File puptcrit/puptcrit.0904, message 219

Date: Wed, 15 Apr 2009 12:58:42 -0400
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] High School puppet shows

IMHO, I think there are several reasons for this, the primary one being 
US. Unless we begin to regard what we do more as theater and less as "a 
puppet show" it is an uphill battle. How and why should we expect 
others to see us as theater artists if we don't first see ourselves as 
such? When you think of the Bunraku in Japan, do you think "oh, it's a 
puppet show!"? No, you think of it as theater and the puppeteers as 
artists. Of course we also have to present theater to be seen as 
theater artists. The shows need to bring in as many theatrical elements 
as possible.

Beyond early elementary school, most people are not really interested 
in a puppet show because the vast majority of the work that they have 
seen (or are likely to see) that is billed as a puppet show is aimed at 
an audience of age 10 or below. We, as puppeteers, have often done much 
to reinforce this idea. Yes, I am aware of the exceptions, but they are 
just that - exceptions, and not the rule.

To perform in a secondary education market, and above, I think you need 
to approach this totally as theater. Then you may have a chance to 
crack this market. Of course your subject matter can then be adjusted 
too. I've got two shows which I long to do that are middle school or 
above material. Both are basically tragedies. Beyond the fact the 
material is beyond the level of most elementary schoolers, I don't 
think tragedies would set well with the administration or parents in 
that market. You could do them in secondary or above though.

Material presented is also a consideration. In most cases schools today 
are heavy into programs related directly (with easily understood ties) 
to the material being taught. Regardless of if it is literature based, 
it needs to be what they will be studying. History and science are also 
fairly easily tied to course work. And then there are issue or message 
shows. Not my cup of tea, but a possibility. It becomes not an question 
of "Can I do a puppet show in this market?" but "How can I present what 
they are looking for with puppets?" In other words, you are much more 
likely to present your show if you fill a need than if you first create 
a show and then have to either shoehorn it into a need or manufacture a 
need to fit the show. It's basic business. It's much easier to sell 
fans and water to people who are hot and thirsty than it is to sell 
them heaters and blankets.

Of course selling to this market is somewhat creating a whole new 
branch of your business if that is not what your main focus is, so 
there is the question of how much resources you want/need to devote to 
this. All new promotional material, data bases, contacts, etc. must be 
established. Really, this will be a second business as much as, or more 
than, a new branch because you also need to create a market where there 
is not much of a path already forged. It is certainly possible and 
there are some forerunners. You sited Ann Frank at the Center, and I 
recently saw a production of Hunchback in DC. There are many others 
too, but the main established market is still Family/Children.

Same ideas hold true for college and general markets too. Present 
theater that uses puppets rather than puppet shows and you're more 
likely to get both venues and audiences. Often this means that there 
will be something to sink you mental and emotional teeth into as well, 
but light entertainment theater can work too.


On Apr 15, 2009, at 9:29 AM, Ann Legunn wrote:

> Ever since the Puppetry Center in Atlanta produced Ann Frank I have 
> wondered
> who is doing shows for High School and what are you doing. Does anyone 
> have
> an idea for a good show for that age group?
> I attended Bobbi Box's class at the last festival where he suggested 
> taking
> the books that no one really wants to read and producing them with 
> puppets.
> He also said something that really struck me...that we have no problem
> getting children to our productions and even getting adults to our
> productions but we sort of kiss our audience good bye between middle 
> school
> and college....why?

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