Friday, November 28, 2008

An After-Christmas Christmas Party?

“What the heck is that?” you ask.
Well you see, most professional puppeteers are pretty busy around the holidays what with all the holiday events, engagements and parties to perform at. Thistle Theatre and the Northwest Puppetry Center are both doing Christmas shows. Folks have told me of gigs in past years which included being a walking mountain with pop-up puppet inhabitants, running and voicing mechanical mall puppets and of course the kids room show at business Christmas parties. It all adds up to very little December free time.
So we have our Christmas Party in January. Our host for as long as I have been in the guild is Jean Matson, who opens her home to host about 12 to 20 puppeteers from the guild on average.
It’s always a potluck and there is always a gift exchange with the following rules: you can spend no more than $7 on the materials of the gift. You must decorate it creatively…that’s not a rule, just a suggestion because we do a judge a package by it’s cover exchange. We choose and steal before opening them. I tend to wrap mine in cool monster fur…so even if they don’t like it, there’s still something they can use. Some people wrap it to make you think it’s something other than what it is. That can be rather funny. I got these green mice last year:

(Last year our party was so late, we made it a St. Patty's Day party. Jean Mattson couldn't host one in January. But anyway...that's why I was dressed like that.)

At the party, the new slate of officers for the coming year is announced. Or, more often than not, just plain decided there on the spot…that’s not the best practice in my opinion, because we never are able to fill all the offices with only the 16 or so folks who can make the party. This year we’ve formed the nominating committee like the By-Laws says we are supposed to. All should be well I hope.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Douglas N. Paasch will be missed

The Seattle Puppetry Community was struck a horrible blow on Saturday with the unexpected death of Douglas N. Paasch by heart attack. He will be missed. Here's a picture I took of him giving a Q&A at a guild meeting. He's holding his Bunnicula puppet.

I recieved this in an email from another guild member:

In Memorium: Douglas Paasch
By Deb Fialkow

Douglas N. Paasch had over 25 years of experience in professional puppetry, with extensive credits as a puppet performer, designer, builder, director, and consultant. For the past 16 years he had been the resident puppet master for Seattle Children's Theatre (SCT). He also worked with local and regional theatre companies including: Intiman, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Co., Book-It Repertory Theatre, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, South Coast Repertory (Costa Mesa, CA), and Childsplay Theatre Company (Tempe, Arizona), Mr Paasch has performed internationaly in Bulgaria, Serbia and China. Douglas is also a theatre technician, with special expertise in theatrical effects. Douglas was an instructor or guest artist at CalArts, UW, Cornish, Seattle University, University of Puget Sound, the Art Institute of Seattle and the SCT Drama School. Douglas was a member of Actor's Equity Association and IATSE. Most recent projects included: 'Night of the Living Dead'and 'The Wizard of Oz'@ Seattle Children's Theatre (just opened last night!); doing the puppetry design, direction and construction. Other recent project included: 'The Mary Shelly Project' with Greg Loughridge, 'The Never Ending Story' at SCT.

Doug passed away Saturday, November 22nd, 2008. He suffered an unexpected, massive heart attack.

Doug was a sweet, generous man of extraordinary talent and imagination. His loss to his friends, the Seattle Theater Community, the theater and puppetry industries will be felt profoundly.

Cards, flowers, photos, remembrances may be sent to :
Doug's parents (Leanore and Norm Paasch): 17811 5th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98166
Lisa's address is 2109 N Anderson St, Tacoma, WA 98406

SCT will be holding a memorial, details will be posted as soon as they are known.

I have just heard that Lisa and Doug's family would indeed like to have a memorial for Douglas here at SCT on Monday, Dec. 8, starting at 7 pm. I do not know if anyone is preparing a formal e-announcement about it, so I ask that staff start to spread the word: better that people hear about it more than once than get left out.
Mangetout will be donating food. Witney Williams is coordinating details of programming with me. I do not yet have information about preferences for donations.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What the guild is up to…

This is a question I probably should address on this blog more often considering that the focus of this blog is puppets in Seattle and the local Renaissance fairs.
Since the Pumpkin Puppet carving party, we have had one other event. Brian Kooser invited us all on a back stage tour of his wacky and weird puppet play “UFO the Puppet Show”. Mylinda and I were both in attendance as the officer representation because our dear president is a tad young for the subject matter. It was that to be sure or as Brian himself described it “Very Naughty”. To say I liked the whole thing would be a lie…I have yet to see an adult puppet show I liked 100% of. I’d just rather not go there with puppets or any other medium for that matter. That's not entirely true...I don't mind puppet sex scenes, if they are not just tossed in and do nothing for the plot. That sort of thing gets boring really quick. But that’s just me. Maybe it's a woman thing...most of us seem to prefer romance novels to pornographic movies. Don't we?
As I watched, I focused on the parts I do like in any show…manipulation and puppet look, design and costume. Brian has a very unique style which I tend to feel is very scary or horrific. Of course, since my creation of the Oni for Momotaro, I shouldn’t be pointing any fingers. He is the fellow to which I credit the style of puppets I make with the combination of Papier-mâché and Japanese Paper Clay. The puppets I enjoyed the most were the two robotic characters (one just a head of one of his giant puppets) and the Aliens. I mean…is this not cool:

Or this:

As for the manipulation, at one point the character of Michael Jackson does his signature dance. This was exceedingly well done with a bunraku style puppet. At that point there were 3 puppeteers involved in the motion of the dance. I like bunraku puppets best when they have the full 3 puppeteers. This was no exception and it showed the care and research that went into creating the dance.
In other guild news, we have assembled the nominating committee for next year’s slate of officers. If you are in the guild, you may get a call from one of them looking for puppeteers to fill the officers for next year. I hope by forming an official committee, that no seats will be vacant this coming year. The new slate will be presented at the After-Christmas Christmas Party, which I have confirmed with Jean Mattson for the 3rd Thursday in January.

Monday, October 27, 2008

On Pumpkins and stuff

This last weekend, Mandy and I hosted a pumpkin carving party. I invited puppeteers, she invited teachers and the two crowds seemed to get on well. Actually I think it sparked a bit of an interest in puppets in some of the teachers present. Among the puppeteers, we ended up with two moving pumpkins:

(I took both of the above with my camera phone.)

We also had one pumpkin that could be used as a puppet:
Cheryl's Puppet Pumpkin

Also, one that made great use of shadows:
Mylinda's Alien

Fun, huh?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some Onsite Lessons Learned


I've been meaning to post this for a while now...

Aki Matsuri Lessons learned:

  • Start dress rehearsal on Friday sooner…the room gets locked at 8pm
  • Submit names for badges only…I felt bad when I learned the Aki Matsuri people made badges for puppet builders who weren’t in the show
  • Do the shows at 11am and 4pm both days
  • Use between scene music
  • Having everyone wear the shirts and look the same was a really good idea.
  • Drilling lines right before the show was a really good idea
  • Having a green room was also a really good idea
  • Put a microphone on everyone and control the volume at the board.
  • We had problems with the knee pads…even the really good ones. I think we should’ve gone with the foam puzzle pad idea instead.
  • Record the show using a digital video camera not an old VHS camera from the 90’s
  • Use metal rods, not wood—wood breaks
  • Having a puppet first aid kit was a good idea
  • Put nothing tall on the playboard
  • Order the poster sooner
  • Windows magnify noise of conversation, and the audience was big enough that next time we should claim seating space all the way to the window and perhaps face the window squarely.
  • We needed a large “Next Show at…” sign
  • Marking the foot location of the stage was a good idea
  • Having a violin player was a good idea

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I have been invited...and I'm rather join the PofA web advisory committee. It actually went something like this:
Steve asks, "Would you be willing to serve as member of the PofA web advisory committee?"
Elly replies, "
I would love to. Thank you for thinking of me. Can you send me some more details?" Yes...that's the order I used. Why? Because I pretty much knew that no matter what the details he'd send me were...websites and web programs is my contribution to the puppetry guild. You see, I've got a very useful disconnect in my head. I get excited when a computer challenges me. What I mean is...say I wanted to create a database that did X, Y and Z. First, I'd read the help...and if the help is helpful, I would do it and not think about it further. But if instead the help is not helpful, I would begin to experiment ways to make the data base do X, Y, and Z. If I found out the way easily, I would do it, curse the writer of the help section and not think about it further. But if it was difficult to figure out...then, at that moment when a normal person become frustrated, I become excited, happy and a tad obsessive. Time looses all meaning to me. At work, this is the number one reason I stay past 5pm. Of course there are other reasons like deadlines that are more likely to cause me to stay, but the difference is...a deadline would still leave me conscious of time. A glitch can magically erase whole hours from my life.
This love of glitches serves me well in the physical world as well. Some people give up marionettes because of the frustration of the tangle. Not me...and I strangely consider untying to be failure. A master untangler never unties the strings! If it got that way without untying, it can be undone without untying! Just...give me a few seconds, wouldja? Wait...wait...I've almost got it...let's see...there! Here you go.
Speaking of being honored. I was so honored that my puppets made it into the last Puppetry Journal. It's a major first for me. Check it out:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Puppeteer at the Consulate-General of Japan’s reception

I got dressed rather early for the Aki Matsuri reception at the residence of the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle. I’d already checked my outfit with Nora on Thursday before the last rehearsal started. She couldn’t go this year but she has gone several times. She gave me the idea that the little black dress was in good order and that wearing my michiyuki over it would be just fine.
127 - proof
They included both a map and written directions in with the invitations…and they were easy to follow. I left early too because the invitations had words like “things will begin promptly” and “6:30pm Sharp”. I ended up a whole ½ hour early. The house of the Consulate was old and beautiful with brick paths and Tudor windows and exterior. There were two greeters outside and just inside I found a table with a name badge all prepared for me. The room was downstairs and it had a door out to the back garden and lawn. Standing out there you seemed to be on the very pinnacle of Queen Anne, looking down on to the Seattle and the Puget Sound.
I felt a tad awkward on first arriving, because it seemed that there was no one I knew yet arrived. But Tom was there and he introduced me to the Senior Aide for Information and Cultural Affairs who was so kind enough as to give me his business card so I can tell you for a fact that I just reported exactly who he is. There were many introductions after that which put my Japanese to the test. I said ‘nihongo ga dekimasen’ because I learned to use dekimasu in Japanese class two years ago in March and I wanted to use it…sort of like Eliza Dolittle “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.” How sad my Japanese has become! I found myself understanding a lot more than being able to reply—which is frustrating. There were many speeches at first—which naturally were spoken twice, once in each language.
Then we all went outside to watch the sword demonstration. I remembered as I fished in my purse for my camera to turn my cell phone on silent mode…this was a good catch because I do have a Monday calendar event. I would’ve been mortified if it went off during the demo…it would’ve too. I took quite a few pictures of the demo, but I was only pleased with a few of them.
096 - determination
After the demo, we were invited back in to toast the Aki Matsuri and partake of the banquet of food. I tried a little of everything. It was rather good. I sat with several women in the chairs along the walls and enjoyed good conversation. I heard several reports of children enjoying the puppet shows and got several compliments on the large crowds we gathered and entertained. However, all the folks in attendance were organizers and they all were manning tables or running errands during the puppet shows. One person did say he stopped to watch briefly and several mentioned that their children enjoyed it. Everyone was in agreement that it was a really good location for it.
Towards the end of the evening, several of the younger crowd had a little fun helping each other get pictures of ourselves on our own cameras. That was nice. I think everyone was glad to get a proof-of-attendance picture. People seemed more relaxed then. Alcohol was being served and even if you don’t actually imbibe, does allow the atmosphere at a Japanese function to relax a little.
All in all, this puppeteer enjoyed herself and felt welcomed and appreciated by the event.

Speaking of appreciation, I would like to thank the following folks for attending the shows on Sunday:
• Christy and her friend
• Pat
• Diana
• Scott
• Frank
• Don
• Diana
042 - Frank Don and Diana
Mimibunko also did us the honor of watching our show Sunday morning. They gave me hugs afterwards as well as good feedback!. It was a pleasure to share the stage and the green room with them.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Behind the Scenes of Momotaro

I went to bed at 8:30pm so now I'm up at the crack of dawn with plenty of time before the shows this afternoon. So I thought I'd make a blog post and show you things from our point of view.
Here's a shot of the puppet and prop rack behind us:
Behind the scenes: Prop Rack 1
In future productions, I think I'll lower this prop rack. This is a good height if we were standing, but being on our knees, we have to unhook the puppets, lower them and then put our arm in them.
The props on top are sitting on a lovely gadget I got at Daiso. Did I mention I love Daiso?
Here's a shot of Stage Right:
Behind the scenes: Stage Right 2
Right under the playboard is our cheat sheet for the words of the Japanese song. By now though, I don't think anyone looks at it.
Those S-hooks you see there, Mandy picked up for me at Daiso as well. I hereby nominate Daiso as the official store of the puppeteers. I originally thought that pink s-hook was going to be too long, but it's not at all when you are kneeling.
Finally, here's a shot of Stage Left:
Behind the scenes: Stage Left
That's a flat omni-directional microphone next to the fence prop. Sound has been our biggest issue. I never taught projection and I should have. Lesson learned.

Oh guess what! So many people I know showed up to see the Saturday shows and support our effort. So I'd like to thank the following folks for coming:
  • Marsha and her sister
  • Barb
  • Randy
  • June
  • Jon
  • Diana
  • Don
  • Dannielle
  • Mary
  • Frieda
  • Matt
  • Vicky
You guys are the best!

I'd also like to thank our stage crew:
  • Bob
  • Wes
  • Frank
  • Jason
My heroes!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mimibunko's Show

I know I've been putting "A Puppet Show" up on the flier you can download from this blog...for the Japanese language show that runs in between my two shows. But now that I watched the dress rehearsal, I can report that it has a name. It is "When the Riceball Fell" and it's quite a nice show. Yes, it is done entirely in Japanese but it's easy to understand even if you don't know what they are saying.
It follows an almost Grimm's fairy tale format of a nice person who finds himself in an unusual situation but is polite, friendly and kind. He is given a reward. A not-so-nice neighbor hears the nice fellow tell his wife about it and decides to do what the nice man did just to get the reward. He handles himself greedily, forcefully and impolitely. Naturally, things don't work out how he planned.
If you do decided to brave the language barrier and see attention to how the puppets are put together...I've never seen a show like it. The human characters are on rods strapped to the front of the puppeteer who stands upright and manipulates the character's hands in a Bunraku style. Her face is covered by a hood but you can see her. They also have a neat scene changing trick to watch for. It runs at 2pm both days.
Also...don't miss Momotaro at 11 and 4 on Saturday and 12:30 and 3:30 on Sunday!
See you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What did you do on Labor Day, Elly?

  1. Sewing sock tubes on to black gloves to make long gloves (3 pair)
  2. Creating a palanquin
    New Palaquin and Rhys
  3. Sewing two more puppeteer jimbe tops
  4. Finishing the green oni’s boning and hanging ring
  5. Adding water to the bottom of the boat
  6. Creating a ‘How to Make a Glove Puppet’ poster
  7. Buying a slide whistle
  8. Fixing the Red Oni’s hands
  9. Fixing Momotaro’s hair (both puppets of Momotaro)
  10. Costuming the Momotaro baby
    Baby Prop

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

IMHO...A Success

The Rolling Regional Festival (RRF) is over. In all, I can’t say whether everyone would consider it a success or not. I suppose it wasn’t compared to a normal regional festival which is attended by more puppeteers. However, it was unquestionably successful in sharing puppetry with the public.
157 We learn
I am, however, often reminded that sharing puppetry with the public is not what a puppetry festival is for. Puppetry festivals are about puppeteers, for puppeteers and attended by puppeteers, or so they say. By ‘they’ I refer to the nay sayers of the RRF. They are right…I do remember those long ugly debates as to whether or not a puppetry performance at a festival should be open to the public at all or only for festival attendees. To these people I would say…without puppeteers, how can we have festivals at all? I do know that guilds should be doing what we did without the frame work of something like the RRF. That is true, but not easy for all locations. In fact, without the rolling RRF, two of the guilds would not have done anything. Both are small…one is ‘inactive’ due to less than 10 official members and the other is tottering on the brink of ‘inactive’. So there is something we must count as a resounding success…for you see, not only would nothing have been done in these locations with out the RRF, but also no regional festivals are even possible in those places due to low numbers of members. If in these locations, we can attract new interest in puppetry, then a regional festival there becomes possible.

168 - Piggy kids
Here are the facts as I know them: one Montana guild member attended Portland’s day; one Seattle guild member attended Montana’s day; Family members of Portland folks attended Seattle’s day and both Montana and Seattle guild members attended Victoria’s day. This may not sound so wonderful for a festival, but look at the pictures. Look at the children not only enjoying a puppet show, but also trying their hands at making and using puppets. Shall I add numbers to your opinion of the RRF? Try this: since the August Day of Puppetry in Seattle, there have been about 60 hits on the guild website which is 3 times more than normal. Most of those hits came on the week after the DoP. Plus, they were effort hits…people given a flier that had to type in the URL. That shows true interest, wouldn’t you agree?

069 Making puppets
Now I honestly don’t remember when it was I wanted to become a puppeteer. My earliest memory having to do with puppets was asking for them from Santa Claus. I have a vague memory of a puppet show at the Seattle Center involving a snow monster and a memory of a marionette princess I saw some where on a vacation. What if it was a Day of Puppetry some where that set me on my path? Who’s to say one of those happy little faces you see trying out my marionette dogs, won’t some day say the same thing?

111-family with Dogs

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The state of my workspace

Would you look at that? Now...before you say "What a mess!" let me assure you that this is a completely usable state. In fact, this table is shown to you mid-monkey. The monkey has presented a challenge to me as he is one of two rod puppets in the show. Now, rod puppets are usually not difficult...a head rod and two arm rods are usually all that is required. But our monkey needed not only the normal rods but foot rods/controls as well.
I could only think of one place I saw a full body rod puppet on a glove puppet stage and that was the Spring 2007 edition of The Puppetry Journal published by the Puppeteers of America. In this particular edition, a remembrance of Roger Mara also featured the complete design of his bobberhead rod puppets he designed for his production of Paul Bunyan. If you don't have this issue, I recommend that you send for a back issue.
The Bobberhead design was my inspiration for the string controlled legs of the monkey. See:
Monkey Legs

When he was all finished, I discovered a wonderful thing about this can hold both the string bar and the arm bars in the same hand and when you pull back it makes his hands go back while his feet go forward in a monkey knuckle walk! It's so cool! I can hardly wait for you all to see it!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Market Memories

This last Sunday, the puppeteers of Momotaro were out at the Day of Puppetry at the Pike Place Market. Everyone used their main puppet to interact with the passers-by. You see below my sister Mandy, who plays the Gold Oni who ended up getting a long lecture by this girl on how to be scary...
You need to work on "scary"
This young lady was not talking to Mandy at all. She addressed and lectured the Gold Oni. Mandy was a bit smiley, but the Gold Oni was taking notes the whole time saying "Ah I see" or "Really? Maybe I should try that!" So cute!
We also handed out a flier for our show at the Aki Matsuri. If you would like to print one and help us, here it is:

If you click on the picture, it should show you the complete 8.5" by 11" page. You can print it landscape, then cut it into three and PRESTO! you have three of our fliers to hand out. Thanks in advance!
In other news, Punch and Judy was presented by yours truly at the Market again this year and what do you see in this picture below?

She's a Brick House

Look carefully now...

Give up?

Okay, I'll tell is in fact the very green bag full of Swazzles I was lamenting in my previous post! Frank found it not 24 hours after my post--in his car in fact. Three cheers for Frank! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of a Missing Swazzle

It’s a sorry and sad tale to tell but I can not find my favorite swazzle. I made it by hand like I did all my other swazzles and like all my other swazzles, its sound is unique. So unique, in fact, that I tie each one together with a different color string so I can tell them apart. This one was my first and most successful swazzle—it is tied with pink thread. I just made the others in case I swallowed or lost this one. The adventures of the Pink Swazzle are quite long and dazzling. Its debut was in ‘Puppets, Puppets, Puppets” a variety show I did with Thistle Theatre. Punch and Judy was a puppet show within a puppet show and was performed toward the end of the show—only the Judy and Baby Bits. It was for this show that I made the first spare swazzle and during one show I spat out the pink one (yes, sometimes I get so excited that I spit out swazzles) and replaced it with the spare to finish out the show. Jean Enticknap mentioned it afterwards and told me that the voice changed so much between swazzles that it was like a friend going away.

The pink swazzle finally performed at Greenwood after the previous Punch Professor moved on to Ballroom Dancing (no joke—hobbyists are like that). That year, my pink swazzle went missing during tear down on Sunday and I was very distressed. But metal detectors were ‘In’ that year and the moment the faire closed about a half a dozen metal hounds showed up on site to find all the gypsy bangles and such. I flagged one down and had him search my performance area. Luckily, he found it. I’d been eyeballing the ground for a fruitless hour and a half and was rather upset at loosing my pink swazzle friend so I was so grateful to him! The swazzle was a little dirty but I cleaned it up and it was no worse for it.

I also learned my lesson that setting my swazzle on my puppet box between shows was a really bad idea. To prevent future disasters such as that, I got a little green leather pouch (you aren’t supposed to keep swazzles in something air tight) which I wore at all times about my neck. I had my little pink buddy in there plus my green and orange spares. My blue spare I sewed into Punch himself in a little Chinese snap pouch—an idea I picked up from a Punch and Judy book.

But then, sometime this winter, I went and lost my green pouch! (see picture above) I tore the house upside down looking for it. But no luck…it was gone.

What could I do? I dug out the blue swazzle and undid it, retooled it, remade it over and over—trying to get it to sound right. I made a new one I wrapped in tan, which almost sounded good until 2 minutes before the show when it began to sound like he had a cold. I couldn’t fix it then…so Punch was sick that show. It’s all in how you bend it, plus the size of it and the tightness of the tape. I rewrapped it between shows and the second show was better but…in reality, my Punch has lost his squeak! It’s like another puppeteer taking over a previous puppeteer’s role. For example, the guy who’s doing Miss Piggy’s voice now is pretty good, but he’s no Frank Oz.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Stage Revisited

There is no longer any question…the stage was too big. So I made it smaller. I did not, however, cut any of the original pieces down. Instead I took the two left over pipes of 10 feet each and cut them into 4 three foot sections and 2 four foot sections. When I reassembled the stage with these pieces, I actually ended up with the 11’ across design that Frank and I originally planned. Some other benefits include: the drapes will now cover the entire stage, the puppeteers won’t have to get off their knees in the back to keep the puppets visible, and the whole thing doesn’t wobble as much. It makes me feel much more comfortable. Also, I’ve seen the size of the stage Mimibunko will be using, and since we will be moving the stages forward and back, this smaller one will be friendlier to that. Actually, I am worried about the logistics of that. Perhaps it might be wise to try it out on Friday before the Aki Matsuri.

Speaking of the stage…Dad came to my rescue this last week. I don’t know what happened to my other helpers but Dad was a real trouper! We finished the playboard and constructed the prop rack and hung the curtains. He even came up with a clever solution to making the wings. I’m so happy! In addition to the stage, he painted me a house for scenes 2 through 4 and he finished most of my props, made excellent base structures for the boat and palanquin.

Mandy showed up for rehearsal with S hooks from Daiso which go over the 1.5” diameter PVC perfectly. Plus we did the first run through with the Frank to help us with blocking the fights (his hobby is stage fighting). Everyone is getting their lines down, with a little prompting. All of us are getting stronger arms so there’s a whole lot less puppet drowning going on. Plus, we crack each other up now…a major perk of a rehearsal that is going well. Things are looking up for the show in September. We are right on track.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Making Puppet Kimono Patterns

Perhaps this title should be “Lesson Learned the Hard Way” because the lesson I learned is…you can’t use the same pattern to dress your hand that you use for the rest of your body. That’s the first part of it anyway… the second part would be: always stuff a glove puppet before sizing it. Because my first attempt at a kimono for Momotaro ended up: a) binding up the puppets movement and b) not looking right at the neck.

I was frustrated, as you can well imagine so I went back to the basics. Step one of the Basics is dig through your recycle bin for scrap paper. Then for your second step, you pin it on to the STUFFED puppet body. Third, you go around it and cut it down at places like the shoulders and under the arms. You should end up with something like this:

Then, you clean it up and put it all on a nice blank pattern page:

You cut it out of waste material and sew up the main seam…use a large stitch like this:

Now you put it on the puppet and pin it in to fit. Like this:

Sew that up and cut off excess. Now try it on the puppet and repeat the pinning, sewing and cutting until you get a workable pattern. Once you do…remove all your stitches and there’s a pattern!

Now you try it out with the real material.

I then recycled the pattern material for the green archery guard on the left arm. The hakama you see in the picture above, I didn’t have to do using the pattern method…possibly because straight-ness of a man’s hips and the straight-ness of ones forearms match.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Momotaro’s Army Part One

The Puppeteers (in order of enlistment):
3rd Build Session (5)

Mylinda Sneed

Obasan and Monkey

Mylinda is a member in good standing of the Puppeteers of Puget Sound. She is a talented leather mask creator. She enjoys performing with the guild puppeteers in the Fremont Arts Parade. She has participated from the beginning at the Day of Puppetry events at the Pike Place Market each summer.

Paste turns your hands OLD!

Beckett Arnold


Beckett is the current President of the Puppeteers of Puget Sound for the 2008 and 2009 years. He is an enthusiastic performer with the guild in the Fremont Arts Parade and the Day of Puppetry at the Pike Place Market. He enjoys making Uncle Duke’s Pop-up puppets which he learned at one of the guild meetings.

Amanda Leaverton

Gold Oni, and Dog

Mandy is a teacher at Kilo Middle School. She enjoys using puppets in the classroom as well as exercising her talent at voice acting while reading books to her students. She has participated in several puppet shows in the past. She also enjoys belly dancing as well as scrapbook making—Momotaro is unlikely to escape her scrapbook!

Jung Sook Kim


Jung Sook is of Korean descent but born and raised in Japan, currently teaches Japanese at a local private school. She is a fan of the art of Puppetry and wants to learn more to use it in the classroom. She is also well known for her storytelling.

Ushio Tokura

Musician, Young Momotaro, Blue Oni

Ushio is pleased to be making his puppetry debut with Momotaro. Ushio is Jung Sook Kim’s son and is off to a good start in the art of puppetry. He is a student at Three Cedars School in Bellevue.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Where's my living room gone?

There is but one question at my apartment: where has the living room gone? Frank and I finalized the plan for the PVC stage and got the materials for it on Wednesday. Then Sunday, Mylinda and Beckett came over and we built it. While we were at it…my living room went missing. It seems too big…it really does…but for 5 puppeteers it might not be. Also…PVC can be shortened a whole lot easier than lengthened. So after the next rehearsal, I’ll know if it needs to come down in size or not.

One thing is for sure…I’m not planning on disassembling it and taking it to BCC twice a week. The rehearsals, therefore, must now be held at my domicile. On the upside…I can now feed my puppeteers…and I’ll no longer have to worry about parking or getting into the room at BCC. I had to do that because the person who arranged the room for us at BCC was on vacation and the room with the big sign that reads “Never lock this door” was locked three of the four times we went there. She’s back now to keep the door unlocked but even so…the stage is just too big. We must start practicing with it.

You’d think, with the stage as far as it is that I’d feel better but…looking at it…I see an overwhelming amount of things left to do. August is flying toward me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Exposed as a Puppeteer


I’m struck at this moment about how much I am exposed on the web. I formed an acquaintance the other day with three puppeteers who had all seen this blog and followed the pictures to my account on Flickr. One of them mentioned that I love my cat…on Flickr all cat, puppet, origami and Greenwood pictures are open to the public…there was nothing could say but, “Why, yes, I do.” That’s when this feeling struck me.

Now I was the one who put it all up there, and I don’t mind that strangers go and look at the stuff I put up. But it hard not to fear the idea of someone unknown to me judging me by what is up there…and I don’t post personal stuff. Not at all…my blog is only about puppets and nothing more. A lot of my friends tell me they don’t read it for that reason and I’m okay with that. It’s not their hobby. The stuff I post and talk about has a very specific audience. Here’s the rub: I am a hobbyist, perhaps I might make a good post one day and the next day I post about something that I am trying which may or may not work at all. Think of a fellow puppetry lover who comes across my blog when I write a great post, so they bookmark me. Then I post a bad or wild idea and this stranger I don’t know somewhere is disappointed with me. Even worse, what if that person comes along for the first time when I post a bad or wild idea…do they ever come back? Maybe not. Suddenly I think being judged…both positively and negatively are equally bad.

Also, let’s face it, some folks out there consider puppetry playing with dolls so if I am googled by a client or coworker…they might find a reason with which to look down upon me. With all this in mind, I am just floored by the people who maintain personal, journal blogs. What could they be thinking trusting strangers with such deep insights to their characters? On the other hand, by sticking to my favorite subject of puppetry, I am much more likely to be found and read regularly by strangers than they are. Also, I have another disadvantage with those strangers…I go to Puppetry Festivals. When I do, I can’t help but wonder, how many of these puppeteers have both read and judged me. They take a look at my badge…connect it and suddenly I am “That know-it-all dilettante hobbyist who thinks she’s so special that she has the gall to post a boring little blog.”

Now I must admit I fear only one audience…my peers.

Sure, I get jitters and nerves before any show but it’s all excitement. I’m safe from most typical failure nightmares…my nightmares usually include stressful situations where I’m missing a key item or traffic is in my way or the fliers didn’t get out or some other stressful thing is keeping me from performing. I call them “running in place nightmares” and I get them all the time. Puppeteers don’t get that other typical performer nightmare of showing up on stage naked…because it’s never about our own bodies like it is for actors. Well maybe a ventriloquist might, but I don’t even show up at all on my stage like a ventriloquist does. For me these nightmares are instead reflected in the puppet…a dreadful puppet that the audience hates or a puppet that breaks or moves badly. But when I get those nightmares, they always include an audience of my peers. An audience of puppeteers is the only audience I fear—the judging audience—the audience hip to the art and able to see the flaws. That very audience is the target of this blog! This is what stunned me. I have lain bear all of my puppetry for the perusal and judgment of my peers. Not only that, but I get no comments on this blog…the other half of that puppeteer audience nightmare includes no applause…and suddenly no comments is beginning to feel like that deathly silence.

So what now?

Well, I’m stunned but not overpowered by the idea. Plus the lovely thing about ADHD is that I’ll stop worrying about it much more quickly than you would think. I’ll come alive by a wild idea or I’ll be struck by something I’m building and I’ll just have to share it with you. I’ll suddenly be very grateful that I have this forum. My little soap box with which I enjoy my freedom.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Puppetry Book Club

I can’t speak for the rest of the USA, but here in Seattle, the latest rage is book clubs. They meet once a month at someone’s house for a potluck and discuss which ever book they all decided to tackle the previous meeting. From what I hear about my mom’s club and ENSR’s club (my work), they are usually stuff like “Three Cups of Tea” or other critically acclaimed books at the time. Usually it’s fiction although I was pretty impressed to hear that ENSR’s club read the 9/11 reports. Also, I know for a fact that when it is my mom’s turn to pick a book…she goes for biographies.

Reading books is a great excuse to get together socially for both my work set and my mother’s set…so I thought, why not the puppetry set? There are several advantages to a puppetry book club. First of all, libraries are usually very well stocked with books on puppets. Puppet shows and libraries go hand-in-hand you see. Hopefully, the starving artists of our set wouldn’t find money the prohibitive factor.

Second, they would be non-fiction books for the most part, so even if you only read half of it, you could still come to the potluck—because it’s not like anyone is going to give away the ending. Even if you skimmed it…you could join in the conversation on what you gleaned.

Third, there might be things you’ve tried in the books we choose, so you could share insights with others that you probably wouldn’t think of if the conversation didn’t turn that way naturally. In addition, people might discover that you are an expert on some skill or other and they might call you if they need help. A subject you take for granted might be a huge help to someone else.

Fourth, this would set up regular hassle-free meetings—no performance to beg up, no workshop to put together, or event to plan. It would be just a comfortable gathering of friends to discuss a book on their mutual favorite subject.

Fifth, I think newbies would find it a less intimidating meeting to join in with. Reading and thinking being the only implied skills needed. They would probably benefit greatly by the discussion or examples people might bring. It’s a forum in which all level of skill in puppetry could feel comfortable. Also, I don’t see it as an age limiting forum either—kids and adults could both join in.

Sixth…our guild puppeteers seem to love potlucks. When ever we have one, it’s always well attended.

Seventh, some of our guild members have written puppetry books…a book club meeting attended by the author! How snazzy is that?

Eighth, except for the smallest of apartments, anyone could host it at their place…space to sit being the only real requirement of the location.

What do you think?

Do you see any downsides?

If you lived in my neck of the woods, which books would you like to see on the list?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

On Americans and Punch & Judy

Greenwoode08 029

The question is: “How do your audiences react?” Well…I’ve never had too much trouble with audiences ‘getting’ Punch & Judy. I’ve also never had an offended audience member confront me.

But here are the conditions under which I perform:

  • I perform at renaissance faires mostly where people expect to see something from the past. Even though my show is modern with current jokes, if the audience wants, they can excuse the whole thing and justify their watching it by saying it’s historical.
  • I perform with the Greenwood Players, some of whom have children, who act as plants in my audience. They know the show and they know what to say and do and they usually help the audiences get excited.
  • I warn the audience by announcing my show loudly proclaiming that the show is guaranteed to be violent and contains a hanging—like it’s a good thing. I do see some parents and their sheltered little ones walk on by…but I want them to.
  • I coach the audience. I set them up to respond to “That’s the way to do it!” with “Oh no it isn’t!”
  • Punch never hits first. (I’m not the only one to do this…the whole premise of the show is that Punch reacts in ways we can’t and sometimes wish we could.)
  • I’m female. It’s amazing what I can get away with by being immediately perceived as harmless, teacher like, and some one to be trusted with children. It probably also helps that I have no tattoos or nose rings, and I wear a professional-looking non-revealing costume.
  • Also, probably because I am who I am, Judy gets the last laugh (most P&J shows end with some puppet other than Punch getting the last laugh—usually the crocodile).
Do they get it? Yep, with a little coaching, they get it. In reality, this is Bugs Bunny’s predecessor—you can even tell them that—but at the end of the day, it really is just slap stick comedy. Americans get that.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Show Updates

I’m feeling good about Momotaro and I’ll tell you why.

  • The script draft is done.
  • The schedule is created.
  • Only three puppets are up in the air about being ready to rehearse with: Green Oni, Monkey and Bird.
  • I have two more volunteers to help build props and sets; one from Greenwood Faire and one from the puppet guild—did I mention I love my guild? Why? Networking!
    A new builder joins us

  • I like the number of people who have told me they are coming to the Aki Matsuri to see my show. Mom has told a ton of her friends and my parents-in-law are flying down from Alaska for it.
  • As for the needed 4th puppeteer, I still don’t have one. But my first choice is consulting her schedule and the way she has been talking, I think the answer will be yes.
  • I went to Daiso the other day and I came across two more props there that I won’t have to make.
  • 3 out of the four human puppets have hair…and I’m pretty happy with the way the main character’s hair turned out—although at first he started rather shaggy. He ended up with less than half the bangs he started out with, in fact.
  • Let’s see, what else…the president of the Aki Matsuri came up with a nifty idea of a photo collage showing how the show was put together from the start. As you know, I have all the pictures already…plus it makes me feel like this show is even more professional. The Seattle Rep does stuff like that, you see. There are always pictures and sometimes drawings and designs from costumers or set designers.

Don’t you feel happier knowing all that too?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hands…they’re getting easier

Here’s what I’ve been doing. First I take a toilet paper roll and cut it in half and up the side. I reduce the circle of the tube down so it fits over my thumb and my last two fingers together on my right hand and tape it in place. I flatten the top and add a piece of cardboard cut in a mitten shape. I add a little bulk with masking tape. Then I papier-mâché the whole thing with my standard three layers—not going for any detail at all on the mitten part.

May Various (14)

Once that is dry I cover the mitten part with Japanese Paper clay. In the paper clay I create the fingers…all together so they are made on the mitten but completely cover it. I add fleshy parts for the base of the thumb and the bottom of the palm. Next comes another drying period. Watching clay dry is far from stimulating so usually I work on something else for a while. You’ve got to give it a day at least. Ho hum… Now, time to paint. My first layer is gesso to prepare the surface. Then I work a very dark green into the shaded areas and details. Green? Yes, green...Dad showed me this trick. Green is the way he showed me to darken skin tone.

May Various (7)

I cover that over with a medium flesh tone…depending on ethnicity of the character a medium flesh tone should be lighter than the final tone. I use the final tone last of all in the shady places and in the details and wrinkles of the hand. Keep in mind that an African character’s palms are significantly lighter on the inside. In that case I would used green plus four skin tones—two for the outside and two for the inside. Lastly I paint in nails for characters in which it is important. Of course I finish out with a matte sealer. My puppets must be a tad weather resistant. Even a matte finish sealer is going to be shiny so I use a firm bristle brush to add texture as the sealer is drying.

May Various (19)

So there you have it. Hope you find these instructions handy.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

See Ya Where the Lines Meet

As you know, of late I have been feeling behind on the preparation for Momotaro. You also may have observed that at such times of need, I turn to my husband Frank for steadying…reality checking…words of encouragement…and just plain help with the logistics.

Another Year another doublet

Accordingly, I consulted him four nights ago with my feelings and asked him to employ his considerable field project management skills. This resulted in a drawing that I don’t doubt has never been applied to a puppet show before. Each independent item was given its own line: Puppets, Props, Scenery, Stage, and Publicity. Each line had its own big black dot for the point at which it affects another line. The result was this ladder of project planning…and I really can’t tell you if it was this drawing or the simple act of discussing it…perhaps it was both, but now I feel okay. Thanks, Frank!

It’s like cleaning your craft room…you know, that mountain of creativity that threatens and in some cases succeeds in taking over your living space? When you first walk in and look at it, it makes you want to ball. But if you clear a little space and layout boxes with labels like: materials, paints, controls, etc. Then you get a bunch of quart baggies and label them stuff like: Buttons, thread, feathers, puppet eyes, elastic, etc. Then you take a step back and look at your empty bags and boxes and that pile of creativity, you feel very differently. All of a sudden, it looks doable, doesn’t it?

It’s really all about lines and labels…and where they meet. See ya there.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Of Arms and Armor

Yes, Japanese armor can be duplicated on a small scale by black plastic canvas!

May Momotaro (6)

And so easy to assemble that even a cat can do it:
Cat-Made Armor
The downside is…boy oh boy is it time consuming! What you are looking at is the result of two airplane trips of 3.5 hours each; six 40 minute long car trips; and seven DVDs of various TV shows from Netflix—and it’s still not done.

I suppose what you are looking at is the stark contrast of puppets done for fun and puppets done as a profession. A professional puppeteer would have discarded this idea because of the time involved…but me? Well, I was gonna watch the Netflix anyway. Also…if I didn’t have this to do, I would’ve just slept through the plane rides and car trips.