Friday, July 20, 2007

Round those Characters!

Today we dived into characterization.
Luman Coad gave us some techniques to determine our main character with--
He asked us to consider:
What one word describes the main character? (Every character has a positive and a negative characteristic).
What is your main character's fatal flaw; what's his or her core quality?
What is the character's goal?

How your character perceives the world is also important:
What values does the character hold?
What justifies an evil action? For the best villains think what they are doing is right.
What is the character's attitude?
What's the character's slant on the situation?

Character Arc or a character should be different at the end of the show.
A character arc may go something like this: At first, the character seeks his goal without thinking. He fails. This is called the first reversal. Next the character considers and tries again. He fails again. Then he has his black moment. The character must change himself and seek his goal for the final climax of the story.
Find at least a key word and two minor descriptive words that represent your main character.

Watch for distinctive characterization that revealed by movement.
Make a one minutes action sequence--take a standard fairytale character and make it unique with movement only.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Advice from the Second Workshop

I'm sure you are all panicking by now, thinking that I wasn't going to tell you about the second day of the workshop. Ah such little faith! I was just tired to day, but I'm ready now.

Luman Coad talked a great deal about movement. He advised us to use silence or put in pauses to draw attention to the motion you want clear.
For example, picking up an object might go something like this:
Look at it
Examine it
Consider how to lift it
Put the hands on it
Tighten the hold
Lift or heft it
Walk off with it

He had four things he encouraged us to think about when creating movement:
A. Size
B. Speed
C. Energy
D. Style

When developing movement, try to:
a. Observe people, study what catches your attention about a movement they make
b. Analyze the movement or determine what it is that is unique about it.
c. Simplify it or "Boil it down" to the essential motion
d. Rehearse and experiment the motion with the puppet
e. Apply it to the character--no two puppets will move the same way
f. Refine the movement:
i. How's the speed? Too fast? Too slow?
ii. How does it fit into the rhythm of the series of movement around it.
iii. Determine what effects the energy of the motion:
--The age of the puppet.
--The temperature of the day.
--The mood of the character.
iv. Consider clarity--you only have one chance to make sure an audience gets it
v. Give your audience a chance to think, don't rush them through the story.
vi. Consider the size of the movement in relation to the time frame of the story; mix it up; build it up; pull audiences up.
vii. Use follow-through--like in cartoons--step back before rushing forward--the "ready, set, go" method. This is an idea of the action reaction. In the series of picking an object up I listed above, this would be the "tighten the hold" part.
viii. Use contrast--big/small, bold/shy, happy/sad--to get the point across.

Our homework was to watch the performances that day for "sequences of movement that reveal characterization". Also, we are to come up with a sequence of movements to reveal a stereotypical fairytale character--communicate this with motions only. I think I'll go with the village idiot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thoughts on Wednesday Performances


Part of our homework for the workshop I'm in was to watch the performances that day for specific things:
A. Eye focus of the puppets...where are they looking and where are they leading you to look?
B. Take note of any Outstanding movement

So let's go down the list...

The first show I saw today was "The Secret Life of Bugs"...and I must say I was pretty impressed by the movement of the bugs. Also, the bugs had eyes that don't normally lend themselves well to a focus we humans can recognize. There was focus, however, in the human sense. I don't think it detracted. Over all, the show had two major flaws and they weren't movement. First flaw: gentle and soothing music. Second, slow moving bugs (although very realistic) . The combination of these two flaws coupled with it being the afternoon meant I was seriously falling asleep.

The second show was "Hats off to the Sea" which was delightful. Focus was there, but it was difficult for it not to be because the size of the puppets and the smallness of the puppet's eyes meant that it looked good as long as the face was pointed in the right direction. We did only get to see the first half of the show due to bad weather. Bummer. Outstanding movement came from the full body boat that was attached and walked about by the puppeteer. It was a believable thing that it was afloat in water.

Now, "The Mother of All Enemies" was done in Shadow puppet style. Thus eye focus was not something that the puppeteer can control. I think it can be done if a puppet is cut differently or designed with moving eyes, but I've only seen that type of puppets in books. As for movement, well I find shadow puppets to be the style that least allows me to enter into the belief that these moving things are alive. It had nifty bits of business, don't get me wrong, but nothing I would consider "Outstanding Movement". This show was definitely a case of the words of the puppeteer being much more important than the motion of the puppets.

The puppet slam was hosted by two humanettes. A puppet style that has great potential for believable movement. The puppeteer uses his or her own head, so really, all that needs to be worried about is the action of the body dangling under your chin. These two puppeteers, however, did not seem to worry about that and often let their puppets dangle, or position their legs in odd crushed positions. However, good movement in such a setting would be odd. Humor reigns at a puppet slam.

So, did I do my homework right?

Polichinelle supplied me with new bits of business I liked. Some were movement, most were scripted. Here's a morsel for you:
P: Did you see that my friends? That alligator nearly bit off my hump! If he takes that, I'll only have two phallic symbols left!

Sage Advice on the first Workshop Day

The above picture is Rob D'Arc--a notorious dealer of puppeteer crack--caught in the act of spreading the addiction of pop-up puppets far and wide.

So, I should share with you all some of the sage advice I got in the first day of the four day workshop with Luman Coad. The first I shall share because it's good for any and all performers:

Basic Performer Rules

1. Be on time (not Greenwood time)
2. Come Prepared (don't leave your kelly green tights at home 4 hours away)
3. Know your lines (My lines from one Chess game can still be seen written on Flynt's controls)
4. Be Professional (Where have I heard that before?)
5. Don't goof off (as funny as it was, swazzling at opening circle for Greenwood is a good example of me breaking this rule and costing the company time. I blame myself.)
6. Always stretch and limber up (I knew that already, I am an ergonomics leader)

Luman Coad also had a lot to say about the playboard:
a. The playboard should not be leaned on!
b. The playboard is not the stage floor but rather a surface that is set in between the knees and the ankles of your puppet.
c. When you move back away from the playboard, pretend like your stage is a raked. The puppets get slightly taller as they go back. Think about those kids in the front row. If you don't do this, you run the risk of them loosing the action.

More later...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

First Day at the Puppet Rampage!

First day at the Rampage--the puppet festival in St. Paul, MN. It's the come and go day, so there's mostly performances. It's usually the type that you see at fairs too...out doors, slap stick, no sound type. There was even a Polichinelle--the French version of Punch. No swazzle but I did like this bit of business:
P: [hits Judy with the slapstick]
J: Oh you wicked evil man! I can't believe you hit me with a stick! [two beat pause] Do it again.
P: [much thwacking]

Some things went pretty spiffy today. I was surprised at the number of people who recognized me. My roommate is even some one I took the Punch and Judy workshop with last time. (You can see her on my flickr, in the Punch set. She's in the front row in a black and white dress and curly short hair) Her name is Diane Kozarski and she works at a library--she reports that she's still in the process of pulling her Punch & Judy show together. She's worried that her show is to vicious! Should I show her mine?

We had free time in the morning so we spent an hour running through the Mall of America. I came to the conclusion that you need more than an hour. I only bought food.

I don't think I will be able to go to a Harry Potter party on Friday night. They've scheduled the potpourri for that night. Dare I miss it?

Tonight the adult show "Tim & Jim's Electric Noodle Show" was out there. It was very funny and only suffered the "what the heck was that?" reaction a couple of times. Most memorial moment was the fake news cast they did. I liked the bit where they announced an Opinion section and the next shot shows Frankenstein rising up slowly. "Fire bad!" he says and that was it. I also like the monkey opinion section too--he chewed us out for evolution and how dare we say monkeys were the less evolved of the two. He sited several reasons for which I would need to change the rating of this blog to share with you. Wes, if you're reading this, you would've liked it.

I could mention the Festival opening...the great speech of Ronnie Burkett and the wonderful performances of master puppeteers Joe Cashore and Phillip Huber...but I won't. Those are moments in my life beyond words.

Steve Abrams gave me a morsel of food for thought. He was contemplating doing the same show for two entirely different audience reactions--one just merely entertained--the other knocked completely off of their socks, riveted and throughly entertained. When he mentioned to a friend that he did nothing different and couldn't figure it out, his friend said "Sometimes you come across an audience that just really needs your performance that day." Nice, huh?