File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 486

Date: Sun, 30 Nov 2008 00:33:53 -0800
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Love of the stage

The main goal of my puppetry is to channel joy through children --  
basically a way of healing the world -- joy and creativity/sense of  
wonder being the antidote to fear. Here in the US, a lot of fear is  
being perpetuated on the public, so I feel like I'm doing the highest  
public service I can do with my puppetry. But I'm not a martyr by any  
means -- doing the work is refreshing and highly enjoyable. And my  
shows have lots of "scary" situations -- all within a structure of  

Although performing is very demanding work that requires tons of  
energy, it all comes back through the audience's love -- they love  
you for taking them on the journey. The more one heightens the  
emotional resonance of the journey, allows for a direct increase in  
the audience's appreciation.

Performance is also a great way to exchange information - both in  
teaching and learning. In one sense, the audience teaches you how to  
entertain them. This is something I just "feel" from the audience --  
where the next laugh should be, where the dramatic pause should be to  
emphasize the big dramatic moment, etc. It's like surfing, the  
audience responds in waves and you sort of ride them. Maybe it's  
better to call it a dance.

Michael Dowell
Moodoo Puppets

On Nov 29, 2008, at 10:26 PM, Mathieu René wrote:

> Hi all.
> I had a puppeteering gig earlier tonight and it was a blast!
> I wonder what makes a stage performing experience so thrilling,  
> energizing,
> motivating, inspiring, and overall satisfying, like nothing else?
> Care to share your takes on it?
> Mine are:
> -People's acceptance or other positive judgement, even if only for the
> duration of a show, is powerful and honest. You feel it when they  
> don't
> respond.
> -Energy seems to flow between audience and performers, making it  
> more than
> the sum of both.
> Peter Balkwill (of the Old Trout puppet Workshop) spoke about the  
> energy
> flow during a puppet workshop I took with him in 2007.
> I remember him saying something about when a person forgets a line  
> or a
> move, the energy flow is stopped, and the circuit being  
> interrupted, makes
> everyone feel bad, until it is restored.
> I think I understand it a lot better now.
> -the risk of messing it all up in front of so many people and yet  
> the chance
> of succeeding against all that, must bring a lot of thrill!
> -I think sharing has a lot to do with how great everyone can feel  
> during and
> after a show.
> -It can be negative too, when a show goes bad, it can get really bad.
> Background (aka: the Parrot's Debut)
> :
> I built a parrot puppet (in the spare time I didn't have last  
> week), and I
> charged the event for the rental of the puppet and my puppeteering  
> salary.
> It was a great opportunity, because I really wanted a parrot puppet  
> for my
> own puppet menagerie, and more stage experience.
> I was puppeteering the parrot for the Pirate host of the evening.
> The crowd responded really well to him.  The complicity with the  
> host was
> instantaneous, and we had a lot of fun. The charcater was comical,  
> and it
> worked. I've never been good at telling jokes on purpose, unless I was
> imitating a good joke teller who said it to me first. But my parrot  
> puppet
> seems to "have it", that punchline and quick witted responses.
> How come???
> Some small bugs are still in need of fixing on that puppet, but it  
> did the
> job really well, and I learned a lot I wouldn't have if I were just  
> wiggling
> it around in my worskshop. Logistics of moving a rod and mouth  
> puppet on a
> stage that wasn't designed for it, are rather hard to imagine without
> trying. A bird perch I was promised wasn't built, so the parrot had  
> to stand
> on a flat commode.  Thankfully, I planned ahead and made the feet  
> posable,
> which helped, but the parrot feet (fleexe covered) had a tendency  
> to slide
> on the polished wood...
> I'll build a perch then, for future gigs.
> One time, in order to avoid jumping over set pieces to get into the
> audience, I improvised an exit backstage, kept my puppet  
> character's voice
> alive (wireless mike) and accessed the audience through the side  
> doors.
> Next gig of this sort I get, I'll insist on trying the puppet in  
> the actual
> set well before the show.
> Tonight this couldn't be done, due to the logistics of a roaming event
> without a set venue, and me running straight from another gig.
> I was lucky enough to be spared the puppeteering hood, at the last  
> minute.
> It was in most part thanks to the host, she backed me up with good
> arguments.  I had made a hood as planned, but it was rather ugly,  
> shape-wise
> (fabric hanging from the rim, cap showing atop it, weird beak-like
> protrusion).
>  I really need to see a picture of the baseball cap and fabric  
> suggestion I
> received here on Puptcrit.
> We received the final texts on the same day, but multiple versions.  
> So there
> was no way to memorize the final lines properly. I can barely  
> believe it,
> but that kind of brought a bit more thrill to the experience.
> Some introductory parts were missing for some of the perfomers  
> (their own
> omissions). So we improvised a whole lot, and wow, what fun stuff  
> we came up
> with backstage between dance numbers, and even more while on stage.  
> The
> audience was into it, I was amazed at how well it went, considering my
> apprehensions. It had been a year since my last stage performance. I
> completely beat stagefright many years ago, but it doesn't mean I  
> don't get
> a little worried about my abilities once in a while.  Tonight I was  
> worried
> about all the improvising and some of the directions, but it went  
> rather
> smoothly. A few small hickups in movements when the parrot was on the
> pirate' arm or shoulder, but all due to the fact we hadn't  
> rehearsed our
> interactions. It quickly became easy.
> I thank goodness for puppet-induced split personalities, and for stage
> managers backstage!
> I'd love to do such gigs again, and work with that host again. She  
> was a
> true profesionnal, and a fun blast to work with. I've rarely seen  
> someone so
> flexible and understanding in front of chaotic circumstances.
> She treated me like a fully qualified and equal colleague, despite  
> her many
> more years of experience as a host and performer. We came up with  
> ideas
> together. I find that refreshing!  She was already a huge fan of  
> puppets, so
> that must have helped.
> It took a while for my parrot to be annoying enough to her that she  
> could
> bare to be a bit harsh with him on stage, as her pirate character  
> required.
> We played with that a lot on stage. The hosting bits turned into  
> its own
> storyline, where parrot and pirate get into a big fight, separate  
> (parrot
> gets an audience member to adopt him), and get back together, best  
> pals
> again.
> I'll have time to take pics of the puppet in about two weeks.
> Then I'll post them online.
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