Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Muppet Whatnots are Back

FAO Schwartz has brought back the Muppet Whatnots for Christmas:

This is the final weekend for seeing Thistle Theatre's new Show:

Clay Martin is invading PLOP:

And the best Glove Puppet Pantomime I've ever seen is playing at NWPC:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lessons Learned from Momotaro this Year

September_ 20093796
  1. When you say you have sound stuff to sound guys, be sure to tell them if you like it or not. When you say “I’ve got a wireless headset mic.” They hear: “I must use my own mic, because I love it and you must make it happen.” When you really meant: “I’ve got a lousy cheep-o karaoke wireless headset mic that we can use if we don’t have the budget to get everyone the cool ones.” Communication…it’s key.
  2. A thin cotton sheet for a rug…secured down…is the perfect medium to muffle rolling stools.
  3. Duct-Tape is not adequate to secure said cotton sheet. Need to do something else…
  4. If you are performing during the day by a bank of windows but holding your dress rehearsal at night…don’t turn off the lights in the room.
  5. Dress rehearsal went to late again. Must start earlier if possible.
  6. A blanket on a classroom floor for kids to sit on is a safety hazard—Near-Miss City, I tell you. No wonder they use those foamy interlocking things in pre-schools.
  7. Never hang a rod puppet upside-down by the rod. Just…don’t do it.
  8. We need speakers outside of the room so the people at the window can hear.
  9. The classroom idea was golden but two stages up at the same time takes up a lot of room. Not sure what to do about that.Having us bother there was a double draw.
  10. The show times this year were better than last year especially on Sunday
  11. Never write a script that is 100% dependent on four puppeteers…make them more flexible in the future
  12. Music between scenes = Major Plus
  13. Lights + Dimmer = Another Major Plus (Thank you, National Puppetry Festival)
  14. Really small props are unnecessary
  15. Rod puppets are nice...but they always require two hands for realistic movement. I don't think I'll mix the two styles again.
  16. Strapping the whizzer to the prop stick I'm holding at the time was a good idea.
  17. The playboard skirt looked ever so much better.
  18. Joan's comfortable puppet necks were a major improvement
  19. Don't do hard hands in a puppet show requiring fight scenes and major prop manipulation. Unless I feel like making hands and repairing hands over and over again.
I'm sure I'll think of more later...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Final Shows of Momotaro at the Aki Matsuri

What? Yes, I plan to build a new show next year, so this last weekend was the final time you could have seen Momotaro at the Aki Matsuri.
You’ll never do Momotaro again?
I’m not saying that. In fact, it looks like a group in Spokane is interested in having us perform. Also, if Sakura Con has us perform at the next one, it’ll be Momotaro because I don’t think I could have a new show up by Easter. Also, there’s some talk of a road trip to Boise, ID to do a show for Mandy’s class.
So, perhaps this last weekend might not have been your last chance. Of course, if you are my mother, Frieda, Matthew, Marsha, OR anyone who came last year, then you have nothing to worry about.
AM09 Sunday Shows (54)
My Hero
This year my sister was difficult to replace. We tried to replace her with three different puppeteers but something or other caused them all to not last. It got to the Thursday before Labor Day weekend and I had no one. I despaired of my predicament and vowed never to build a show that couldn’t--in an emergency--be done by just two puppeteers. There turned out to be two places in Momotaro that we just couldn’t do it all with only three puppeteers. I also bent the ear of the fellow Bob found to do our sound: John Utz. He mentioned that he had a 9-year old daughter who might like to help. By this time we’d divided Mandy’s puppets: Dog – me, Gold Oni – Mylinda and to make that work it required that Beckett take Green Oni. It also required us to manipulate each others characters a bit. For example, I had to take Gold Oni during the sumo match and Beckett took the bird to drop the stone on Gold Oni.
When Eileen Utz came on board, it was too late to give her one of Mandy’s character. But she was able to do a lot of the behind the scenes prop management and she took on the flat puppets during the boat scene. At the climax, she manipulated the dog for us. Without her, we could not have done it without major script revisions. So she really was our hero of the weekend.
Eileen turned out to be a very competent prop manager. She also was fearless of going out and handing out fliers to help us drum up an audience. (Perhaps a little too fearless…because she and Beckett went in two different directions alone at one point and that worried her father.) She has a strong voice and a dedication to be admired. She also expressed an interest in puppetry which I found gratifying. I hope that she will join us again.
AM09 Sunday Shows (45)
The room turned out to be too small but I think if it got much bigger, we'd be lost to the back of the room. Our puppets stand at around a foot tall if held up correctly. Nearly every show done in the cafeteria at the Nat'l Fest was lost to the back of the room.
What's my solution? I'd rather do three shows a day than put us on a main stage.
I'm rather pleased that the puppet fest we are planning for Seattle University next August has a black box for the shows. That's ideal in my mind.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Does Your Muppet Walk?

On Tuesday, as I promised, I attended Brian Henson’s talk. It was sold out…well, members didn’t have to pay and got first dibs so I guess it wasn’t sold out…just there were no tickets left for the general public. There was a queue of hopefuls waiting outside on the off chance a member didn’t show, but I understand only 2 of them got in. I found a spot down in front…second row behind a taped off portion of the first row where his demonstration camera and floor monitor was. It turned out to be a really excellent seat.
The show was a little late in beginning, but I had a book so I didn’t worry. The first thing I thought when I saw him was he looks a lot more like his father than when I saw him last…on the Labyrinth DVD special features. But then, he was 17 years old during the making of that movie.
He took us through the journey the Henson family has taken television puppetry. The star of the show, however, was his father. The audience responded the best when he shared a story of his father or showed a clip of him. He is a very funny and entertaining fellow and the audience was absolutely delighted by his Muppet armadillo demonstration. It was a cute puppet too, which it was obsessed with its left ear which was improperly folded in the carrying case and looked a little crushed. At one point he told us all that they, the company, could tell who was running a Muppet by how the puppet walked. He demonstrated several walks and labeled them: “This is how Frank Oz walks a puppet.” It was a very funny segment and also a big hit.
He talked about mechanical developments and digital developments and showed many clips of the journey from “Sam and Friends” to “Sid the Science Kid”. These kind of things make me think…why am I not doing that too? I’m an engineer…I’m a puppeteer…I’m really good and really fast at computer software. In college, I aced all the mechanical engineering classes and the Fortran class. Why in the world didn’t I read the writing on the wall back then? It’s because I’m no quitter even when things should be quit. It’s a flaw of mine. But he had some advice for me too. He said when someone asked the question of how to break into his business, “Just do it.” Anyone can get a puppet and a camera and make something to post somewhere like YouTube. He’s right about that. He also said ‘doing’ was the best way to learn. If you are good, you’ll come to the attention of the right people.
Juicy news: they’re working on “Where the Wild Things Are” but it’s a big secret. He wanted to tell us all about the new techniques they’d developed for that movie but he couldn’t. Bummer. Also, they’re making a sequel to The Dark Crystal! I can’t wait!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brian Henson at the EMP/SFM

I'm going to this next (cut and paste from here):
Oral History Live! "The Future of Digital Puppetry" with Brian Henson
Join us for an evening with award-winning director, producer and puppeteer Brian Henson.

Brian Henson, Chairman of The Jim Henson Company, will present an overview of the history of puppetry at The Jim Henson Company. Henson will explore the different technical achievements that have become part of the Company’s legacy and have led to its groundbreaking development of the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio, a unique system that allows performers to voice and puppeteer computer-generated characters in real time. This unique and revolutionary way of creating animated characters has most recently been used in the Company’s newest production Sid the Science Kid, currently airing on PBS Kids®.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
7:00 pm
Ticket Info
Free to EMP|SFM members; $5 general public, 206.770.2702 or 1.877.EMP.SFM1. Tickets go on sale to EMP|SFM members July 20 and to the general public July 23.

Comp tickets must be claimed at least 15 minutes prior to show time or they will be released to the rush line.
JBL Theater
325 5th Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Friday Workshop

I just took one today. I went to the Instructional Center to learn about Italian Punch—Pulcinella…for a bit…until we all were informed that Georgia Tech had once again double booked the class room. Allow me to say that again emphasizing the key points: The Georgia Institute of TECHNOLOGY once again double booked a classroom. Now, that’s just sad, isn’t it? I mean…we do have the scheduling TECHNOLOGY to not do this…it does exist. But I digress.
The workshop was lead by Philip Farah and called “Pulcinella and Commedia dell’ Arte hands on techniques”. Pulcinella is a bit more stylized than its English counterpart. He also looks a great deal different. He wears all white clothes and a black plain (for Commedia dell’ Arte, that is) mask. His motions involve a lot more rhythmic hitting and slapping of the playboard—with not only his hands, but also his face and the back of his head. The characters he plays with are different as well. For example, there is no wife—only a beautiful fiancé which he loves and wants to marry but never gets to. This is not stock, however, because sometimes Pulcinella is not male. In Italy, Pulcinella isn’t just ‘Every-man’; he’s also ‘Every-woman’ depending on the skit at the time. Odd…and difficult to wrap one’s mind about, but true.
He faces off against Death rather than the Devil, but that’s one war he can’t win…just put off for another day. His neighbor is a true villain…and like in England the story really has no non-villains—except possibly the fiancé who isn’t a glove puppet like the rest. She is single stick rod puppet with very little controls and looks like a doll on a stick. Now there is an authority figure that sends Pulcinella off to the hangman, which is the same to a point. For the scene with the hangman is extremely bawdy in its use of the hole presented by the noose. Never thought of that before, I assure you.
There are no huge noses in a Pulcinella set…because there is a lot of beating of the heads against everything: the stick, the playboard, the heads of other characters, etc.
The Italian system of the passing of the torch involves Apprenticeships, which Philip described in great detail. The most striking task being the using of a huge swazzle to make one’s mouth bleed until one’s palette develops calluses. Ouch. I’m glad that I could make my swazzle for my mouth rather than adapt my mouth to a swazzle!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Workshops

Kevin shows cap
My first workshop today was attended because Paper-mache is currently my favorite puppet building method to employ and I enjoy very much seeing how other people do it. It was “Lightweight Marionette Bodies using Paper Mache” by Kevin Menegus. He starts in a similar fashion to the Thistle Theatre method which I learned originally from Brian Kooser—with a Styrofoam base. He also employs only 3 layers of thick brown paper. He uses Wheat paste as well. Here’s the differences…he does not use wood glue in the mix. He soaks the paper in water overnight. He sands all lumps away after the first layer. He adds all string supports and wires in between the second and third layers and he does not use any piece of paper with ink printed on it…doesn’t like his paste to turn strange colors. It is a consideration that I handle with gesso after the fact. It was all very interesting indeed, plus good to know that some of the methods I use are universal.

My second workshop was excellent in the fact that it took me out of my comfort zone and into a world that I know very little about: Electrical Design. It was “Do-It-Yourself 600 Watt Stage Dimmer” by Fred E. Putz. I actually learned to make a stage dimmer. And guess what? I took a series of pictures to show you how it’s done. See:
00 - What you need
Now I too can dim!

Wednesday’s Performances

Yesterday had a great line up of performances. However, we did not have a great scheduling of them. Who ever thought putting a show with lullaby in the name right after lunch was a good idea was…wrong. It was a lovely SHADDOW show with SOFT music, SMOOTH transitions and GENTLE colors…and as a lullaby—it sure worked on me. It was a good show too and I really wish I remembered more of it. Other people with more fortitude have told me about super cool parts I missed. Alas!
The second performance for us Blue Badges (the upper crust of puppeteers, don’t you know) was Luman Coad’s delightful Puppet Box. I just adored the monster in the box scene where the little boy was trying to go to sleep…fear of the unknown. His manipulation is so amazing! The whole show is made that much better by his willingness to open up the stage at the end and show how everything is done. He also told us about a sound cue device for the iPod which finally interested me in that device of the masses. Perhaps I will final let myself be assimilated!
Luman Coad
That evening we enjoyed two shows that were, sad to say, unfortunately scheduled. They lead off with Paul Mesner’s version of “The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf”. We saw that in Seattle at least once, because I’ve seen it before. I think I saw it at the Northwest Puppetry Center, in fact. It was even better this time because he’s polished on it for years since I last saw it. Wow!
The show after that was a large production done by second generation puppeteers which everyone was so proud of. Like most shows from my generation, it had a huge environmental message and was a message of warning to all. It was anti-Earth ruining…a subject near and dear to most of us. But it should never have followed Paul Mesner—he is beyond a tough act to follow (to say the least). Plus I don’t think you should ever end a show on a down note. It was very down too…death of beautiful creatures and so forth. The imagery and visual was so fabulous. They had gentle beautiful kite-like puppets that sailed over the head of the audience. The music was moving. The message was well thought out and clearly displayed. If only it didn’t have to follow Paul!
Now, perhaps some of you are eager to hear my opinion of the first potpourri. I hate to disappoint, but I didn’t attend. I have a horror of them. It’s always a mean spiteful drunk display of down-right evilness to new and eager puppeteers. I hate that. Of course I can’t resist asking about it the next morning to see if perhaps I actually missed one that was not the usual roast. I was informed that this one was even worse than I feared. I understand (second-hand) that the MC was a dreadful fellow who made sexist jokes, swore like a sailor, and thought it was funny to insult and belittle a mentally challenged young puppeteer. I’ll never attend another potpourri as long as I keep hearing that sort of thing about them. Who ever came up with the whole concept of them…please try to explain to me why? Why is it a good idea for a group of puppetry lovers and practitioners to ridicule newbies? Why?? What good does it serve?
That being said, keep in mind that my report above was second hand information and I do hope it was not actually as bad as the above makes it sound. I do hope.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday Workshops

Q&A with Video Service Consultant
My first workshop was with Lee Armstrong: Video 101 for Puppeteers. It was a Q&A session for how to put together a demo reel or a puppet shoot. There were many questions and many answers, but my goal was satisfied without me saying a word. I wanted to know what software people use and recommend. Lee uses Adobe Primer Pro, and others had good things to say about the slimmer version: Adobe Primer Express. Many used and liked a software called "Final Cut". Others mentioned liking iMovie(the older version not the current one) and Vegas Video. One puppeteer spoke out strongly against Moviemaker...sorry Microsoft.
Adapting Books to Puppet Shows
My second workshop was with Paul Mesner: Adapting Contemporary Children's Literature for the stage. He went through stories of seeking permission for about a dozen books. He talked about the hurdles he went through and his interactions with the author/artists of the books. He also answered a long standing question in my mind...why no Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstien puppet shows? The estates are too tight fisted, which is a real shame.

The Opening Night of the Natl Puppetry Convention

I'm so excited! Here I am in the sweltering heat of Atlanta, GA, and I don't care in the least. Why? Because I'm at the National Puppetry Convention. Wahoo!
As most opening days go, it was a lot of get here, get checked in, drag your stuff to a not-so-nearby dorm and such...finding it all easily on multiple maps of this huge campus.
The Exhibit and Store are both being set up, so there's not much to look at. The occasional young puppeteer is about with a usually glove-rod Muppet-style puppet on their hand/arm which always have extremely cute high-pitch squeaky voices. But other than that, you pretty much gotta wait until the Opening Ceremonies.
This year it was lead off by an open letter to Obama reading...the same one published in the Playboard which I understand was created by a committee of thousands on an online Puppet Boards called 'PupCrit' (SP?).
Followed immediately by the first performance by Mallory Lewis who had also performed at our Regional in Tacoma. Everyone seemed to forget that and kept saying that this was her first Festival--um--no--National, yes--Festival, no. It was good, but I was too far away from the stage to enjoy the puppetry. Ventriloquists play better in smaller settings or with the help of a monitor. Alas!
The second show had great music, stunning visuals, inspiring ideas, and people snoring in the audience. I, myself, stayed awake--mostly because I was desperately trying to understand the plot. I have a great fear of these types of shows--that everyone is just going to rave at them and I'm not gonna get it. I was terrible at poetry interpretation in High School, you see. I shouldn't experience was the consensus. But, everyone said, it did have potential.
That show was immediately followed by the opening reception where I got to see and chat with many friends and acquaintances. Here are some pictures:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Puppet Box

The Puppeteers of Puget Sound have a brand new forum created by our new President, Tony.

It's called The Puppet Box
The link is :

The purpose, as I understand it, is to facilitate the planning of the 2010 Regional Festival which we are going to host.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Joan's Hand Puppet Neck

Trying it out.
I posted these pictures ages ago and meant to blog it! Alas. Here's the link to the set:
Read the descriptions under each picture for what's going on in the picture.
I've refit a few of the Momotaro puppets with this neck and I must's a great improvement.
Joan King just recently gave me a glove puppet body pattern too. I'll try it out and get back to you.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Judy Bit

So here's a little bit of my Punch and Judy show. This was taken about 4 years ago at Greenwood Faire...this is the first crowd bright and early in the morning. First show I did that year too.

BTW: Violence Guaranteed!

Food Party

I just got this in my email...I don't know about you but I'm kind of intrigued by the idea of an amorous baguette...

FOOD PARTY, a fantastical, food-centric series created and hosted by Brooklyn fringe artist, Thu Tran, and a motley mix of unruly puppets who serve as her culinary crew, is coming to IFC June 9 at 11:15 p.m. ET/PT. This six-part IFC Original Comedy’s hallucinatory hijinks will be served in 10-minute episodes (or bites, if you will) during IFC’s Tuesday night AUTOMAT programming block.

You never know who or what may show up for dinner…

Maybe best described as a psychedelic melding of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and The Rachael Ray Show with a dash of J-Horror vibe, FOOD PARTY is shot on location in a technicolor handmade, cardboard kitchen. Each episode is a new gastronomical adventure as Thu interacts with a cavalcade of puppets, humans, baked goods, vegetables, and other critters, and embarks on journeys to bizarre, unexpected lands. Recurring characters include Italian Chef, Ice Cream Cone, the amorous Monsieur Baguette, Thu Tran clones, Especially Psychic Spud (E.P.S.), Perv Corn and The Devil.

In their surreal live-action cartoon-like universe, Thu and friends create out-of-this-world delicacies with ingredients commonly found in the average kitchen, like pretzel rods, Ostrich eggs, chicken wings, caramel, pork chops, nuts, bizarre plot twists, MSG, pizza, and love.

FOOD PARTY’s humble origins began in Cleveland, where Thu and a group of fellow grads from the Cleveland Institute of Art rented a cheap studio and began working on a public-access-inspired cooking puppet show. After posting two episodes online, Thu relocated to Brooklyn in hopes of expanding her artistic vision for the show. Thu and her crew of friends built another set inside their apartment and created more online episodes. A cult web audience quickly caught on to the webseries. Features in New York Magazine’s Grub Street section, and the popular blog Gothamist led to more wide-spread attention. The webseries won the ‘Outside of the Box” prize at the 2008 NY Television Festival, a new award given to the most innovative and genre-expanding pilot in competition.

FOOD PARTY will be served in the IFC AUTOMAT, a Tuesday night programming destination designed to appeal to a younger male audience, packed with uncut, uncensored programming including network premieres, originals, shorts, web shows, anime and more.

IFC’s Debbie DeMontreux, Christine Lubrano and Jennifer Caserta serve as Executive Producers on this series.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pictures up

Here's a link to my pictures from Yesterday at the Day of Puppetry for Puppeteers.
It was a great event and everyone performed so well! I was so pleased.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day of Puppetry for Puppeteers

Happiness is...

I’m very excited by the up coming Day of Puppetry for Puppeteers because we will be performing Momotaro for them. This is the first time for Mylinda and Beckett, both long-time guild members, to perform for the guild and so several other guild members have told me they are looking forward to the show merely on that account. There is "gee wiz" about our show that would excite fellow puppeteers…it is a well known folk tale done with a singularly un-mystical form of puppetry—glove puppetry. So the charm would be seeing some of our new members go from interested guild member to performing guild members and that, you must admit, is a truly wonderful thing.
Interested in coming? Here's the details:
On May 16, 2009, the Puppeteers of Puget Sound [] will be hosting a Day of Puppetry for Puppeteers in Ballard. The event itself will occur at the Sunset Hill Community Club [ ] .
Our show will be from 11:30 to 12:15
Momotaro and the Island of the Oni
Puppeteers:Elly Leaverton, Mandy Leaverton, Mylinda Sneed, Beckett Arnold
Also, if you are a friend of my sister, Mandy, keep in mind that she is moving back to Boise this summer. This is very likely the last time you will get to see her perform. She is a very good puppeteer.
Send me an email if you want to attend.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Debut Performance of the West Cascade Puppet Brigade

First I would like to thank everyone who has helped me with the difficult task of coming up with a name, especially Joan King, Rob D’Arc, Wes Thompson, Mylinda Sneed and Frank Reinart. We have picked our name…one of the most difficult and time consuming thing I’ve ever done in Puppetry. It is “West Cascade Puppet Brigade” and the consensus of everyone I’ve told it to that it is a good name. It’s pretty much unanimous, actually—if you can believe that. I’m so glad to have it behind me. It bothered me to have a decision just hanging out there.
The decision was made just in time for the performance at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America. It was a fun performance, and very interesting to the group. Visiting the shrine was something they had never done before.
The Stage ready to go
We got an early start and made it up there in good time. We actually got to see the Shrine’s morning ceremony. I tried to keep up with the Japanese chant…it was quite a vocal exercise. We were very pleased to discover that we would be setting up on an Aikido mat, which was soft enough that we didn’t need our knee protection.
The people helping at the shrine were pretty jazzed about the whole thing. We got the standard comment that we all look like ninja in our black clothes…the standard uniform of a puppeteer. Since I’d made us all black Japanese peasant shirts, it probably helped the notion. Barrish-sensei told me that the original look of the fictional ninja, which popular culture likes so much, came from a comic book where the ninja character was a puppeteer and wore the standard stagehand all-black uniform seen on both Bunraku, and Kabuki stages. The Wikipedia page confirms that it is a stagehand uniform, although that article is really messy. So I guess we are in a ninja uniform—sort of…it seems to me that stagehands and puppeteers were using it first.
The Puppet Brigade was included in the ceremony and I once again had to offer the branch to the Okami (I hope I did it right). I wished for a good performance as I did it.
Everyone then was directed to bow and clap with me. That’s a nice feeling.
The show itself started out rocky as most shows do when the performers are overly excited. We knocked a prop off the playboard and…the baby fell out of the Peach. But it snapped into place after that and I can’t think of anything that went obviously wrong from the peach opening to the end.
There were some puppet causalities—Blue Oni will definitely needs some repairs and soon. He has a nasty crack in both pinky fingers. I’m thinking that perhaps his hands will need to be totally redone.
After the show, we could and did receive from Barrish-Sensei and Chika-san gifts from the Shrine for our performance. It was special Tsubaki sake, green tea packets and a protective charm for our arts and crafts activities. Barrish-Sensei later posted this to his Yahoo Group:
“This years special treat for all present was the WEST CASCADE PUPPET BRIGADE under direction of Ms. Elly Leverton presentation of their wonderful puppet show of Momotaro and the Island of was really great!!!!”
Here’s a great shot of him posing with our little court noble/toady/Sumo referee Oni:
Sensei with the Gold Oni and Mandy

Once I found out that a Sumo referee wears a similar hat and robe to modern Shinto Priests, I once asked Barrish sensei for a close look at his hat and garb. That was before I found a fabulous Japanese dress from actual museums picture book at the bookstore. There I learned that the hat comes from the court noble dress—which just made it that more perfect for Gold Oni to wear. By the way, what modern Shinto priest wear today looks a lot easier to move in than what the court nobles had to wear. It almost made me wish I’d done Momotaro in Marionettes just for the long shuffling hakama and the hilarious possibilities of a fight in such garb.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Help from Facebook Friends

Status Update #1: Elly Leaverton is on the bus pondering what to call her puppet group
Jon Boley
Leaverton's Puppet Meanagerie
Elly Leaverton
A good one...I'll put it on my list. Thanks.
Dylan Greene
How about "Puppets for Poppets"?
Elly Leaverton
Wes came up with that one too. I think it's limiting...sounds like I'm aiming for a very young audience. I do perform Punch and Judy you know.

Status Update #2: Elly Leaverton is thinking maybe she should go with a compound word...Puppet______or ______Puppet.
Rob H. D'Arc
You're on the bus... How about "The Puppet Bus" or "Bus Full of Puppets" or think about who your ideal audience is and skew the phrase to that... For example, if you wanted to do home birthdays, you could call it "Puppet Party" or "Party Puppets"... or "Party Puppets Presents..." which sounds like presents(gifts)... Basically, an effective name is the one the audience "gets." Good Luck!
Elly Leaverton
This has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. I've asked a ton of people. Blogged on it...went through several name styles and languages...

Status Update #3: Elly Leaverton is still pondering names...too many, if I were trying to name an engineering firm, that would be much easier. Puppetry Consulting Northwest or Puppetry Solutions, Inc. or Puppet Tech or Cascade Puppeteering & Design, Inc. No Problem.
Sandra Hould
Is the name for a puppet?
Elly Leaverton
No, the name for my group
Rob H. D'Arc
Go the opposite of engineering...think random, fun, silly...."Pile O'Puppets" "PuppetPlop" or some word, then puppets... Roger did that... "Snapdragon Puppets" It just needs to be fun to say!
Elly Leaverton
Ambilarious Puppeteers is one the group came up with last time we met. Hilarious with both hands.
Sandra Hould
Interresting name, hwat other names have you guys come up with?
Elly Leaverton
One that's high on the list is "West Cascade Puppet Theater" because it's regional, practical and sounds's also rather reserved--not random, fun or silly.
Sandra Hould
I agree, it does sound more professionnal and it is a name that is more inviting.
Elly Leaverton
Yeah...but so does Cascade Puppeteering & Design, Inc. :)
Dylan Greene
Pacific Professional Puppetry?
Elly Leaverton
is there a Pacific Professional Photography some where? ;)

Status Update #4: Elly Leaverton is thinking, "How about Paper Lantern Puppet Theater?"
Sandra Hould
Reminds me of a asian type of puppetry, because of the paper lantern. Is it the case? Are you specialising in asian types of puppets like bunraku?
Rob H. D'Arc
You need to ask, will the sort of people I want to book these shows think, "Hey, that sounds fun..." Paper Lantern Theater sounds like paper lanterns doing Macbeth... At the very least, it sounds like all the shows will be asian-based, do you want to limit your audience? Think whimsically!
Elly Leaverton
Pom-pom Puppet Theater?
Wes Thompson
Puppet Nation Theater. Although I still think "Puppet Proctology" is the best puppet group name ever.

Status Update #5: Elly Leaverton is thinking too hard. Now she understands why it took Jennifer so long to name her baby...
Sandra Hould
Exactly, a name is a long term commitment, one that will reflect what you do as long as your company will exist.
Frank Reinart
No pressure...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Event Annoucement--Day of Puppetry for Puppeteers in Ballard

On May 16, 2009, the Puppeteers of Puget Sound [] will be hosting a Day of Puppetry for Puppeteers in Ballard.

This is a day dedicated to showcasing the work of local puppeteers. Showcase performers will be announced on the website [] May 1, 2009.

The event itself will occur at the Sunset Hill Community Club
[ ] on May 16 with daytime showcase performance times to be announced. There will be a social hour to show off your favorite puppet, a short meeting of the Puppeteers of Puget Sound and a special evening preview of Kyle Loven's Dear Lewis, recipient of a 2009 Jim Henson Foundation Seed Grant.

Please register by RSVPing to the Evite if you got one. If you need an Evite or cannot use Evite send an email to the webmaster at This event is free to Puppeteers of Puget Sound and prospective members. Puppeteers of Puget Sound members who attend the Day of Puppetry will receive a free ticket to Thistle Theatre's 3:00pm performance of the Goblin and the Poet on the day of Puppetry.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pick-up Rehearsals Have Begun

It is so difficult to “Pick-up” from where you left off on a puppet show way back in September. We must relearn lines and blocking. Also, remembering the configuration of props and puppets behind stage is a challenge. Luckily, with no fore-thought at all, I had taken “Behind the Scenes” shots of the inside of the stage and we were able to use those to re-construct the set-up.
Behind the scenes: Prop Rack 1
Another difficulty we are dealing with is the fact that we will be down 2 performers at both the May 3rd show as well as the May 16th show. Ushio, we find, was instrumental in more scenes than the one he was in. The boat scene was the most difficult to do without him. Right now my solution is to have one puppeteer control both Momotaro and the Dog so that frees up the other puppeteer to help work the ocean and the flat puppets. However, I’m thinking that I’d like to figure out a way to mount the ocean to the stage so I don’t have to do that. Holding up scenery is not a very good use of a puppeteer.
Here’s where we will be performing at the Tsubaki Shrine:
Stage Location at Shrine (3)

It’s on May 3rd and our show will begin at about 11:15am immediately following the ceremony called “Kodomo O-harae Taisai”.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We are the [Fill in the Blank] Puppeteers

It is time.
My Japanese folktale puppet group is getting more and more shows. I’ve been asked several times what my group is called. Heh.
Right now we are called: Aki Matsuri Volunteers in association with Puppeteers of Puget Sound, a guild of the Puppeteers of America. What a mouth full! When we got to the Aki Matsuri, the schedule read “Momotaro by Elly”
So I have been thinking for some time now about a name for our group. I don’t want to go with a name in Japanese because that might be to limiting but I wouldn’t mind a name that works in both languages. For the longest time I was thinking of “The Umbrella Town Puppeteers” which has a cute sound in Japanese “Kasa Machi Puppeteers” but when I ran it by a Japanese person, she told me it sounds like the Puppeteers are waiting for umbrellas rather than a name.
*Small Sigh*
I love the name “Seattle Puppetory Theater” so I called up Joan, one of the members of that theater to ask her how they came up with such a great name. We got to brainstorming names. She had lots of ideas. Some of which included names from Shakespeare like Rosamund, Rosaline or Puck Puppet theater. She said she saw a puppet company in Japan that had a name similar to Puck…it was Pouk or Pook Puppet Theater. That’s rather cute. Starting with a “P” is good for alliteration. Trips off the tongue…which is an element that Joan says a good name should have. If we are considering cute “P” words in Japanese, I like the sound of the famous candy “Pocky”…the y at the end makes that one, and I’m not sure Pooky or Pucky would do as well. Horse-Pucky happens, you know. With Pocky you must pronounce it with the oc forming the English A: Pah-key and not the Japanese way: Poh-key…that’s too slow a word: Pokey Puppets. Doop-de-do.
At the Aki Matsuri meeting, I put forth this question to them and the only suggestion I got was to name it after a famous deceased person. This is difficult to do with performers of any type because they have groups and foundation and estates. You just don’t tribute name a group of performers with the name of performers. If you think about that, it’s true.
Last night Wes and Frank weighed in. They thought I should go with something like “Small Spirit” in Japanese. I’m not sure exactly what that would be. Chibi Gami? The word for puppet in French is Marionette, which means “Little Mary” so small spirit would fit. But it sounds a bit like an anime.
*Deep Sigh*
Maybe Jean and Joan will let me join their theater and be an affiliate: Eastside Puppetory Theater.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coralline Show and Tell

At the second guild meeting of the year, Tony Defillips showed us his souvenirs from his work on the stop-motion animation movie “Coralline”. I unfortunately only had my cell phone camera with me so, the pictures aren’t the best. But if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll probably recognize a few things:

The circus mice spelling her name.

One of the dogs in theater chairs. One of the circus mice in a gift to all the workers on the show.

A running Coralline.

One of Coralline's many faces.

One of Coralline's Other Mother's faces.

Hands, Coralline's are the small pale ones with blue nails.

Rob holding the dog on the theater chair. There were hundreds of dogs in the theater.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Officers for the Puppeteers of Puget Sound 2009!

Slate of Officers:

Tony DeFilipps
cell 206- 940-0889

Vice- President of Programs
Jean Enticknap
cell 239-8866 work 206 524-3388

Vice- President of Membership
Alyssa McFarland

Mary Shaver
cell 360-259-4419 home 425-458-6558

Cheryl Handley
home 425-556-9761

Newsletter Editor
Joan King
206 244-4825

Elly Leaverton
206 940-6234

Thursday, March 5, 2009

First Aki Matsuri Team Meeting Owarimashita

In case you hadn’t heard or I hadn’t told you…Momotaro will be presented once more at the Aki Matsuri. Hopefully with better sound, and I learned at the first team meeting that the Sound Guru has put mics for puppeteers in the budget. Yay!
There are a few other things I’d like to do for the show this year including back-drops, doing the peach opening right and perhaps a new puppet or two. I’d also like to add a soundtrack for in between scenes. I need some sort of smooth transition between scenes and right now I don’t have it.
Also at the first meeting, I learned that we will be facing a challenge. It seems the L-building has been water damaged and is schedule for repairs this summer. The Aki Matsuri team has been instructed to plan as if that building will not be ready in time for our use. So our show must be moved to a different location.
The L-Building Location
We were planning on moving it to one of the class rooms in the L-building due to the large audience and sound problems we encountered. This just means an entirely different building will need to be considered. I just hope we are not so far out of the common paths as to be difficult to be found.

Friday, February 27, 2009

No Swazzle on Wikimedia FIXED!!

I cannot believe that not one of my fellow practitioners of Punch and Judy has put a swazzle sound file up on Wikipedia or Wikimedia! Well, fear not, for I have fixed the problem thus:

See...Creative it can be somebody's ring tone! Actually, if you are my friend, just ask me, and I'll send a little swazzle right to your phone. Custom sayings even!

Ah the perks!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Some people, who may have seen my cell phone lanyard, may wonder who the little brown character is. Well he is Domo and he’s from Japan. He’s one of those cute little characters they put on everything, like Hello Kitty or Doremon. The difference between Domo and those other characters is that Domo is a stop-motion puppet. As far as I know, he is the only puppet of all those cute characters. In fact Domo has already invaded the U.S. by becoming a spokesperson for Target. Here’s a video:

I am a big fan. I even have a t-shirt and a stuffed version of him. My sister got me a poster as well. See:
Domo Poster

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

RadCon 2009

I got pictures! I had 9 students on Saturday if you count the 5 that came super late and played with my glove puppets...which I do. Interest is good.
RadCon 2009 (10)
Four of the nine showed on Sunday...the three who came the whole time on Saturday: Dann, Mary and Andrew plus one of the late comers. Luckily I had prepared some hands so that the second day could stand alone.
I think the convention will try it again next year--the feedback we got was that too many craft workshops were in the morning and not enough kids activities were in the morning. I guess the adults turned up at the kids workshops and were put out. Alas, I think me that there are no gaming early birds! Not only that, but they want a morning place to take their kids while hung-over. Go fig. Here's a shot of Mary, Dann and me:
RadCon 2009 (77)
As for me...I need more puppets like Shippo. I was employed in entertaining folks in long lines on Friday. I need more anime marionettes. Who am I kidding? I need more puppets...I always need more puppets.
Too Closed and Too Open

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm on YouTube

This is at RadCon 2008 and that's my Shippo Marionette. I didn't know until Kim happened to mention it when we were getting our badges today. (Mine says "Visiting Pro") :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

25 Random *Puppet* Things about me...

Facebook is often a place where really old getting-to-know-you emails resurface as notes, because like email, you can tag people and they’ll get an email telling them about the note. The difference being that the info about you will be on display to all of your friends not just the tagged folks.

This one started out as “25 Random Things about me...” and many friends have tagged me. But it didn’t inspire me at first until I thought…why not see if I can come up with 25 puppet things?

So here goes…

  1. I can’t answer the question “When did you get into puppets?” Because I don’t really remember myself…I remember asking Santa for puppets…that’s my first memory.
  2. My first puppet stage was a refrigerator box painted baby pink that I used to perform for my cousins in. It had a black scarf taped up inside that made a good scrim.
  3. I still remember my first laugh-line too…my cousins always loved it when this little scrappy character of mine would say “Poo on you!”
  4. I am a Swazzle-using Punch Professor…but I’ve never swallowed one. Came real close though. Actually, I tend to spit them out.
  5. I love to start building a new show and I love to perform a show…it’s the middle part I hate. I distract myself with movies I’ve watched a thousand times.
  6. My first public show was “The Bremen Town Musicians” at the Grandview Public Library.
  7. In middle school, the librarian was my aunt. She photocopied my favorite book for me when I left because it was out of print. It was about making marionettes. The copy is in a blue binder on my shelf.
  8. My Great Uncle Ted helped me build my first marionette stage straight out of the above book
  9. My Paternal Grandmother helped me make my first marionette also from the above book
  10. My first public marionette show was “Jack and his Magic Trashcan” a modern take on “Jack and the Beanstalk”
  11. I joined the Puppeteers of Puget Sound in 2000.
  12. I performed Punch and Judy for the first time during a Thistle Theatre Variety show called “Puppets, Puppets, Puppets” before that I’d just directed it and bottled it at Greenwood Faire.
  13. I used the smaller toy Punch and Judy puppets I got on my trip to England when I was in High School in “Puppets, Puppets, Puppets”
  14. Each puppet in my current Punch set was carved by a different person.
  15. When I was first learning to Swazzle, I sat in the bath tub with a piece of plastic wrap covering my Greenwood song book and sang all the songs through the swazzle until I could do it without spitting the darn thing out.
  16. My Punch is psychotic.
  17. In high school, I taught the second half of my Children’s Theater course at the request of Mr. Fouhy. I taught how to make a rod puppet I learned to make from the Carter Family Marionettes during a brief tour of their class at the U of W.
  18. I used to sell pop-up puppets at the Pike Street Market for “Planet of the Puppets”
    My Imp with his mouth open
  19. In college, I volunteered with the Art Château in Butte Montana over the summer. We did marionette shows in the ballroom on the top floor.
  20. I have been to the bunraku theater in Osaka…saw a Romeo and Juliet story there. Seppuku was involved.
  21. I fall asleep in artsy heavily symbolic puppet shows that I see only at puppetry conventions. Man, do I hate those things!
  22. I saw Jeff Dunham in a place so large that a camera and big screen was used so we could see him. Ventriloquist puppeteers get all the luck
  23. I’m afraid of performing for other puppeteers. Should you see how they behave in the audience of a puppet potpourri, you would understand!
  24. I want to build a marionette clank from Girl Genius.
  25. In the future, I will own my own puppet theater some where and I’ll have tons of shows and broadcast them on the web…this dream of mine is always evolving.

Whew! Now the directions tell me to identify 25 people I’d like to know 25 random things about. So in keeping with my puppet theme, I tag: Beau Bond, Deborah Allen, Marty Richmond, Phillip Huber, Sherry Johns, Tim Giugni, Jeanine Bartelt, Beau Bond, Liza Burke, Robert Burns, Stephen Carter, Rob D'Arc, Shannon L R Dunham, Jean Enticknap, Cheryl Hadley, Joan King, Tatsuki Kobayashi, Brian Kooser, Dan Luce, Clay Martin, Annett Mateo, Dmitri Carter, Troy McFarland, Peter Orr, Mylinda Sneed, and Erin Snow…wait…I still have more…but rules is rules. You’ll add 25 names if you do it too, right?

If you don’t have a blog, feel free to leave your 25 things as comments here. If you do have a blog, leave me a comment as well…with the link to your 25 things blog article.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Whatnot should I get?

Oh! Oh! Check out! You can order a Muppet Whatnot made to your liking. For me, that's the tough part because this is something I definitely want to support. First I was lead to the eyes that look like Kermit's, the karate gi, and the ostrich feather hair:

But then I thought I'd try the real hair...and I wanted it to look a bit more female. Also I thought the orange one would seem more human. But I couldn't give up the feathers--they move so well! Luckily they had a costume with those:

But she didn't end up how I'd like. So I changed the hair and went back to blue. Also, I went with the wide eyes and the standard hoodie:

Now, she's rather cute but a bit I thought I'd try the curly hair and a more interesting shirt:

That's awful cute, isn't it? Yep...I think I like her. But then I thought...maybe I need two:

Isn't he handsome?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

No Boring Parts for Students

I’ve been working on materials for my Radcon 2009 Workshop.
Three hours is not a lot of time, so I don’t want to waste it doing things that a person can handle on their own…like covering balloons with Papier-Mâché. This is something I think that everyone probably has done some time or other…probably in elementary school.
It’s something I do for the basic puppet head; however I build and construct so much off of it that most of it will not be seen in the finished head. It needs to be dry and strong though…a nice firm surface to work with.
Pull Handles
Besides…to do six balloons it takes me a whole movie. At least 2 hours with the help of a hairdryer, of course. Plus I know what I’m doing and work pretty fast. I’ll only have three hours total at RadCon.
BTW, can't ask for a better assistant than Domo:
Domo VS Spider

Friday, January 23, 2009

Puppet Guild Website Updated

Scrabble Nite (1)

I've been helping out with the Greenwood Faire website and the webmaster there found an excellent feed reader widget that I had to add to the PofPS guild website!

Tell me what you think:

I got the code here:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What I’m doing for RadCon 2009

Kimono Demo (1)
So last year I was on a kimono panel where I found myself dressing (kitsuke) some of my friends in kimonos much to the amusement of their boyfriends. The other folks on the “panel” were Japanese clothes collectors and though they had nice collections they deferred to me for kimono kitsuke. That’s okay, because I love doing demos. I must’ve done too bad a job either for they asked me back this year. I said yes at which point the ask-er turned me over to the program chair…who happens to be in Greenwood with me…who knows I do puppets. Well one brainstorm lead to another and now I’m giving a workshop on Papier-mâché and its uses for costuming…masks, anime props, Girl Genius Clanks etc.
This is overwhelming if you think about it…sure I do lots of papier-mâché puppets and I’ve done the occasional mask or head piece. The process is the same in all…but how does one teach in 3 hours something that will demonstrate the possibilities without over tasking the students with deciding what they want to make. The answer I’ve come to is: you can’t. If you are going to teach the process, it works the same in all subjects, the first thing that happens after presentation is a highly structured practice. Once a student has practiced it a few times…then they are ready to move into production. I don’t have time to get them that far. So they must make some prop that has some element of mask to it and some element of anime prop as well as something I’m not to bad at myself.
You keeping up so far?
Okay, so I bounced a few ideas off my favorite victim for such an assault (Frank) and we came up with a practice subject that I think just might fill the bill…a head on a stick. Huh? What do I mean? Think jester stick. Think about all those walking stick props you see with snake heads or skulls. Think Card Captor Sakura and her moon-topped staff. Think Inu Yasha and Jaken’s staff. Think a king’s scepter. Think José Jalapeño on a stick. Plus you get to make a smaller version of what could be a mask. Also…it’s a puppet, is it not? Sí, señora!
Now…what do you think of that plan?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Well…We Partied!

I was mentioning to one of my non-puppeteer friends that I needed to post the pictures from the After-Christmas Christmas party and she told she was pleased to hear the party has come and gone because now I’ll update my blog! My blog…which is only about puppets…has followers that are not puppeteers. This comes as a bit of a surprise to me. I’ve oft been told by my dear mother that my blog was uninteresting to her and that I need to have another blog in which I journal the story of my life. See Mom, other non-puppeteers don’t mind that I blog just about puppets!
At the party, the subject of my blog came up, and to my delight Rob D’Arc announced that he liked my blog. However, when I stated that I had not posted in a while, he assured me that my *not* posting was one of the things he liked. Once you read my blog, you’ve read it and now it’s over. Not sure how to take that one…
Speaking of the party…which I meant to do this blog post…I got a book about finger puppets! There was actually a bit of a theme towards finger puppets for the whole event. Both my sister and Becket got actual finger puppets. The puppet that Becket made was finger puppet sized and I think the item that Mylinda got was on the smaller size as well. It looked like a toy theatre story. I made a glove puppet…a Christmas Punch! See:

Christmas Punch

The food hit of the potluck was Joan King’s fabulous baked beans. I took deviled eggs myself…which is usually a liked dish. It’s the first thing I ever learned how to make as a kid. Mom once told me I used to make a real mess of it too. She’d find little shells every where.

Rob told the best humor story of the evening…he regaled us with the adventure that was performing his “Flea Circus” show in Galveston this last December 2008. FEMA, being the snappy organization they seem to always be lately, had not yet recovered Galveston from the hurricane. But the show must go on! Kudos to Rob for donating his performance fees back to the town. “What was the story,” you ask? Alas, I cannot do it justice. You’d best ask him to tell you. But make sure he doesn’t leave out the part about the Texas Suite.