to be down at  eye level with the children. But if you have a larger audience or venue, above the head helps the  puppets to be seen even from the back.
Re: Overhead vs Eye Level Posted by Snail on Jul 18, 2016
I have done both and above the head is harder on the knees and arm.  If you have young puppeteers they tend to grow a lot and vary in size so it is helpful to have height  adjustments that can grow with them, but still be stable. You have your own eyes to give you feedback over head to some extent, but curtain can limit that feedback.  I have heard of miraculous fabric that magicians used that you could only see thru one way so you could see and react without being seen.  I never found that magic fabric.  We practiced without the curtain and then tried to remember the same movements with curtains.  We tried a camera in front with screen in back to watch ourselves but it was kinds of backwards, we found we wanted to watch the kids responses more than look at our work.  We did watch videos of our shows in training. When I got older and had all adult team we used the curtain and sat on stools or stood with little shelves with a pad that we could rest our elbows on to recover occasionally, it helped a great deal to get just a few seconds of rest.  The  stage had peg board on the back so we could  move shelves or script rollers around to where we needed them. Flexibility gives you more creative choices.  As for sound, why bother if no one can hear you well, sound is key.  We started with prerecorded and had to learn it. That was safe for younger ones.  But when we did geriatric puppetry we had live mics on our head and use a computer with I tunes for music that we controlled back stage. Mics gave us more freedom, you should have back up batteries and be prepared with extra mic. expect trouble and be ready for it. It is great to respond live to a child during a show. I hope my ramblings gave you some information to help you make the decision that will work best for your situation.   
Re: Overhead vs Eye Level Posted by Emer on Aug 17, 2016
Hi.
I want to share some of my experience. (and apologize in advance for my English)

I have a little experience in overhead, and a lot in eye-level. I`ll try to do a summary:

Effort:
Overhead required the most effort. In one minute of performing, i was suffering. Eye-level is also tiring, but i can stand like 10 minutes without noticing. I try to support my arm in the puppet stage when i can, if the puppet don't look weird doing it.

Appearance:
I do shows mostly in juniors schools and little places. I can't imagine doing it with a overhead puppet stage. First, in some places, the puppets will almost touch the ceiling. Second, the kids will have to look very high to see, witch is annoying. I don't want that my spectators get tired.
Third, audience will lose sight of the puppet. If you have to look up the stage, you will lose some part of the puppets body, and i have seen show were i only can see the head, neck a shoulder. It lost all the magic of a living puppet. Also you lose part of the scenery.
In my humble opinion, i will only use an overhead stage puppet, if i know my public will be in a favorable position to see full the show.(ie. Far, or above ground level)

Performance:
This is when overhead stage i thinks wins. When you puppeteer in an overhead stage, you feel limitless. The puppets can dance, roll, run, etc... All of this thing, are far far more difficult in an eye-level stage. I have found some tricks in this stage, but i think overhead is the way to go if you want a large professional puppet show.
But...
Eye-level puppet offer something great. Control. In my puppet stage, i can see the outside. I can see the children and theirs reaccion. I can see if the line of vision of the puppet goes through the audience. I can see the objects i manipulated, so i can do more complicated things. I can see the actress who interacts with my puppets. And is more easy to project my voice.

Overall, i thinks no one is better always. Depends of your show.
I do eye-line because i work in little places, but i have been in theaters with 300 people, and it work alright. So finally only depend in the show itself.
I need make clear, that this is for muppets style of puppets only.

Here is a photo of my puppet stage.
Thanks for reading :D.

Pd: Inside my puppet stage is dark, so i can see trough a black cloth, and they can't see me.
Pd2: The puppet stage is not finish. I think i'll put velvet in the roof.

Message Image
Re: Overhead vs Eye Level Posted by Snail on Aug 26, 2016
As for your arm getting tired there are things you can do to extend your show longer without killing yourself. You say you have a lady out front, great, do puppets interact with her?  Then you can take the puppet down for a short break to get an object like a hat you dropped or to look for something.  You can still talk to her while puppet is down, from behind the curtain, like you were in another room. There are lots of ways to write rest time into a script. It changes the pace for the audience too and keeps them interested.  It is pretty dull just watching two people talk for 20 minutes. I used lots and lots of props and costumes with my puppets.  Our star puppet we had two identical puppets so we could have the other one already in costume.  If you have more than one person doing puppets take turns so that neither is out there all the time.  Be creative in your script writing to give yourself the rests you need.  One more thing, you must use a perfectly straight arm over head, if it is bent even a little you will suffer more. Adjust your height other ways so that as tall as  you need to be is straight armed.
Re: Overhead vs Eye Level Posted by pagestep007 on Aug 31, 2016
Yes indeed. Good points both Emer and Snail.
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