Archive for the ‘puppet’ Category

Tall Horse in New York

Friday, September 30th, 2005

Can we talk for one second about THIS:

tall horse

I take the pilgrimage of a lifetime to South Africa, and as soon as I get here, the Handspring Puppet Company goes to NEW YORK! This is NOT FAIR! okay… needed to get that out of my system. I’m a little upset. If you happen to be anywhere near New York City, I think you should go to this show. Please, do it.

More info about Tall Horse in New York


Yard Sale find

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

What my mother and I were doing stopping at a yard sale just two weeks after we finished having our yard sale, I don’t know. But we stopped anyway. Low and behold, I found something I’ve been wanting since January!

backpack-1 backpack-2

This is the frame of a hiking backpack (it came with the pack part, but I don’t need that, and it came off easily). It’s what I’ve been looking for to mount parade puppets like the Phoenix I built. I had a conversation with a friend about how the puppet would be much more secure if there were two points of contact between the puppet and the person. The Phoenix only had the one rod which held the puppet in the air. If there were two I think it would wobble less. The other plus is that then, when the puppeteer moved, the puppet would move more closely in response (similar to the relationship between marionette and airplane). Generally with the Phoenix, there is so much give and take, that its hard to know where the puppet will end up.


Anyway, those are my thoughts. I’m really pleased with this find. Not that I’ll be using it anytime soon. I leave for Cape Town tomorrow afternoon, so the frame is going into my parents attic. The small picture is my passport upon it’s return from getting my student visa, with a note that says “With Compliments of the South African Consulate.” I couldn’t resist keeping it.

Basil Twist

Monday, May 30th, 2005

Since someone asked, I thought I’d write up another post about Basil Twist. I suppose I should start by saying that I didn’t actually end up meeting him. The day he was supposed to teach our class, everyone arrived just as nervous as me, and after about fifteen minutes Lake Simons showed up instead. Lake is a puppet person who has worked with Dan and Basil, and had come to teach our class the week before. She was fabulous as a teacher, but I’ve never seen any of her work, so I can’t really say much about it. She came and told us a story about how Basil was totally stressed out because he was loading out a show he was working on with life size puppets. I don’t know anything else, so let your imagination work with that.

Last winter I went and saw Basil’s production of Symphonie Fantastique. When I saw it, it was the second or third time they had produced it. The piece is a sort of underwater ballet of objects set to a piece of music by the same name. The piece is abstract (has no plot line), which I found a little funny, since one of the innovative things about the symphony when it was that it has a story. You sit in the theater in front of a huge black wall. In the middle of the wall is a small curtain. When the piece begins the curtain rises and through the hole in the wall you can see into this huge tank of water. Since you can’t see the puppeteers, and your seeing it all through a piece of glass, I found it oddly like watching a flat screen tv. Partly the piece seems to be an exploration of what you can do with a really large tank of water. There are all sorts of different materials that interact with the water differently. They use air bubbles and light, and lots of other things I couldn’t identify when I was in the audience.

One of the thrills (I think) of watching puppetry is the part of your brain that spends the whole show going “so, how do they do that?” In a show where you can see the puppeteers sometimes you can indulge in figuring out how they make the objects do what your seeing. But watching Symphonie Fantastique there was no way to figure it out. After about the first 20 minutes I gave up and tried to get my engineering part of my brain to stop. That worked until they started doing things which I was sure were impossible. (The thing I thought was impossible I later learned included a refracting mirror) The whole piece was really awe inspiring and magical. And when it ends, after seeing this whole very clean refined performance, suddenly six very wet puppeteers in black wet suits come running out to take their bow. Afterward you are allowed to walk backstage. There is is water everywhere, puppets hang from every available space, everything is dripping, and the sound of a pump fills the air. The chaos is totally overwhelming.

There are some pictures on Basil’s site, but since you don’t get the movement, I don’t think it really does it justice. Another way to try and get the idea is to look at his work in the Harry Potter movie (the third one). I had read somewhere that he worked on the Harry Potter movie, but I didn’t know it what way. I saw the movie about a month after I saw Symphonie Fantastique, and it was really obvious where his influence was. Apparently the director really didn’t want to use CGI for the Dementors, and so got in touch with Basil. They did a whole series of experiments with underwater Dementor puppets, but it became clear that it wasn’t a practical method for film. So the director took the videos of the underwater puppets to the CGI people and asked them to base their work on that. The dementors in the movie, the way they and particularly their clothes move, is very much like some of the work in Symphonie Fantastique.

Basil has done tons of other things. He seems to be one of those people who has done it all, but thats the only work of his I’m really familiar with. His other stuff is also supposed to be amazing…

Handspring Puppet Company

Friday, May 27th, 2005

handspring puppet company

Slowly I am getting ready to leave for South Africa. The latest excitement is finding the HANDSPRING PUPPET COMPANY. Dan, my puppet teacher from school recommended I look them up. I’m having way more fun than I deserve looking at their website and having fantasies about going to see them.

lots o’ puppet pictures

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

I had my last puppetry class yesterday. That was sad… I’m not really ready for that part of this year to be over. Among other things we took lots of pictures of all our puppets before we had to clean out the shop.

Here is my marionette (finally dressed) sitting in his apartment. The apartment has ropes attached to it, so it can be dragged on and off stage. During the show the marionette has a funny little moment where he bangs his fist on the tv to get it to work.

marionette at work

This was our largest puppet. We call him George (I’m not really sure why) and he is a TV news anchor. In the piece he spends a lot of time talking about “foolish artists.” In other parts of his life he likes to look people in the eye and make creepy noises. It was very weird building a human puppet that was life size… especially when working on it alone in the middle of the night.


This is the finished shadow scene. We had a really nice moment in the show where before the light behind the screen comes on, a candle gets lit right behind the fire, which makes the image of the fire flicker and move on the screen. That was really nice.

shadow scene

And when it’s all over, most of the puppets end up in the dumpster.

puppets in dumpster

My partner and I each took home some of the smaller elements. I really only wanted to keep the marionette. I have some of the cardboard protesters too, but I’m not really sure that I’m going to keep those. We’ll see.

Well, thats an overview of the pictures… there may be more comments coming later.

Phoenix debut !

Sunday, May 1st, 2005

funny you should ask… Today was supposed to be May Fair at my school. Every year the student senate organizes a children’s carnival for the surrounding area. Last year I was in charge of this event… it’s lots of fun. Yesterday I realized that this would be the perfect event for my phoenix puppet. In a sudden flurry of inspiration I built a backpack for wearing the puppet. Sadly the event got canceled due to weather, but I still took the Phoenix out for a spin.

phoenix puppet

phoenix puppet

The back pack I made out of part of a foam mattress pad (it’s been sitting in my closet since last winter, I knew it would be useful some day). It’s folded in half with tough fabric over it. I held it together by poking holes in it and tying string though it. The strap is just one long piece of fabric that threads through the foam piece, over my shoulders, around the bottom of the pack, and then around my chest to tie in front. I didn’t expect it work as well as it actually did. It held together pretty well.

I don’t actually think the puppet is finished yet. I’m hoping I’ll do that before the end of year festival happens (Bacchanalia). The wings still need to be glued down to the body, he needs a tail, and I’d like to put a clear coat on the paper mache, so I don’t have to worry about the wet so much.

Liz asked my if the puppet had a name. She is the editor of out school paper – The Phoenix – and so she was really excited when I told her it was a Phoenix. Mythologically, there is only one Phoenix, and so I feel like he doesn’t need a name. Liz didn’t seem to agree. Any thoughts?? If he does need a name, I don’t know what it is.

Spirit Dancing

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

I’ve found this new blog that I’m really enjoying called Spirit Dancing. She’s had some really great puppetry stuff on her site including this awesome entry about the puppets in the His Dark Materials stage performance. That was really exciting.

I was planning of waiting to post about this till later, but today I was really surprised by what I found there. There was a google ad on the side bar for the Sarah Lawrence summer puppetry workshop. The one taught by my professor. I knew the puppet world was small, but that still surprised me.

Anyway, check it out!

dyeing experiment – the results – and notes on Basil Twist

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

tea dye 2

Tada! Sorry, it’s not a very good picture. Actually… I’m not particularly pleased with how it came out. I think I used the wrong kind of fabric. I should track down cotton next time. Oh well… live and learn.

I’m just stressed out because, since my professor is on tour right now, Basil Twist is coming to our class to critique our work tomorrow. I’m a little intimidated by that prospect. Basil has done some really phenomenal work in the puppet world. I went to see his show Symphonie Fantastic in December, and it was possibly the most mesmerizing performance I have ever seen. His other claim to fame (which I like to tell people who have never heard of him) is that he worked on the most recent Harry Potter movie. The CGI of the Dementors was based on underwater puppets Basil built for them. And he is coming to see my work tomorrow… just a little bit nervous.

at long last, she posts pictures !

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

Finally took my camera to the puppet shop last night. I’m really pleased with how these came out.

This is the marionette I’ve been working on since I got back from winter break. His limbs are all wood, with joints made of steel wire. The head is paper-mache, covered in wood putty and then painted. I strung him for the first time last night, and I’m not really happy with the way he moves. That will be something to discuss in class tomorrow. He also still needs to be dressed… that should make him prettier.

marionette airplane
This is the control for the marionette. It’s called an airplane. This took me way to long too figure out. The piece on the front (which has the leg strings on it) is detached from the rest. The idea is you hold most of it in your left hand and the leg control in your right to make him walk.

cardboard protesters
These are my protesters hanging out on the stairs in the shop. They people are made of cardboard, and then dressed in fabric and painted paper. They are the beginning of a crowd scene I am constructing on a plank of wood. The whole crowd moves as one piece, to indicate that they are marching. You can probably tell, the third one is not finished in this picture.

That’s what I’ve got right now. The slow progress is just starting to pay off.

my new home: the puppet shop

Monday, March 7th, 2005

I have been meaning to take pictures of my puppets to post, but I keep forgetting to take my camera down to the shop. I’ve started spending about 7 hours a week outside of class in the shop (class being 4 hours a week). At this point when I come home my roommate tends to ask “how was the puppet shop?” before I even mention I’ve been there. We are supposed to have finished our construction before spring break (which starts on Friday), so that we can begin rehearsal when we get back. Needless to say, I’m not there yet. Hence the increase in time in the puppet shop.

I’ve learned that anything I do puppet-wise will take twice as long as I expect it to. Now, at first I thought this would mean I could adjust my expectations of how long things would take. A project I once might have thought would take a half hour, I now expect to take an hour. That turns out not to work. What I expect to take an hour, will still take 2 and a half. It’s pretty impressive actually. My professor claims thats the most important lesson on the class. I glare at him as if somehow it could be his fault.