Puppets

Before
we begin, I would like to make one very important comment
.

Puppets
are not just for children.

 

PUPPETS
can play a very important role in family ministry.  Often a puppet can communicate with people in
a way that a person cannot.  Puppets can
be used to touch on very sensitive issues that perhaps would be avoided or not
be as readily received.  Even simple
messages can be heard with fresh ears, and reinforced because of the unique
visual stimulus of the presentation.

 

PUPPET PERSONALITIES

Choosing a personality for a puppet requires a bit of
thought.   For some, it comes easily, for
others more help is required.  In humans,
there are four basic temperament types which help to make up people's
identities and personalities.  As a rule,
people are a combination of the four with one or two of the types
predominating.  However, puppets can be
likened to comic strip characters and as such we can safely endow them with a
charicatured  personality  by giving them just one of the temperaments as set out below.  By charicaturing them in this way, we make
them more noticeable and memorable.

 

 *CHOLERIC -   Strengths: Leadership qualities,
independent, courageous, visionary, confident, strong.

                        Weaknesses:
Domineering, insensitive, unforgiving, proud, crafty.

 

*MELANCHOLY         Strengths:
Gifted, perfectionist, loyal, sensitive, self sacrificing

                        Weaknesses:
Persecution prone, unsociable, moody, impractical, negative

 

*PHLEGMATIC
-

          Strengths: Easy going, calm, quiet, likeable, diplomatic,
dependable, efficient, dry wit

                        Weaknesses:
Spectator, selfish, stingy, stubborn, indecisive, fearful, conservative

 

*SANGUINE
-   
Strengths: Outgoing,
charisma, warm, friendly, responsive, enthusiastic, carefree talkative,
generous

                        Weaknesses:
Undisciplined, weak-willed, disorganised, undependable, loud, exaggerates,
fearful, insecure

 

Once you have decided on a particular temperament for
your puppet, make sure that the puppet stays with that personality,
particularly if you are using the puppet regularly and your audience is likely
to be the same.  It is very disconcerting
for your audience if your puppets are continually changing names and
personalities from week to week yet look exactly the same.  People very quickly relate to a puppet
character and enjoy the familiarity of their personalities as they see them
over and over.  Also, make sure that you
have a good variety of temperaments and not have all your puppets being
Choleric or Melancholic in the same story.

 

SCRIPTS

There have been numerous scripts written for puppets,
some good, some terrible.  Try to avoid
presenting situations where everyone gets saved and the outcome is constantly
predictable.  Life is not like that and
your puppet play will carry far more weight if you try to stay close to what
life is like.  Your play will be far more
believable.

 

Don't try to learn your script line by line.  The chances are very high that the puppeteers
will forget their lines and have them sounding very 'canned'.  This also occurs when the lines are pinned up
inside the theatre and read.  If the
puppeteer 'owns' the script, because he is making it up himself, it is far more
likely to sound natural, than if he had to learn the part.  However, though you need not learn a script,
line by line, it is vital to have an outline firmly imprinted in your
head.  All puppeteers need to know the
basic story line, the major points which need to come out, and must be familiar
with the characters they are to play.  After that… go for it and see how much fun
it is.

 

Some people pre-record the puppet voices.  This is particularly useful where
amplification of individual puppet voices is not available.  It also gives new puppeteers the benefit of
being able to concentrate solely on puppet movement without having to worry
about how they will sound.  However,
practice is very necessary here because lip sinc is usually not good and the
recorded voice will be sounding before the puppeteer has a chance to open the
puppet’s mouth.  Learn the script
backwards in this case.  The down side of
doing puppets this way is that there is no opportunity for ad libbing or
interaction with an 'out the front' real person.  Also, audience response cannot always be
judged accurately.  This can result in
your puppets talking over the top of laughter and the next few lines may not be
heard.

 

Decide on the outline of your story.  Choose the puppet characters and then allow
each puppeteer to make up his/her own lines. 
If there are to be specific 'key' phrases, make sure they are
highlighted and practised before hand. 
Key phrases could be pinned up inside the theatre to jog the memory, but
not the whole script.

 

Practice makes perfect and being a good puppeteer
requires lots of practice.  Watch
yourself in a mirror.

 

PUPPET TECHNIQUE

 

When you hold a puppet, keep your hand bent at the
wrist so that you make a duck shape (your hand becomes the head of the duck and
your forearm becomes its neck).  This
will ensure that your puppet will be looking straight at the audience and not
at the ceiling which happens all too often when the puppeteer has to stretch
his arm up above his head.  The best type
of theatre is one where the puppeteer can stand behind a black curtain and not
have to raise the puppet any higher than shoulder level.

 

Make sure that when puppets are conversing they look
at each other and not at the audience or the ceiling.

 

When your puppet is not saying anything, make sure you
keep its mouth closed and keep your puppet moving slightly.  So often the amateur puppeteer allows his or
her puppet to go limp when they are not talking.  The mouth hangs open and the puppet looks
dead.

 

Don't allow your puppet to sink below the puppet’s
belly button level when behind the puppet theatre.  Your arms become very tired when you have to
hold it up for any period and the 'sinking puppet syndrome' is very common when
tiredness occurs.  If you are only
controlling one puppet, use the other hand to support your arm by placing your
hand under your 'puppet elbow'.  If this
is not possible (you may be working an arm rod at the same time), ask another
helper to get beside you and hold your arms for you if the puppet is to be on
stage for a long period.

 

Try and keep your puppet plays down to around three to
five minutes.

 

When using fabric type puppets, wear a cotton glove to
absorb the perspiration from your hand. 
Perspiration will eventually destroy the fabric around the mouth if you
don't protect it.

 

Don't have puppets suddenly 'pop' up from behind the
puppet theatre.  Their entrance and exits
should occur gradually with little bouncing movements as if they are coming up
the stairs or for their exit, the reverse.

 

VOICES

 

Obviously, it is necessary to disguise your own voice
when taking on a puppet character.  A
voice slightly higher or lower than your own; perhaps with a slight
accent.  Do not strain your voice to
disguise it.  If you have to do that,
your puppet voice is unsuitable, because you will not be able to sustain the
voice for long periods, without stressing your vocal chords and possibly
causing damage.  Selecting voices will
take a bit of practice, so be prepared to spend some time at it.