By Amy Harder
It’s been a couple weeks since the Denver Regional Puppetry Festival, but I wanted to share some highlights of this year’s conference. I was not on the teaching staff at Denver this year, but since the festival took place just a few miles from my house, I decided to crash the party and just enjoy the weekend instead of having to work it. (Yippee!)
Friday night’s puppet song competition brought some fun ideas and interesting creations like these singing African masks.
Quite frequently, we see some coincidentally recurring themes during competitions. This evening was no exception. One style of puppet that came up frequently was bunraku–where multiple puppeteers work together to bring one full-bodied puppet to life. This one (pictured above) was performed in blacklight and featured Springys and Stretch-A-Belly puppets. The three ladies that manipulated the lead singer did a really nice job and were able to capture some fun moves while maintaining the character’s believability. Nice job.
Here’s a couple of the other bunraku-style puppets. The one on the left was performed in regular light in a manner I had not seen before. The puppeteer that controlled the arms of the puppet laid on the ground on her back and used extra long rods. They also got the puppet using the hoola hoop at the end… that was cool. The puppets on the right are Dave Privett’s Hubie Toobies — always a crowd pleaser.
The last competitor of the night performed an amazingly complex number in a football theme, with football players and cheerleaders. You won’t find better double rod manipulation than the three lead cheerleaders… they were amazing! I wish I could have snagged a better picture of this performance. But at least, in this picture you can see some of the prop cheerleaders being thrown up in the air. Too much fun!
It’s always nice to reconnect with friends and to put faces to screennames. With that said, here’s squonk. Let’s hope his pictures turned out better than mine did!
My final picture is not actually a shot from the fest, but from the staff dinner afterwards. My son and squonk’s son took a look at their half-eaten corndog and grilled cheese sandwich and decided that they’d make pretty good puppets, and the half wall behind them was a perfect stage. So, a select group of Red Robin patrons got a one-of-a-kind, funny (albeit mildly disgusting) puppet show by a couple of four-year-olds. Ahh… it did my heart good.