File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 415

Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 20:54:28 -0500
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Scaling back

At National Marionette Theatre we use the same scale of marionette.  
Average size is about 26-30 inches and they end up weighing about 6  
pounds apiece. The reason we use this size is, for us, the weight of  
the marionette is an integral part of the "performability"of the  
figure. Make the figure too small and the touch needed to manipulate  
the figure is so light that the predictability of the movements is  
lost and the movements become too large and jerky. Make the figure  
too large and they become unmanageably too heavy and you have to haul  
in a lot of string to get the movements you want. We have found over  
the years that our average size works well for just about any  
performing situation, from a bridge with eight-foot strings, to  
concert style marionettes working out in full view of the audience.  
Again, this works for us and is totally subjective. Other people  
might have different opinions about this and for them this is  
perfectly fine, but we like the size we work with.

All this talk of scaling back is exactly what we have been doing  
here. Instead of raising our prices for the three-person show with  
the five-foot bridge, we built a new three-and-a-half-foot tall  
bridge and have rewritten and re-blocked our most popular shows so  
two people can perform them. We also got rid of the front proscenium  
on our stage and re-designed our lighting system so that the lights  
are all mounted on side booms with boom arms that extend out from the  
tops of the booms on either side of the stage.

The Old stage took three people two hours to set up and was extremely  
heavy. We were exhausted even before the show started! All of this  
fit into a standard twelve-foot Econo-line cargo van that had  
terrible gas mileage. The new stage sets up in about fifty minutes  
with two people and fits into a 5x8 foot enclosed trailer that I can  
tow with my Toyota RAV4.

The old stage had a proscenium opening of 9 feet by 4 feet. The new  
stage has an acting area of 9 feet by 5 feet which is still almost  
double the height of most of our figures. The performers are exposed  
now, but the look if the show is exactly the same. By eliminating the  
proscenium, we  realized that we didn't need the extra height of the  
bridge to conceal us. We also shed about 500 pounds of equipment in  
the process and made our show more versatile as we can now perform in  
places with lower ceilings.

Should have done this YEARS ago!!

All the best,

David Syrotiak
National Marionette Theatre

On Nov 23, 2008, at 5:56 PM, Mathieu René wrote:

> Fascintating topic.
> I'm rather surprised at this idea of keeping a single scale for all  
> once's
> production.
> Maybe I'm incapable of uniformity, but I feel it's important to  
> decide the
> scale of each show, or individual puppet, according to such factors  
> as:
> -audience size
> -touring vehicule size (if any)
> -suitcase(s) size
> -other transportation limits (costs of cargo, and such)
> -one's own physical comfort and preference
> -one's own strenght
> -one's budget.
> -one's scale preference.
> In no particular order.
> What do y'all think?
> _______________________________________________
> List address:
> Admin interface:
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