File puptcrit/puptcrit.0803, message 143


To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2008 04:15:48 GMT
Subject: [Puptcrit] Simple solutions for vegetation scenery in olden days


In Ralph Chesse's EMPEROR JONES marionette production c 1930 which was restaged for the 1957 National Puppetry Festival at UCLA, the jungle foliage was suspended from a hanging horizontal metal pipe. In each jungle scene it was re-arranged to indicate a different part of the jungle. For all I know there may have been ropes besides cloth strips torn & knotted.


-----Original Message-----
From: Mathieu Ren?
Sent: Thursday, March 6, 2008 6:48 PM
To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
Subject: [Puptcrit] Simple solutions

Sometimes the simplest and most efficient solutions are the hardest to find.

I've been thinking for years about making trees for puppet sets that would be safe to use, look like the real thing, and not be too fragile.
Wire and flexible paper mache was not really working for me yet.

And today, I saw the light! (appropriate, since it was in a mostly shadow puppet show)

I almost fell of my chair when I saw them install THE TREE. The epitomy of every tree I've ever seen, the most majestic artificial tree I could possibly imagine, was right there in front of my eyes! it was also the ultimate solution to the above problem.
The tree was soft and flexible. Yet looked like real bark, real branches, real everything.
It was fixed on the low metal ceiling, using very powerful magnets.
I know the builder (also the co-puppeteer on the show), and he answered all my questions, as usual. He's so generous and a great guy:
The tree is made of rope, covered in a flexible paper (probably a Japanese handmade paper) wrinkled, then covered in rubber latex (possibly tinted, definitely painted over as well). I didn't ask more details of the process, I'd like to make my own tests and see what I come up with. It's a new "moderation" approach I'm trying.

With stage lights, it looked amazingly real, old, and authentic. A giant bonzai-like tree.

As for movement, it was fascinating to see them install it (and remove it afterwards)as part of the puppeteering. As mind boggling if not more than Dali's melting clocks (twisted perceptions). Once installed, the merest movement brought the tree to life, as if the wind was blowing gently on it. They could have made it a puppet, but there was no need for it in this show.

I won't name the show that provided the solution to my connundrum: it would spoil some of the surprise. They do go on tours around the world. Next trip is Europe, with their previous show. 

But I'll try to make a quick review of every GOOD show I see at the festival, and it shall be your guess which one features the tree that boggled my mind.












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