Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Lexicon of Manipulation

Glove Piggy (1)

The question I just got is: Is there a lexicon for puppet manipulation?

Let's see...

"Focus" or "Eye-focus" is a term you hear a lot. Where a puppet looks is really important.

"Transfer of Energy" is another thing we talk about. If the puppet bounces a ball...seems simple enough...until you put that ball on a stick and have to simulate the transfer of energy from the puppet's hand to the ball to the playboard and make it look like it's really happening.

"Playboard mark" (Playboard is what we call the board that simulates a stage floor for bottom controlled puppets...Glove or Rod) a playboard mark is the the place on your arm that represents the height of the puppet. You've got to "hit the puppet's playboard mark" to keep the puppet's height consistent.

"Meaningful Movement" I've heard a time or two when a puppeteer is complaining about an amateur wiggling the puppet around for no reason.

We use the word "Manipulation" a great deal more than the word "Animation" or "Acting"

We talk about "mimicking" humans.

We often talk about ourselves as puppet "Operators" especially when distinguishing ourselves from other roles like puppet voicers. We may even go so far as to refer to ourselves as "Actor-Manipulators" -- jazzy, huh?

We talk about avoiding letting our puppets "Die" on stage. This happens when you stick that rod puppet in a stand or hang a marionette on a hook which is why most people don't like to do that. In a stand or on a hook, naturally, a puppet will cease movement. A living breathing thing never stops moving completely. So to keep the audience believing that the contraption is alive it must never "die". Sometimes the puppeteer gets distracted and let's a puppet just stop even though they are still holding it. This is the worst type of puppet "death", and we beat ourselves up for doing it.

Um...there is "timing" and "pace" which means the same on the puppet stage as the live stage.

"Destroying the illusion" is to be avoided at all don't let a body part of yours show!

Directors may tell you to stop moving the puppet so "mechanically" or "robotically".

We talk about "synchronization" with speech--excessive "bobbing" of the head is to be avoided. If it's a mouth puppet, it shouldn't open and shut for every syllable.

I'm going to end my list with my favorite: the "Marionette Swing" which is the dipping and rolling of the controller to get the legs swinging under the torso of the marionette. You see, the strings pull forward and up--but there is no string for the follow through of the walk--lifting the weight of the body off the trailing leg by raising the heel. We must rely on the Marionette Swing to get that.

What? That's all? Well...I don't doubt that I've forgotten quite a few, but this is a start. Care to add? Leave a comment.

No comments: