To have a quality puppet presentation, there are many things you should do; proper entrances and exits, good lip synchronization, maintain good eye contact, and others. There are also some things you should try to avoid. This article presents three of them.
The Dreaded Quicksand Patches
We recently began training some new puppeteers and one of the first things they realized was that it takes work to keep a puppet up in the air for 3 or 4 minutes. Their arms were sore after their first 3 minute routine and even more so after the second and third. One of the keys during your practice time is to work on conditioning the puppeteer’s arms so they can hold them at a consistent height for several minutes at a time. The second key is to make sure they concentrate on their puppet as much as possible. If these two keys are missing, you’ll run into quicksand patches in your theater where the puppet slowly sinks until just the top of the head is showing.
If the puppeteer’s arm tires quickly they’ll begin to lose focus on the puppet and just try to make it through the presentation. Without the right concentration, they begin to relax their arm which causes the puppet to sink. When that happens, the audience begins to wonder how far down it’ll go or they’ll silently urge it to come back up. Either way, they’re focused on a puppet and not the message.
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t just pop the puppet up because that’ll draw attention to it. Slowly raise it up to the proper height and continue the play.
A ventriloquist is someone who speaks without moving his lips to give the illusion that the voice is coming from somewhere else. A ventriloquist puppet is one that doesn’t move his mouth, but the words still come out anyway. Puppets shouldn’t work on their ventriloquism skills during a puppet play.
This happens for a couple of reasons. Most often it’s from a lack of focus. If you’re doing a pre-recorded play and let your mind wander, you can miss lines. It can also happen if you’re focused on helping someone else with their lines and miss your own. If you’re doing a live play, it can happen from too much concentration. If you don’t know the script well enough, you have to concentrate even more on the page so you don’t miss a line. Sometimes, in that instance, you may say the words with your mouth, but forget to move the puppet’s mouth.
Exposed Human Arms and Hands
Human arm puppets are good to use and see, but the audience shouldn’t see an actual human arm or hand. If you raise your puppet too high, the audience can see its bottom edge and your arm which ruins the illusion of lifelikeness that you want to maintain. When using the arm rods, be careful that you don’t raise your hand over the top of the theater. When adult members of the audience see an arm or hand, they’ll politely overlook it, but you can’t count on that with children. If one sees it, you can safely assume that they’ll point it out to their friends next to them and will miss out on what the puppet is saying at that point.
During practices continue to focus on what each puppeteer should do to maintain quality in your programs, but don’t overlook these three things they shouldn’t do.