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Whether you're a storyteller like me, a musician, a ventriloquist, or whatever, please let us know more about how you work with puppets without being behind the traditional puppet stage.

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I've long worked without a stage, as I'm mainly a solo act. I basically just perform songs, with my sound system on a table behind me, and me either standing or sitting with the puppet. I have found this works very well, my puppets are large, so can be seen from a distance. Also, they are so animated, the audience basically focuses on them and I just tend to fade into the background. If I can find some pics that show me performing that way where I don't look like an idiot, I'll post them. :)
Vixie said:
I've long worked without a stage, as I'm mainly a solo act. I basically just perform songs, with my sound system on a table behind me, and me either standing or sitting with the puppet. I have found this works very well, my puppets are large, so can be seen from a distance. Also, they are so animated, the audience basically focuses on them and I just tend to fade into the background. If I can find some pics that show me performing that way where I don't look like an idiot, I'll post them. :)

Sounds great. As a storyteller/puppeteer, I may be able to use music, but believe my audience would expect me to do the voice. I know what you mean about the larger puppets. I've 1 puppet that lets me use it for sign language & at times I almost feel like a Japanese traditional puppeteer.
Jim Menke said:
For my marionette variety show I have a rack for the puppets that is covered with a turquoise veleve pleated curtain. I bring the puppets out in front of that for them to perform. I sometimes have hand and rod puppets work over the top of it. Ofter I simply bring the hand and rod puppets out with them on one arm and holding the hand rods in the other hand. I can easily hold the puppet in front of my face when it is talking or singing. If I am holding a conversation with the puppet, I just hold it to one side. Have never had a complaint.

Hmmmmmmm. Great idea, Jim. Rather than necessarily hold a conversation with the puppet. Richard Morse (also from Detroit Puppeteers Guild) often brings out his marionettes & does a walk-around with them. I love his puppet circus.
I rarely work behind a stage, and only do so if I think the age of the audience will better appreciate a "booth" show. I mostly use table top puppets, found objects or toys. I create a stage set that is low enough to work behind or with appropriate openings through the set. I like minimalistic sets.
Some will argue that I tell stories with puppets and objects for support, and not act as a traditional puppeteer. However, as I also work in a traditional manner, I'm afraid that nay sayers and me will have to agree to disagree.

Arnold does a song and dance routine on top of a stool.  He will MC a children's joke telling or talent show up front or at the side of a stage, or hold on to a toy microphone and get kids to tell knock-knock jokes.  That's Arnold next to the clown.

Welcome to "Out Front"! 

Yes, let's hear it for combining puppets with jokes & riddles.  They're so perfect for this & MCing.

 

I'd love to see that song & dance routine.  Dance is the hard part as I learned when my ballerina needed to do the Hokey Pokey.  Feel free to say more about the way you work this.  I'm sure it would interest a lot of us.

Robert Kenneth Gluckson said:

Arnold does a song and dance routine on top of a stool.  He will MC a children's joke telling or talent show up front or at the side of a stage, or hold on to a toy microphone and get kids to tell knock-knock jokes.  That's Arnold next to the clown.

Interacting with the audience through your puppet is "gold". First saw this in Gigi. The one with the song Hi Lilly Hi Low.

Getting the kids to participate is alway a balance with knowing when to cut it off. Many times it is the audience that provides the biggest laugh or bit of business. When I was younger I wanted it to be about the show they were watching. Now it is about "us".

Be safe, well and creative in the new year.

harris
aka dr. laff
I do educational shows for schools, my programs are a combination of magic, music, puppets and ventriloquism. I usually work the puppets over the open lid of a trunk om a tray stand. It still gives the illusion of the puppet being on a stage rather then floating in space. When working with mouth puppets I am a ventriloquist and can have a conversation with them. When using a simple hand puppet, they usually whisper to me and I tell the audience what they say. Hand puppet can pick up props so they can hand me things and do magic tricks.
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If you've ever seen Joe Scruggs, he does everything without a stage. A great Children's performer in TX.  Check out his web site.

I've just started using "Squeeky the Bird", a fabulous long-beaked, luminous green haired medium size bird who squeeks.  Found her at a garage sale, handmade, wonderful.  Her squeeker is LOUD and I can just barely get some softer sounds out of her, so her "range" is limited and it wouldn't be appropriate for her to talk, so I have her talk to me, too, as Bob Conrad describes, then share what she has to say with the audience.

Since we're both in the act, there would be no reason to hide behind a stage.

I already consider working with a puppet to be hiding, since "I"'m not talking half the time!  It's a lot harder being a clown, when we're "on" all the time. 

If it is a full body puppet you can work much like a ventriloquist, if it is just the neck and head it is best to work so the puppet is coming out of something. I use a trunk on a tray stand, and work over the top of the open lid. I stand along side the trunk. My right hand is working the puppet, but you don't see my arm so it gives a much better illusion of life. To the audience the rest of the puppets body is in the trunk.  Hope this helps.

Bob Conrad

A character in the story ... of course... my clown operates my puppet (a vent/stuffed lion) much of the time.  I'm Professor Marvel with a gold top hat some of the time.  The question I have to answer now is, what's the story?  I usually am either conversing with the puppet or just "happen" to be there.  Creating a story or situation is a big step!

 

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