File puptcrit/puptcrit.0602, message 337

Date: Tue, 28 Feb 2006 18:03:42 -0800
To: <>
Subject: [Puptcrit] Puppet stomach

Dear Amy & critters,

We have used a balloon to inflate the belly of a marionette.  It was in the
NW Coast Native American story of "Raven & the Box of Daylight".  For this
production we are grateful to have worked with Nu-Chah-Nulth carver George
David and the Green and Hottowe families of the Makah Tribe.

Raven transforms himself several times trying to trick his way into the
chief's house and eventually succeeds by transforming into a pine needle
which falls into the water of the chief's daughter.  After drinking the
water with the needle, she becomes pregnant and the next day she gives birth
to a little raven boy.  Eventually Raven gets the light out of the box and
flies out the smoke hatch in the ceiling bringing light to the world.

The effect of a balloon worked wonderfully as her belly grew when she was
sleeping and then was gone again when you see a little boy.  The lighting
was dim so that the air tube with balloon attached would not be too visible.
It wasn't there all the time.

In the same show there was another traditional character which in our show
used a balloon.  Snot boy was apparently done as a masked character and
possibly as a puppet along the Northwest Coast.  According to various
accounts, they would sometimes use oysters or other gooey things that would
be pulled out of the nostrils of this character.  We ended up not being so
authentic and used a balloon but one benefit of a balloon that seafood does
not offer is the ability for the snot to grow and shrink.  Quite disgusting.
Kids of course loved it.

For a hand puppet or rod puppet, it would be much easier to have a balloon
effect.  We have also run tubes down on rod marionettes and that works fine
too.  Just make sure to have extra balloons and switch fairly frequently so
you don't have it pop unexpectedly.  Popping on queue can be quite effective
though.  If you want it to inflate and deflate, you can try using a binder
clip on the air tube.

Someone that is really great with inflatable effects is Jean Claude of
Compagnie Coatimundi in Avignon, France.  I don't think he is on this list
but he is an amazing puppeteer and inventor.  He has a house that explodes
as a giant snail emerges.  In another effect, his hand inflates right as he
is about to shake hands with his neighbor, who of course is quite horrified.
They do great shows and anyone interested in puppets and inflatable effects
should definitely try to see them if given the chance (somewhat difficult
for us in the US since they are in France and seldom tour here).  Anyhow,
good luck.


Dmitri Carter

Northwest Puppet Center
9123 - 15th Ave. N.E.
Seattle, WA 98115

tel:  206 523 2579
fax:  206 523 8078

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