Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scuba Marionette - Part 2

Today I went back to help finish the scuba marionette. Since last
time the diver got a coat of
glossy black paint for his wet suit. Our job today was to finish
up the paint,
make the
diver's face, attach the scuba tank and face mask (with air hose) and to complete the controller and then string the marionette. We worked from 4pm to 9pm and it all got done! I think that Daniel is pretty happy with the way his project turned out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Scuba Marionette - Part 1

My nephew, Daniel, has a puppet assignment from school. He wanted to make a full sized scuba diver puppet! I thought maybe a marionette would be easier both to make and to manipulate (not to mention transporting it to school).

I explained that fewer moving parts = faster to build and easier to manipulate. Daniel identified the most important movements, which were the kicking legs and forward arms. We started with
newspaper for the basic shapes. Then we
started covering them with paper machie. The scuba air tank is a water bottle and the face mask is the bottom of a plastic salad dressing bottle
the top of the water bottle. The joints are floral wire inserted under the paper machie.

Daniel did a great job (and Mom and brother Andrew too)
and we got as far as covering the marionette with a coat of primer. Next we'll figure out the stringing and add the paint
(mostly black wet suit) and add the final touches like painting
on his face, attaching the swim mask and making the air hoses.

We had a great afternoon working together! We don't know what his teacher will think, but as far as we are concerned this is A+ work.

To be continued...

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Sunday, November 1, 2009


I was asked to do a Halloween show for the Weston Library this year. With the help of staff and volunteers we put together a Reader's Halloween with stories, jokes and a costume contest.
With a donation of cardboard boxes from Home Depot I created a cardboard set.

After the show I put the set up in my driveway for Halloween.

The set had a built in Shadow Screen.

Shot in my driveway under a flash to show the details. On the right side of the set, the door opens and has two panels that also open. Next to that is a shadow screen. Then a hand puppet stage has a slight thrust and a playboard. The skull under the playboard opens too. The last panel on the left has 2 openings, the top and the rat panel.

The other side of the driveway had the usual group of inflatable and electric monsters.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Additional Kazoo Enhancement

I continued fooling around with the kazoo enhancement. I'd like to offer it as a workshop for kids, but the sharp things gave me pause. Even the hot glue has its dangers. So with a minimum of adult cutting and hot gluing I created this modification.

  1. The thin half liter bottle is cut with scissors. I cut off the bottom and cut a V in the side.
  2. I taped the V together with clear tape so the sound amplifier bottle points more foward.
  3. The Adult cuts a hole into the bottle's CAP. (this did require a box cutter, but for mass production perhaps something could be rigged up on a drill press)
  4. Hot glue is applied to the kazoo's resonator cap.
  5. The Kid sticks the bottle cap (and attached bottle) to the cooling hot glue. (check that the bottle opening is pointing in the direction you want it to face.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Enhanced Kazoo Instruments

A puppeteer's best friend can be the kazoo. Oh yes, there are a multitude of electronic sounds but the day will come when the plug is pulled or the battery dies or the media is left home. When that happens, a puppeteer needs a kazoo.
I decided to enhance some of my kazoos by adding some recycled plastic product containers. Here are some of my efforts.
You will need the following stuff.
A Kazoo (I get mine at Kazoobie)
Some plastic stuff (I used a gallon and a liter (water bottles) and a liquid detergent cap)
A sharp knife (Xacto or Box Cutter) - Be Careful!
Hot Glue
Silver Spray Paint

Just adding something to the open end, doesn't really change the sound but it does look cool. Remember that air has to blow through the kazoo, so make sure you open it up.
Adding something above the resonator does make the kazoo louder. I think different materials will have different results.

Oh - one last note (no pun). I used masking tape around the mouthpiece before spray painting the new kazoo. I didn't want paint (toxic or otherwise) flaking off into my digestive system.
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Friday, July 10, 2009

The Pumpkin Girl - In Progress

It's been such a long time since I've posted anything to this Blog. I'm working on a new shadow show. It's based on a story about a girl who is turned into a pumpkin. Here are a few of the shadow puppets...none are finished but I had them in the camera and it was a good time for me to upload and post them.

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The puppets are made of posterboard, the colors are tissue paper. There is still a way to go on these but ya got ta start somewhere!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Customer is always right.

Today I faced the 'customer is always right' dilemma.  Elementary schools have a tight schedule and performances in the cafetorium are subject to when breakfast and lunch are served.  This means that we need to arrive pretty early in the morning in order to have the show set up and ready for an 8:30 or 9:00 performance.  Usually at that hour the only greeters are the people working in the cafeteria, who may or may not know there's a show scheduled later in the day. 

We arrived early, entered the elementary school cafetorium and started setting up the show.  By 8:00 we were ready to go.  Then we found out about the second, middle school cafetorium.  The one that had the more flexible lunch hours.  If push came to shove we'd have to take everything down, pack it, move it and set it up again.  However, that would push the start time past the flexible lunch hours.  In the end we stayed where we were and were able to skillfully make the 2 shows fit into the available time slot.  And I have to say that the shows went very smoothly and were well received.  We got complemented by more than one teacher!

Is there a moral to this story?  Hmmm...I'm not sure.  I guess it's that the customer is always right and the show must go on.

I still love show business!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Speaking about Looking For Work...

I've been getting some suggestions about where on the web to look for Puppet and Theater job postings.  Rather than keep them in email, bookmarks or pieces of paper I've started putting them into one of the Free Google Site pages.
You are welcome to use it and to offer suggestions of more online sources.


Friday, April 10, 2009

What do puppeteers actually do?

Have you ever thought about someone else's work day?  What do the guys who change your oil do when there aren't any cars lined up for servicing?  What do waiters and cooks do in between customers?  What do teachers do after school?  What do bank executives do anyway?

I don't have answers to those questions, but I now have some experience in performing in a puppet road trip.

The first thing puppeteers do is look for more work!  We look for postings on Craigs List under jobs and gigs.  We call friends who are working.  We check out Puptcrit for leads and contacts.  We look on the Puppeteers of America's Bulletin board.  The actress I'm working with in Extreme Health Challenge looks for work between 30 minutes and 2 hours every day!  [Send me your favorite work seeking ideas.]

Once you find a lead, you can expect an audition.  Yep, you're expected to  have monologues, do character voices, demonstrate special skills (juggling, dancing, singing, acrobatics are all good to have for a puppet show) and prove your experience in manipulating different kinds of puppets!  Always keep limber and practiced in your craft.  You never know what you'll be asked to do.  Many puppet shows these days demand you perform multiple characters, both puppet and human.

Next comes driving.  The puppet show I'm performing in moves to a new venue every day.  We are travelling from the Palm Beaches all the way down into South Florida.  (West Palm Beach to Homestead in the same week!)  Schools begin their day early and we commonly try to be there by 6:30AM.  If the van's parking is an hour or more away, you'll have to wake up early in the morning.  But remember, it's better to leave early and beat the traffic, than it is to call from the road and explain why you will be late!  If you have a home base for parking your van it's a round trip every day (that's what I'm doing now).  Tours translate into lots of hours on the road.  Sometimes your directions are not so wonderful.  If a number is dropped from the street address, you'll be lost.  Construction?  Prepare to be re-routed.  

You have arrived but you don't get to perform just yet.  Is the parking lot open or locked?  Is there a door close to the performance area?  Can we borrow a moving cart?  Puppeteers are expected to unload the van, set up the stage,help set up the lights and the sound system, greet your hosts, answer any questions, schmooze over any issues at the site and then set props and puppets.  You check everything you'll need for the show.  If there are any repairs or touch-ups that can't wait for some down time, do them now.  If repairs can wait, make sure you write them down or you will forget as soon as everything is packed away.  Where are the grown-up bathrooms?  You may even have time to do some vocal and physical warm-ups.  Be sure to check your microphone levels and walk the stage for light levels!  Check your costume.

OK it's almost show time.  You may have to help seat the audience.  You have checked sight lines and you know where you don't want people to sit.  They will especially want to sit there.  It's good to be a diplomat.  Is there any audience participation?  Don't forget to assign your volunteers.  Almost ready?  Good, now go over the basics.  "Everyone stays in their seats, don't talk to your neighbors so everybody can hear.  Thank your host.  Find a way to get their energy up."

Show time!  You have 30 to 45 minutes of performance.  If you are doing 2 shows today, you'll hopefully have a short break, time to pre-set everything again and then do another performance.  If you are not so lucky you may have to wait hours until lunch is over (oh yes you are performing in the cafetorium and lunch comes early in the day) before you can do the second show!

That was great!  Now all that remains is: pack up the puppets and props (don't forget any!), take down the set, lights and sound and then pack all of it back into the van.  Check the stage for anything left behind.  Now you are ready for that (long) ride back to either the parking area or the hotel.

If you are like me, you'll be ready for a nap!  If you have lots and lots of energy, go to the beach!  Just don't forget that it starts all over again the next morning.

So don't envy those puppeteers who show up for an hour and then leave your school.  It may seem like they work for only an hour or three a day and have the rest of the day off, but appearances can be deceiving!

I love show business!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

What ever happened to A Puppet A Week?

At the end of 2008 I had an idea to create a simple puppet a week to kick start some creative energy for myself.  I got 3 posts completed and then the posts stopped.  Sorry about that (to you and to me).  Here's a brief overview:
I had a day job that covered the bills allowing me to explore puppetry.  That day job ended over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2008.  Since then I have not found a full time permanent day job to cover the bills.  Thank goodness we have been frugal and had saved up a cushion.  Thank goodness also that my wife has continued to work.  
Somehow with all that going on, devoting the time to make a puppet a week became an afterthought.  Not that I could not have banged something out, but it would not have been worthwhile.  I like making good stuff.  I do have some puppets that need to be photographed and documented so there's a short pipeline coming.
What I did instead was to look for some puppetry work.  I auditioned for and got a 9 week job (11 weeks counting the rehearsal time) to do a South Florida tour with Michelee Puppets "Extreme Health Challenge" show.  My third week is coming up with a 5:00 AM call on Monday.  

What a change from a sedentary office job.  It's only this week that I can think about coming home and doing something other than napping, shopping for food and cooking dinner!

I've also been working under my Simply Puppets company, performing my shadow puppet show, working a make-it / take-it table at Sugar Sand Park's Puppet Fest and a upcoming week with the education department at MOCA in Miami.

So while I'm still working in the RED compared to what I was earning in my old life as a VP of Information Technology,  I've also lost weight, gained muscle, smiled and laughed a whole lot more than I did in my old job.  I have new friends (hi, Tracey, Christine & Will!).  My old friends have been great!  I still get job leads, the occasional free lunch and encouragement from them.  And my wife, Deb, who has felt the total impact the most of everyone, has been nothing but supportive of any new direction that I cast the 'earnings net' trying to make ends meet.

Will it get better?  Will it become worse first?  Who can know it?

I have to get up and do some stuff now, but watch the Blog for those puppet projects in the pipeline and for future posts on how the tour is going.  


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Week Ending Jan 11 - Not exactly a puppet...

This week my daughter needed some masks for a project she and some classmates are doing for school.  So instead of a puppet post (unless I get very creative tonight) here is a paper mask tutorial thingy.

Mask Making with Paper 

1.  Take a local newspaper and cut it down to either the size of a piece of construction paper page (about 9 x 12 inches). If you are using poster board you can make a bigger mask.

2.  With a marker, make a basic outline of the mask's head.  You can make a full face mask or a half face mask.  A half face mask leaves the jaw open so you can talk and be heard.

3.  Cut out the mask.  Don't worry if both sides are not the same.  Later on we'll fold the mask in half from forehead to chin and cut both sides at the same time.

4.  Hold the mask up to your face and ask a friend to mark where your eyes and your nose is under the mask.

5.  Take off the mask and fold it in half, forehead to chin.  Cut out the nose and try it on.  You want your nose to stick out through the mask so you'll be able to breathe.

6.  Now, with the mask still folded in half draw in an eye.  It doesn't have to be huge or shaped like an eye, it just has to be in the right spot.  Here's the tricky part.  Fold the whole mask in half again, centering it on the middle of the eye.  If you do this right, you'll be able to make one cut-out that will cut both eyes.  See attached picture.

7.  Try on your mask.  You can make adjustments, or make a second mask or start all over.  Look in the mirror to see how it is going to look.

8.  When you have a good newspaper mask, it's time to transfer it over to the construction paper.

9.  Fold the construction paper in half so the mask (which is already folded in half) will fit on the page.  Line up the 2 folded edges.  Trace the outline of the mask and the opening for the eyes and nose.

10.  Cut out the construction paper mask around the outline but DO NOT CUT OUT THE EYES AND NOSE YET!!! 

11.  Now, before you cut out the nose and eyes look at the pictures.  What I do is cut the bottom of the nose and then slit the nose from the bottom to the top.  Then fold the nose triangles outward.  That way I have something on the mask I can use to glue on the mask's nose.  

12.  You can do the same thing with the eyes if you want to attach anything to the eyes.  Remember to fold the mask again over the middle of the eye so you can cut out both eyes at the same time.  You can cut right through the middle of the eye, slit the eye and then fold back 4 little triangles on each eye.

13.  Now you need 2, 1 inch strips of cardboard, 
or oak-tag or heavy cardstock paper that's long enough to wrap all around your head (and then some).  Measure them around your head, mark where it meets and glue the strip to itself.  DON'T CUT IT EXACTLY TO FIT.  YOU NEED IT TO OVERLAP SO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO GLUE.

14.  After your head band is dry put it back on your head.  Take the second strip and fit it over the top of your head so it meets the headband at your forehead and behind your head (It's best if you have someone to help you with this step too).  Glue the strip in place.  When it's dry you can trim off the excess, or you could use it as part of your mask design.  Let this dry.

15.  You can now decorate the mask. 
  • You can build out the nose by making a big triangle and folding the sides as flaps.  
  • You can make cones, cut off the tips and make big eyeballs.
  • You can make cones, attach them to the mask's forehead for horns.
  • You can take tissue paper and make a beard or eyebrows.
  • You can take tissue paper and glue wrinkles into the forehead.
  • You can take construction paper, yarn, plastic scrubbies or anything you can attach to the mask and make hair.
  • You can do most anything - use your imagination!

16.  Now put on your headband / hat thing and hold the mask in front of your face.  Find the point where it should be glued to the headband and glue it.  You can attach it on the sides or let it stick out.

17.  Look in the mirror.  Make adjustments!  Make a second mask!  Add other features!  You can even add a second mask to the back of the first mask so you are 2 faced!  There are endless possibilities!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More Pirates! Week Ending 1-4-2009

More Pirates!

Thanks to my rules, copying is allowed. This isn't exactly copying but close. I decided to go through the many 'how to make puppet books' I have and to actually make one of the puppet projects! For this week (ok last week - I'm late in posting) I opened the Laura Ross "Scrap Puppets - How to Make and Move Them" book to page 26. There you'll find directions on how to make Pirate Pete. The main materials are toilet paper tubes, felt, yarn and glue. I added a second tube to fit over two fingers, some rods for the yarn arms and some beads. The rods are from a discarded umbrella I had saved.
I think I'll use some white paint to help the blue/black fellow stand out from the curtain, and perhaps give them some legs and boots. These guys are small enought that I'll keep them around for a while.
All I need now is a treasure chest,a skeleton,  some sharks, seaguls, swords and shovels and methinks I have the makings of some puppet pirate skits.

Week 2 is finished...50 to go!

Oh - the stage you see is a work in progress.  It's a gift from my friends Nancy and Bob.  There were originally 6 windows and no playboard.  I cut the support from the top 2 windows to make a play area  and fashioned the playboard from a piece of 1 x4.  The stage actually needs a coat of paint because it had been in storage for a while and shows some stains.  The remaining windows will get a panel of something until I decide how best to use them.  They can be curtained or perhaps turned into a sort of a window box for a marionette.

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