Do You Make Use Of The Entire Stage?

Puppet stages come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but it seems that most puppeteers tend to gravitate to the front and don’t move around much. I’ve also seen times when puppets bunched together on one side of the theater and left the other side wide open. While some plays may call for puppets to huddle together, it’s the exception more than the rule. This post takes a look at how you can use more of the stage to help give a better presentation.

Entrances and Exits
When coming onstage don’t bring the puppet straight up, but use the depth of the theater. Start with your puppet below the back curtain and bring it up and forward three times. That makes it look like it’s walking up a set of stairs instead of climbing a ladder. Do the same thing with your exits.

Positioning
When you watch a play in a theater, the actors use the depth of the stage and rarely come all the way out to the edge. In many puppet plays I’ve watched, it’s just the opposite. The puppets come straight up and spend the entire time at the front and even lean on the stage. It’s important to learn to use the full range of your theater if you want to perform with excellence.

If you have a deep theater, when using a puppet at the back near the curtain, you’ll need to raise it up a little higher than normal so the audience can still see it. During practice, have someone sit in a chair to watch and give suggestions for the proper height. You may want your taller puppeteers to be the ones working the puppet near the curtain.

Positioning While Talking
When two puppets are talking, they should face each other and stand at least 3-4 inches away from the front of the theater. If you press against the theater, it looks uncomfortable from the audience’s perspective and lowers the quality of your performance. It will take more work because you can’t lean on the stage to rest your arm, but it’s worth it.

When three puppets are talking, it doesn’t look natural to stand them in a line across the front of the stage. How often in a TV show do you see actors lined up in a row talking with each other? It does happen some, but is not the norm and your puppets should follow that pattern. When three puppets are talking together, have the two outside puppets face each other and position them near the front of the theater. The middle one should stand back toward the curtain to form a triangle. That way each puppet can make eye contact with either of the others with a simple turn of their head. 

If four or more puppets are talking, as much as possible, spread them out in a manner that allows them to make eye contact with anyone in the group.

When you learn to take advantage of the entire stage and become intentional about positioning, you’ll improve the quality of your presentation and give your audience a better experience.

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