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.