My journey creating and producing puppetry... trials, tribulations, inspiration and contemplation.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My puppet life ~ Fall 2011

I have neglected updates in months and there is much to report so, I'll dig right in.

Back in September, I produced a puppet weekend for a local theatre group. We hosted a Tough Pigs Muppet Vault, had shadow puppet and marionette show [by The Puppet People] for the daytime/matinee shows and hosted a puppet slam with local talent along with a showing of Heather Henson's Handmade Puppet Dreams. The poster for the event [below] was designed by Pasha at Project Puppet.

Inspired by Project Puppet's Borsa pattern and this great fur that I found, I made this live-hand puppet which was completed toward the end of October. I was considering making a puppet for a raffle to raise funds for my anti-bullying puppet show that I'm working on but, fell in love with this guy so much, I couldn't part with him.

After a couple of rehearsals with new vocal talent, we were finally ready to get into the recording studio to record the anti-bullying puppet assembly program Helping Drew. It filled me with equal parts excitement and this feeling that this is the "put up or shut up" moment. This production has been gestating for so long and you get to this moment and you're like "oh, right, I really have to do something with this!" The process started back in January and went through the re-writing process, an initial recording session that didn't produce the results I needed and my obligations to the theatre I had been helping that kept me from focussing, along with my last studio that did not come through.

I had a business acquaintance whose husband makes ring tones for cell phones so, I knew he had some studio connections. He ended up offering to record us knowing he had capable equipment. He had great excitement and confessed his love for puppets - especially the Muppets. When I asked what I could pay him, he insisted on doing it for free. He was smiling and having a great time through the whole session since it was something he never had the chance to do.

I had terrific talent for the session. My friends Joyce and Ed both worked professionally in theatre and did table reads in Manhattan for upcoming theatrical shows and even did a read on an early Lopez/ Marx [Ave Q guys] scripting of another show they had worked on. Another one of my voice talents, Joni, had taken John Tartaglia's master class. She's got a great female puppet voice - somewhere in the neighborhood of Kate Monster and Abby Cadabby.

The 1/2 hour show took us about an hour and a half to record. We plowed through and only did additional takes where we messed up. I excused the actors when I felt we had everything complete and spent another hour and a half with the engineer to choose our takes, make sure all the spacing was cleaned up and the cues were in the right place. I should have a preview copy soon enough after all the levels are cleaned up.

I was at Party City yesterday and purchased nice big serving spoons for some sweet puppet eyes for the next puppet I hope to use for the raffle I previously mentioned.

All in all, everything is going great and the puppet projects are a great source of excitement and motivation. Excited to see The Muppets this coming week as well! Getting my Muppet geek on and seeing an early morning showing as well as attending an evening show with the extended family. Can't wait to share this new Muppet chapter.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A week of puppet

This past week was colored by many puppet events/encounters that I thought I would share. In Beacon, NY, Second Saturday celebrations center around art events all over town. The Music On The Squares events showcase live bands playing in various locations at different times of the day. This year, they incorporated local puppeteer [and writer] Peter Ullian who brought his puppets to Main Street on Saturday the 9th. Peter's puppets talked about US history. While one told some very 'creative' interpretations of history, the other tried his very best to correct the tall tales. It was a very humorous and raucous puppet performance aimed at young audiences.

On Monday, the 11th, I had the pleasure of meeting Pasha Romanowski from Project Puppet on his trip to New York. Pasha brought along fellow New York puppeteer Scott Biski as we met in front of the old Henson office on 69th Street. The Kermit prints in the sidewalk are no longer and the building was in transition with the new owners. No activity was going on and the building looked to be rather empty and without life. We walked down to FAO to peep in on the Muppet Whatnot Workshop. On the way, we did what any puppeteer/puppet builders would do, we talked puppets and puppet building. It's nice to be amongst those in the family of puppet. FAO had a few Muppet shirts in the baby-doll style along with a display of the Muppet PookaLooz plush. It's also nice to see that the kiosk continues to employ enthusiastic Muppet/puppet fans.

We headed downtown continuing our 3-man puppet conference and ended up in the fabric district doing what any 3 grown men would do - shop for fake fur! Although some of the prices seemed steep compared to what I'm use to paying online, Pasha gave a quick lesson in the quality of the fur and backing. Still, I might have to stick with the cheap stuff for now.

Thursday, the 14th, was the gala opening for the Jim Henson's Fantastic World exhibit at the Museum of The Moving Image in Queens. My friend and Richard Hunt biographer J. Max Stein scored a VIP invite and invited me along as her 'plus one'. Brian, Cheryl and Heather Henson were in attendance along with Dave Goelz puppeteering a Mayor Mike Bloomberg puppet for the opening remarks. I spied John Tartaglia in the crowd and met Tough Pigs' Joe and Ryan who bring their Muppet Vault to the Puppet Weekend I'm producing this September. I had seen the Jim Henson exhibit on its stop earlier in Massachusetts but it was fun to to revisit this inspiring collection again and see the addition of Ms. Piggy decked out in her wedding gown. The VIP group was treated to an 'Art of The Muppets' commemorative poster that looks like a promo for the original Art of The Muppets book and has a copyright of 1980 on the bottom. It measures 19 inches by 29 inches.

The 'week' ends with me auditioning acts for the September Puppet Weekend and continuing to work on putting together my own puppet shows for school assembly programs in the Fall.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Helping Drew" build

I never felt this project would be finished and now that it's nearing completion, it has me very excited. I am especially passionate about helping ease the bullying problem that still plagues our schools - something that was very prevalent when I was in school and sometimes made my experience less than happy.

As I wrapped up this build, I had one last character to create, the school principal. She started as a different build and then I switched gears and turned to the tried and true Project Puppet patterns.

A head was born and I stuck on a pair of glasses to size up the eyeglass look.

I had custom-dyed my first batch of antron fleece a beautiful purple hue. I was really excited by the results and even more excited to see it covering the new build.

I initially started with a human-style wig in dark, tight curls. I specifically wanted cat-eye style glasses for the puppet and headed to the party supply store that has a full line of costume accessories. I found a wonderful, bright pink wig that I knew would look better than the dark curls. Naturally, the puppeteer had to try on the accessories before the puppet.

In the end, the puppet looked better. I popped out the eyeglass lenses and traced them to a white foam sheet, making sure I cut just a little wider around the trace in order to glue them to the back of the eyeglass frames.

A completed puppet, with nose, was ready for an outfit. The next day, I was off to the mall to hit up the kids racks for some 2T/3T sizes.

I hit up the usual suspects - Children's Place and Old Navy as well as Bon Ton children's department. I get close and start to formulate an idea of what I need - a feminine 'blouse' and a sweater was on order for this build. My last stop was Sears and, I was happily surprised by my find. I think you'll see they all look perfect together and the puppet seemed to approve.

'Flo' joins the rest of her cast in the show "Helping Drew" which is being offered to K-5 elementary school assembly programs. Rehearsals begin soon and will be shopped at an arts in education showcase in late May.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Costuming My Puppet

I love a simple trick to get things done - whether it's the magic that happens during the performance or the little tricks we use in creating our build. In the final scene of my new puppet show, a character breaks out into a song and dance number. He exits the stage and returns in full 'Chorus Line' costume. I purchased some gold sequined fabric and thought that some way, I would find the right hat and vest to cover in the material. I purchased a small top hat for a doll that I figured would tilt to one side on the puppet's head. I wasn't really comfortable covering it with the fabric so, purchased metallic gold glitter spray paint instead. After getting that situated, the hat just looked too small for the puppet.

In creating the vest, I couldn't find a child's suit vest cheap enough so, went about patterning my own - cutting it from a sheet of fun foam and then spraying the cut out foam with super 77 spray glue and then laying it on a flat piece of fabric. After sitting with that, I figured - if I could find a hat pattern, I could cover the flat pieces with the fabric and then fashion the hat. A quick google search and I was set. I enlarged the pattern to fit my needs. The hat was a little tall - more formal for my taste so, I cut it down before I glued everything in place. I ordered a silver sequined bowtie online and I will have a black shirt underneath it all when it's finished. For now - here is the costume in process. Happy World Puppet Day!!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

All Hands On Deck...

...or, these are a few of my favorite things. I went out shopping over the weekend to my favorite puppet supply stores, Home Depot and Lowe's, America's best known hardware stores.

Any puppet builder will tell you that there is no one place to purchase puppet building supplies. There is inspiration everywhere and I compiled some well-known supplies readying myself to complete a build this past weekend. In the image is a package of doll joints from the hobby shop, hands and foam pieces from the fabric store, Weldwood contact cement and a small container of flat black paint from the hardware store, pre-fab wooden handles for the control rods from a materials exchange and drop ceiling wire for the control rods as well [from the hardware store as well.]

Quite a while ago, I purchased The Complete Doctor puppet building tutorial DVD from Dr. Puppet. I have watched the various installments at different points and it's just a wonderful resource to go back to time and time again to re-establish technique for the budding puppet builder. Jay, who runs the Dr. Puppet website, talks through the lessons like a puppet building friend who has tried all the techniques and knows some of the best and easiest ways to get professional results. In my latest viewing, I picked up on Jay referring to the group of puppeteers over at I knew the site but had failed to join until recently. One of the admins at Puppets and Stuff is Daryl of StiqPuppet. Daryl was known for his blogtv channel of puppet building tutorials. I was thrilled to find that Daryl has transferred the videos to a Youtube account. Daryl shows various aspects of puppet making as well as proper puppet performance, cleaning your puppet and even a video on how to keep your puppet workshop organized. We're so lucky to live in this day and age where inspiration is right at our fingertips. Sometimes, I'll even grab the good old Foam Book and just leaf through to stoke the ideas.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't give a nod to Pasha over at Project Puppet who has been SO instrumental in getting my dreams off the ground. His new website Puppetsmith will be providing even more inspiration for puppet builders for years to come, I'm sure. My latest puppet was designed from the Project Puppet Simple Series Roly pattern. His name is Lee and he will be starring in an anti-bullying show for K-5th grade elementary school assembly programs.