File puptcrit/puptcrit.0606, message 442

Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2006 13:06:58 EDT
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] X(=Neo?)-puppetry

Dearest Malgosia,
I happily agree to disagree with you. My distinction is crystal  
clear--either you built a puppet or you found an object I recognize as the  object you 
found and manipulated it as a puppet.
How the object is used, does not enter into defining object-puppetry at all  
for me. We could argue whether an object is a prop or a puppet (and we have 
been  down that path many times with Screen Actors' Guild*) but clearly,  
object-puppetry employs the use of objects. If there is a method of manipulating  
them that makes them not be those objects, I would like to see that show. Of  
course you can create gray areas which might prove very provoking--if you dress  
the object up so I don't recognize it, then why did you use the object? If 
you  create a spoon that is indistinguishable from a manufactured spoon, why did 
you  go to the trouble? Will it perform things a manufactured spoon won't?
Also, I'm not at all clear how you define "traditional use  of a puppet," 
which seems far more subjective than whether objects are  manipulated or not. 
Surrealism, impressionism, romanticism, cubism, dadaism,  X-ism, neo-ism and any 
other "isms" would be distinctions outside the issue of  objects or not 
objects, and I don't care to get into discussing the "isms" at  this time.
*For the purposes of defining which labor union has jurisdiction in film  
making, IATSE handles props, distinct from puppets, which emote, and require a  
SAG puppeteer. The classic example being: if a toaster flies through the air 
and  hits the wall, it is a prop. If a toaster flies through the air and falls  
in love along the way to hitting the wall, it is a puppet.
In a message dated 6/22/2006 7:53:24 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

Steven,  as far as I am concerned, I don't think that the distinction you're
making  can really be maintained.  If I make a spoon especially for  the
performance and make it look just like a piece of silverware, why would  this
be a different kind of puppetry than if I buy the spoon in a kitchen  store?
What if I paint a face on my bought spoon?  Put a dress on  it?
Attach arms and legs to it?  At what point would my act stop being  one kind 
of puppetry and start being another?

Me, I think the  important thing is how the object is used in performance, 
how it was  manufactured or acquired.  If it is used the way a puppet
would  traditionally be used, it's traditional puppetry.  But we could  agree
to disagree.


> Before I become confused by how I  categorize my forms of Puppetry, my way  
> understanding object  puppets implies the use of ordinary objects 
> as  entertainment. Any performance employing the use of kitchen spoons or 
>  other  silverware, as in all the examples below, would to me, by  
definition be  
> object puppetry. 
> A spoon  is a household object, and employing it as a puppet creates a very 
> different significance than the fabrication of a puppet that  represents a 
> spoon,  which I would think of as a more  traditional form of Puppetry. 
"Lion  King" 
> masks and puppets are  clearly not found object puppets, but were created  
> specifically  for that production. Are they "neo"? Someone will have to 
> that for me.
>       -Steven->
> In a message dated  6/22/2006 10:59:24 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
>  writes:
> Dear  Stephen,
> This is not  quite what I am trying to get at.  Maybe it  will help if 
> I  outline some hypothetical puppet shows that we can use as   examples:
> 1.  This is a puppet show about the Royal  House of  England.  All the 
> puppets are pieces of  silverware, and the Queen is  played by a soup 
>  spoon.   The puppets are operated so as to  create in the  audience a 
> maximum forgetfulness that what they is viewing  is a  bunch of spoons, 
> forks and knives.  You can say this is  trad  puppetry.
> 2. This is a puppet show about the Royal  Family of  Dishland.  In 
> Dishland, the ruling dynasty is  the Silverware Dynasty,  and the 
> current Queen is Queen  Soupspoon.  Here, the audience is  aware that 
> they are  viewing silverware, but the silverware is  anthropomorphized 
> -  the story is told as if objects could live normal  human lives, and  
> the puppets (i.e. the silverware) are operated so as to  make  this 
> believable.  This, too, is trad puppetry.
>  3.   This is an object performance about the goings-on within the  
> Royal House  of England.   There is a narrator  narrating events, and  
> illustrating them by manipulating various  objects.  A spoon with a  
> wig is used to "stand in" for the  Queen.  No attempt is made to  
> create any illusion, and the  "puppets" are used the way little 
> movable  pin-ups on a map  might be used to illustrate a narrative 
> about troop  movements  in a military campaign.  This is, broadly 
> speaking, in the   same category of puppetry as your "Lion King" 
> example - if you  disagree,  maybe we should treat the "Lion King" 
> example as a  separate  one.
> 4.  This is a theater piece about  the Queen of England,  involving 
> live actors and puppetry.   The Queen  is at the dinner  table eating 
> her soup, when  the soup-spoon falls into her lap and  immediately 
> starts taking  root there.  Now the Queen has a soup spoon  growing out 
> of  her.  Soon the spoon sprouts other spoons, and the  Queen's body is  
> partly taken over by this alien inanimate life.  One  might  say that 
> the spoon has now become Queen of England, but in a  very  different 
> way than in any of the preceding  examples.   This is  the kind of 
> thing that I was  calling X-puppetry.  Daniel is right, I  think, to 
> connect  it to Surrealism, although I think these kinds of themes  also 
>  make their appearance before Surrealism - for example, in   Romanticism.
> -m
> >Dear  Malgosia,
> >   Let  me get this straight. Are you  saying that the difference between
> >neo-  and traditional  puppetry is whether or not the focus is on the
> >illusion  of  life in the  performing object?
> >If that is the case than one  of  the best examples of the neo- genre is
> >Taymor's "Lion  King." The Lion  Heads worn  on top of the actors heads
>  >are neo- because they  merely imply "lion-ess"  (or is it  "lionocity")
> >while not  literally portraying an illusion of a  living lion. On the
> >other hand,  the shadow puppet lions from  the same show are in strictly
> >trad  mode.
> >I think  Jurkowski spelled out some of these ideas in his  writings. He
>  >talks a great deal about the way puppet "signs" have  changed over  time,
> >and he identifies the death of the illusion of life  in  the puppet as a
> >characteristic of contemporary Western   puppetry.
> >Stephen

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