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.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Frank and Wes

I was a little distressed last night for a couple of reasons. I have discovered a problem with glove puppets that I have never faced before. That would be prop items. You see, with string puppets you can count on one thing above all others—gravity works in your favor. Including but not limited to the fact that props and scenery have a floor to sit upon. Thus that lovely pumpkin carriage in Cinderella may fall over but there’s absolutely no chance of it dropping off the face of your little planet. In this way gravity works with you. Don’t get me wrong…in Marionettes there are ways gravity is not your friend…say perhaps if you should drop the controls for example.
So I suddenly was distressed by two realizations last night:
A. There is no floor—rolling stock is gonna have issues
B. If a puppet must walk through it…there can’t be any supports in the way. So forget that fence through the middle of the stage.
Both of the above I had already included in my script. I just couldn’t get passed it either. It was such a reverse idea…I tossed out my original stage design because it just couldn’t handle what I wanted to do. Distressing!
Last night, while Wes, Frank and I were playing games and polishing off the last of Frank’s Birthday cake I poured out my deep distress to them. Between the two of them and a sheet of paper, they solved all my problems. The design of the stage was just added to, not changed entirely and now I can see how to do things bottom up a little better. It was such a road block before. So I must say: Domo Arigato Gozaimashita to both Wes-kun and my husband Frank.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On Momotaro, Libraries, and RPGs

You know, it has always been true that librarians are puppeteers’ best friends. Not only do they open up their doors and hire you to come in and perform but they also seem to stock every puppet book ever written! So naturally, when I’m writing the script for Momotaro, I got online and ordered up a few versions of the fable.
Momotaro Books
I am surprised that in all three, the oni enter the picture only at the very end of the story. They are merely spoken of as particularly bad raiders and brutes…and in most cases, we don’t even hear about them until Momotaro announces that he’s off to fight them. It’s actually a bit like a roleplaying game:
GM: (reading the character sheet) So, you came from a peach, huh? I see you’ve min-maxed yourself for strength. Ok, I approve your character. One day you hear of terrible Oni monsters off on an island.
Player 1: “Mother, Father, I’m off to fight the oni!”
GM: Your parents tearfully see you off. Your mother gives you some food.
Player 1: I walk away from the village.
GM: You find a dog.
Player 1: “Hi Dog, you look like a good fighter. I’ll share my food with you if you’ll come on this adventure with me.”
Player 2: “I’d love to!”
GM: You 2 walk on. You find a Monkey.
Player 1: “Hi Monkey, you look like a good fighter. I’ll share my food with you if you’ll come on this adventure with me.”
Player 3: “I’d love to!”
GM: You 3 walk on. You find a bird.
Player 1: “Hi bird, you look like a good fighter. I’ll share my food with you if you’ll come on this adventure with me.”
Player 4: “I’d love to!”
GM: You 4 walk on and come to the sea shore. Roll for perception.
Player 1: Natural 20!
GM: You just happen to find a boat…you all get in and sail to Oni Island. They’re waiting for you. They all wield their iron clubs. Everyone roll initiative.
Sorta fits the formula, doesn’t it? Don’t worry…I think in my version the audience is gonna get to see an oni raid. Actions speak louder than words, and I’d much rather show the audience why it’s so important for this strong young man to rush off to fight the Oni, than have him just announce it one day like a bolt from the blue.
Plus I dreamed up a nifty joke for the Oni raid. Oh! I just gotta use it!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Feeling Behind

I want to start rehearsals for Momotaro in July so I have a little more than a month to finish the script, build a stage, make props and finish all the puppets. Here's where I'm at with the Gold Oni:
Gold Oni

It's really the script I'm worried about. I really want to do a good job but...this is my mindset:

Oh Hello! Hello! Hi! How are ya! Hello! Hello! Judy! Judy-judy-judy!

Here I am Mr. Punch now what is it you want?

A Kiss!
A Kiss! I'm not going to give you a kiss in front of all these people!

Why Not?

Why not? I'll tell you why not. Because they'll all laugh at me and make that terrible 'Woooo' sound!

No they won't!

Of course they will.

No they won't.

You think so do you? Well I'll prove it to you. And Ladies and Gentlemen this is your chance to redeem yourselves and prove me wrong, so no laughing or woooing! Very well, Mr. Punch, I'll kiss you but first I must blow my nose. (loudly blow raspberries while wiping nose on curtain. PUNCH makes gross noises) Here we go.


Oh Mr. Punch I heard them didn't you?

I must have missed it.

You missed it! How could you miss it? Very well I'll kiss you one more time and you better pay attention! Ladies and gentlemen this is your last chance, so no laughing and no wooing!


Oh Mr. Punch you're worse than the postman!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Papier-mâché Instructions

Back in March of 2006 I talked about my papier-mâché. It’s a pretty through article including my recipe and everything. But not only does it bare repeating, but also these things change and evolve over time. So I think it is definitely time to go over it again.
Again, I must start out by giving credit where credit is due: it was Brian Kooser who taught me this style of papier-mâché. (Brian likes to start with a shaped Styrofoam base though…not clay or balloons.)

Repost of my Blog entry on Papier-Mache
By the way, you can’t get this brand of vinyl wheat paste anymore—but there are others.

The first thing I do is get myself a whole bunch of paper grocery bags—preferably of two different colors. At Metropolitan Market you can get white bags. Next I tear off all cut edges and discard them—I also try to remove anything with glue on it (like the area where the handles are attached). I tear the pieces into approximately 5” by 5” sections.

Next, I take a flat bottomed bowl and mix maybe a teaspoon of wheat paste with water. I add water slowly until I get the paste to the consistency of gravy or hair conditioner. Then I add a generous amount of the Elmer’s Wood Glue—lately you can get brown wood glue. I use that now because if there is to be a color in the glue—I’d rather it be brown.

These days, I’m no longer using a clay head to start…instead I start with a water balloon (blown up with AIR). For two reasons really: Number one: I’m not usually making more than one copy of a head. Number two: Japanese paper clay has given me the freedom to add details after the fact and on top of the papier-mâché.

Once I have my balloon blown up to the size I want, I’m ready to begin. To start off, I take a piece of the brown paper and put it in my paste, cover the paper completely with paste, then wad it into a ball and squeeze out the excess paste. I’ll then un-wad the ball and wad it up again. This causes the fibers on the surface of the paper to stand up a little. Sort of like Velcro. When it’s placed on, the layers will grip each other better. I repeat these steps until I have three or four little waded balls ready to go.

Un-wading the first ball and tearing off quarter-sized bits of paper—not strips, I starting at the top and I work down from there. Little pieces are better than strips because you get more overlap that way which adds thickness. Once I cover the balloon completely, I hang it by its tied end on my Daiso sock drier to dry a little—be sure not to cover up the tied end!
Oni Step 1

For the second layer I use the white bags so I can make sure to cover it completely. With the different color, I can easily see holes. It helps to avoid thin areas. For the third layer, I go back to the brown again. Once the third and last layer is dry, I pop and remove the balloon (it rattles around in there if you don’t). A this point, I’m ready to build out with my cardboard, masking tape and sometimes rolled up newspaper to add neck, nose, chin, or whatever else I can do in broad scope. Fine details like eyes, ears and small noses I do with paper clay. Paper clay is heavy though, so as much bulk as I can add with papier-mâché I do.
With a marionette head, I might reconsider that. A heavier head would be more desirable in that case…heavier than just papier-mâché and balloon I mean.
An example of my use of cardboard, masking tape and newspaper:
3rd Build Session (2)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I don't know about this...

I've moved, yes. Why have I moved? There was just one bug too many on Yahoo 360. I was unable to post a comment on one of my friend's blogs there. If I can't comment on hers...then people must also have trouble posting on mine. That's a bug I just can't handle.
I do need to tell you all about the wonderful building session from last weekend. Momotaro is beginning to take shape. Look at this wonderful oni taking shape:
3rd Build Session (5)

I just love his hair! He looks like a real bruiser, doesn't he? Just what sort of fighter do you think he will be?
So that's Red, Blue and Green Oni so far but...
I decided to start a new Oni. I realized the bad guys just can't be out numbered by the good guys. That just won't do at all.
3rd Build Session (8)

So here he is with his second layer of papier-mache. He's going to be smaller and yellow/gold. The money grubber of the Oni crime family. Perhaps a bit of a chicken too--I mean--well--he is going to be yellow.
In other news...
3-Location Location

...the location has been picked in the L-building of BCC. Frank and I met the president and his wife in the L-building a week ago. Frank was all business...he paced every location, took notes, drew a sketch and located all the outlets. This was no small feat considering that a huge function was going on. Luckily it was open to the public. There were many displays of interior design and everyone there offered their services unknowingly to help us determine how sound would move about the room. Nifty, huh?