The Top 10 Things To Work When Developing Puppet Skills-Part 1

There are a number of Top 10 lists being created, so I thought I’d chime in with my own. In this and the next couple of posts, I’ll cover my Top Ten List of things to work on to develop your puppet skills. The list is written in the order the things occur, not in order of priority.

Number 1: Proper Entrances
First impressions are important in life and in puppetry. When I’m watching a team for the first time and the puppets enter properly, that’s an indication the performance is going to be a good one. The truth is, in the hundreds of plays I’ve seen from a number of teams, this is one of the most overlooked skills.

When bringing your puppet on stage, think of a set of three stairs and what it takes to go up them and have your puppet copy the motion. Bring your puppet up and forward and drop it down just a bit, up and forward and drop it just a bit, up and forward and you’re onstage. Don’t just bob the puppet up and down.

Number 2: Proper Height
Once a puppet is on stage, you need to think about a real stage: the floor is flat and level. That means your puppet needs to maintain a consistent height while performing unless doing some motion that requires a change. I’ve seen many puppets weave back and forth, sway from side to side, slowly sink and then pop back up again. You don’t see that with actors and you shouldn’t see it with puppets.

To maintain consistent height, you need proper arm strength which comes from solid practice. To keep the puppets from swaying or weaving, you need to concentrate on the puppet. Last year, I watched a Junior High puppet team perform, and every puppet came up and maintained a consistent height without bobbing or weaving during a play that was at least 5 minutes long. If they can do it, just about any  puppet team can. 

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