File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 468

Date: Thu, 27 Nov 2008 23:26:35 GMT
Subject: [Puptcrit] making puppets fast

Deadlines should play a part. And will the finished puppet be able to do what its minimum needs are (for movements and plots, script or choreography?) Things can alway be further developed later, but you have to start with SOMETHING.

Opening the show on time is important. One perfectionist I know has regularly opened  shows 2 or 3 days late, yet rebuilt one bird puppet up to 16 times or so, when any one of the 16 versions would have been adequate, and superior to most made by others. You can always replace, remake later or otherwise adjust later.

We have spoken of ergonomics/easy  handling of puppets which are well designed, and which will prevent injuries (short term or permanent) which is a very good reason for making a new figure after the show opens---that too is part of "getting the bugs out of a show", ie: correcting three-dimensional flaws as well as script, set, costume or directorial flaws---you want to get past  permanently unfnished work.

On the other hand, simplicity can be finished looking---especially when simplicity part of the original concept.

Many times puppetry beginners make the mistake of being too complicated the first time out and, the result is a disaster ending up in a storage closet or dumpster. On a trip to Alaska, long ago, I heard of such misadventure. No point on aiming for the impossible because that usually means the last time puppetry will be used by such people.

In a time of increasing technology, simplicity in  actual reality can be a novelty for audiences.

If a more complicated approach pays off, then go ahead if time allows. Paul Walton & Michael O'Rourke might have 35 or so strings on a marionette, but they all served a purpose, so there were good reasons. But it takes longer to learn to operate complicated puppet.

Vent dummies can have just a movng mouth. Added features not only cost more, but in the right hands can bring the figure more to life, but in the wrong hands, wiggly ears, moving eyebrows, flipping wigs or twisting mouths, spitting tubes, smoke FX, closing/opening yelids, moving noses, real wet tears can be a waste of effort and money.


-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Hudert
Sent: Thursday, November 27, 2008 1:49 PM
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] making puppets fast

On Nov 23, 2008, at 10:56 AM, wrote:

> People are fascinated with "how long it takes" ... we've all gotten 
> this question...I wonder, why? I also wonder, has anyone curbed or 
> increased their time making puppets recently -- and why?=EF=BF=BD

    I think people are intrigued by something out of their ken. I answer 
this question first much like I did about putting on the clown makeup 
when I was in the circus - I always takes exactly how much time I have. 
Part of this is contained in a favorite quote: "Finished is Better Than 
Perfict." Sometimes it is much better to be done than to have it 
exactly perfect. As it will never be exactly perfect, it is better to 
settle with some minor flaws and declare it "done" than to keep working 
on that perfection. Plus it is likely that the audience will never 
notice those "flaws" that I've been obsessing about. I find, too, that 
projects -  just like putting on the clown make up - will often expand 
to fill the time allowed. Truth is a comfortable rate for putting on my 
clown make up is about 20 minutes, but I've gone from street clothes to 
full costume and make up in as little as 3 minutes, and often take 30 
minutes or more if I have the time. For puppets I explain there is not 
quite the same rule of thumb, as it depends greatly on the type, style, 
scale, and so on. Add to that any research you need to do and keep 
referring to during the process. A puppet can take a few dollars and a 
few minutes to create, or thousands of dollars and weeks to create.

   Sometimes the quickest, cheapest, least complicated puppet can be 
more effective than something from the opposite end of the spectrum. 
Sometimes it's the puppet, sometimes the performer. For me, the puppet 
is the instrument. Hand a Strat to a novice violin player and you're 
not automatically going to get magical music, but often a gifted 
musician can create magic with the least of instruments. So too, the 
puppet. I've experienced magic from improvised puppets in the right 
hands, disappointment from wondrous puppets in the wrong hands, and 
just about everything in between. Puppetry is one of the few things 
that breaks the aphorism of "You can get things cheap, fast, and good - 
but you can only have two of those at any given time." Because 
puppetry, like many arts, is such a wide open area, there is no set 
"how long" or "how much".

   So, yes, I have both curbed and increased my time in making puppets 
recently. Many times projects were determined by a deadline. While that 
is still essentially true, I have also recently worked on some things 
intentionally working as fast and as cheaply as possible, while still 
maintaining a standard of quality. The intent was to curb a growing 
tendency towards more elaborate and involved process and puppets, and 
to get back to some basics. Part of it was also to challenge myself to 
work within the confines of a smaller budget of both time and money. 
But, I've also expanded the time on a couple of puppets to the extent 
that I don't know if they ever will get finished. Some of this has to 
do with the fact that they exist in a vacuum. There is no deadline and 
no show for them. I've even gotten into some and then, not liking the 
direction they were going, tossed them, which for a pack rat like me is 
unusual. I have to confess, I'm guess I'm not much of an artist in that 
respect. I am not driven by the creation of the instrument, so I don't 
often go to the studio just to create puppets. I'd much rather spend 
time on concepts, show ideas, writing, and so on.


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