Archives for posts with tag: puppeteer workshop

cal mel garry

I forgot to tell you yesterday that Calamaty actually did make a friend in Melbourne. Of course he was drawn to Gary, the puppeteer. It is hard to believe that these two guys had never met before. The similarity of their profiles is remarkable, isn’t it?

Watching Gary perform with his paper puppets was absolutely amazing. The most interesting aspect of the show is that Gary doesn’t use language with his puppets! This doesn’t mean the puppets aren’t communicating with each other. They do! They chat away using made up words, laughes, shrieks, cries. They are able to express the entire array of emotions without a single recognisable word and of course they use body language extensively.

I always thought words are pivotal in puppet shows. My Dedes definitely need their written story – at least on the blog! Text explains the still images and brings the puppets to life.

However, performing is a completely different ball game. As you might know, I have held a few workshops where people played with the Dedes. One of my observations is that the puppets are a brilliant ice breaker to get the conversation going. Once people are on a roll, they forget about their puppet and it might sit limp on their knee and watch while the oral story takes over. I am now convinced, when we remove language from the play, the focus will stay on the puppet.

I thought I will give it a go and take the Dedes back to their roots. After all, they are dada inspired. Dada was an anti-artform that encompassed every aspect of art: Visual, Performance and Poetry as well. I never really warmed to the Dada poems, but seeing Gary’s performance it finally occured to me that of course dada poems have to be seen, not just heard or read. So I invited four people to my new studio to give it a go. Funnily enough, I haven’t heard back from any of them yet.

Maybe they were put off because I said they should make up their own Dada poem. It is not really that difficult. Here are instructions by Tristan Tzara, one of the Dada poets:

To Make A Dadist Poem

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are–an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

Tristan Tzara

Of course these are still recognisable words (and this poem even makes sense. Very unusal for a Dada poem :). I really should go one step further and take a foreign languge newspaper….

cal mel friend2

On our way to the workshop on Sunday, Calamity was very excited and chatted about what he would say and do with the workshop puppets he was about to meet. In his mind there was no question they would become friends. After all, they should have so much in common, they are all puppets. Little did he know that the Dedes are not the only type of puppet there is. He got a big shock when he first laid eyes on the pseudo-bunraku princess my team had created the day before. He instantly went all quiet. I believe he was intimidated by her sheer size. I had to laugh. He should have seen the puppets from the other teams – the princess was the smallest of the lot!

(Just a quick explanation: Bunraku is a traditional japanese puppet, operated by three people. The most experienced puppeteer operates the head and the right arm, another one the left arm and the third is responsible for the legs. When you learn to become a bunraku puppeteer you start out with the legs and it might take you 15 years before you move up to the left arm.)

cal mel work

In the end I had to encourage him to get a bit closer so that the princess could take a good look at him too. I believe her eye sight wasn’t the best. It’s a good thing the princess kept still (she had to, as this was before the course started for the day and there weren’t three people around who could have operated her).

cal mel friend

Needless to say, Calamity lost interest in making friends. After he had said his timid hello to the super-sized princess, he quickly ran to the corner and sat still for the rest of the day, happy to observe the goings-on.

I should have known it! Once we’d finished for the day and we were on our way to the train station, he became very critical about my performance during the day. He commented that in his view I was a coward and I let the others walk all over me in team presentations. He definitely thought I always had the weakest character and the poorest performance. He was adamant I should have taken on a lead role at least once and exposed myself to the critique of the facilitator. I tried to explain to him that I wasn’t worried about the critique at all, as I had a very good one the day before.  However, I didn’t want to compete with the others, as on this day the individuals felt comfortable enough in the group to let their usual character traits emerge. I attended the weekend primarily to learn how to work a puppet properly, what to focus on in a show and also to see an experienced puppeteer run his workshop. To my surprise I noticed that the structure of the course wasn’t actually too dissimilar to the structure of my digital imaging workshops, except that I don’t have any breathing exercises in my programme :). It would be worth a try!

“So what did you get out of it then, if you don’t want to become the best puppeteer ever?” Calamity asked.

“Ah, you know,” I shrugged my shoulders “you can’t become the best puppeteer in a weekend anyway! It was very interesting to observe the group dynamics, though.”

“Do you reckon you will be able to play us properly in future? That would be useful!”

“I certainly have some great pointers but I will have to practise a lot once we have the new studio space.”

“But nothing tangible has come out of it, or has it?”

“Oh, yes, it has! It will all be revealed in due time.”

“Tell me, tell me” he nagged, but I was too tired and I fobbed him off by saying I would make an announcement once we were back in Auckland and all the Dedes were assembled.

The past week we had the most beautiful spring weather and I had promised to take Devil down to the boat ramp today, to catch a little sun and talk our puppet workshop through. For us humans it’s a little trip, just across the road and down a tiny lane and we are there. But for Devil it is a huge event.

Would you believe it? Every day this week I woke up to the sound of singing Tuis. Sadly, today it was the sound of pounding rain. First I thought Devil had his hand in it, but when I spotted him kneeling on the sofa gazing into the grey yonder I changed my mind. He is truly upset. He was all dressed for the outing. (As you might know, the Dedes have only five dresses and he had booked one of them as soon as I had told him my plans).

I had a hard time consoling him. As we say in German “Aufgeschoben ist nicht aufgehoben”. It means the trip is only postponed, not cancelled.

I do have an ulterior motive for the outing. I have to talk to him about how I should go about running the workshop. How shall I start the session? I am not sure if I should introduce the puppets by their name and character (as on the character page) or whether the participants of the workshop should come up with names and traits for the puppets they adopt for the session. What do you think?