Saturday, August 22, 2009
At long last I decided to pull out my old hand puppets to see if I can organize some performances for young children. These puppets are pretty old, some of them are probably as old as I am, or even older (poor things.) They all need some gentle cleaning and the frocks could be washed and pressed. A couple need some minor repairs, but other than that, they're ready! - probably more than I am. I finally decided the time is now, because sometime "ain't never now." I heard Sean Penn say that in one of his movies that I saw yesterday. (If you can guess which one, I'll send you a surprise!) Mine are the simple hand puppets that were used in the 17th Century that have the vinyl heads and cloth arms and frock/dress. They're easy to maneuver and I'm familiar with them, because that's what I used as a child in Germany. Then it was called the Kasperle Theater. In England it's called Punch and Judy, sort of a slapstick theater. My performances will be slapstick - without the stick. I want to spare the young children and NOT get sued. I have to tone things down here because I tell you what, the German Fairy Tales are quite scary and brutal at times. I doubt the American parents would allow their children to read most of them - they'd all have nightmares. Oh, well... other places, different traditions, right? I think it's all very interesting and I feel fortunate to have had experienced Germany and Europe vs. America. It's all good! Puppeteering actually has a very long history and has been around for centuries in one form or another. For instance, in China they used shadow puppets (the two-dimensional cut outs on a stick) and then there are string operated marionettes (I really like those a lot.) Then there are little finger puppets and the stick puppets (like the Muppets) where one hand operates its mouth and the other a stick that's connected to the puppets arm. Ventriloquists usually have a big, full sized puppet where they whole arm slips in...I'm sure there's lots more, but if you ever search on the Internet you will learn that Puppeteering is alive and well and still very much in demand. Here's a couple of websites for you to explore. Puppeteers of America International Puppetry Museum Nowadays, puppets are widely used as educational tools. They teach children to interact. Puppetry encourages children developmentally in so many ways, inspiring creativity, firing imagination and helps development of language and motor skills. So, I spent a few hours today writing a simple puppet play for one (me) that entails the use of five puppets. It's arranged in such a way that there are never more than two puppets on stage at the same time, seeing how I only have two hands. Maybe later I can have someone help me so there will be more action, but I'm just getting my feet wet again. I've got a pretty good plan and I think I will start by having a performance for the small neighborhood kids next week to get their reactions. I will use the recreation room across from where I live to make it easy on myself. I don't have a proper stage yet, but the good part about my kind of puppeteering is that it can be as simple or complicated as I want it to be. I can hang a blanket up somewhere so that I can sit behind it or build a table top cardboard stage with duct tape and colorful paints. I want to try the latter. I am planning on catering to the very young that are not yet influenced by technology and computer games, so that the actual play can be only about 30 minutes, since young children's attention span isn't very long. The best part is that my performances will be interactive. I will encourage the children to talk to the puppets, cheer, even boo and sing along. All in all, I have about 22 puppets and I'm sure that I can get them to entertain the little ones without making them cry. If there's anyone out there with puppeteering experience/knowledge, I would love to hear from you, because I've not done this for a while; however, I'm excited, enthusiastic and resourceful. I also have an imagination that won't quit and am semi-ambidextrous. Semi meaning I can write with my left hand, but only in mirror-image. (I know, that's so weird!) When I was in school, the kids used to ask me to write secret messages and then run to the bathroom mirror to read them. I can also write with both hands at the same time, only the left hand does everything in mirror. That is kind of freaky, but hey, that's me ;-) I will keep you updated of my progress!