By Amy Harder
See, I’ve got this little performance in a couple of weeks at I-Fest and–glutton for punishment that I am–I have been building all the puppets and props for it. Like this guy to the left… my first true expedition into the wonderful world of reticulated foam and Antron fleece. VeggieTales fans may recognize the caricature. He’s gonna be the narrator for my puppet interpretation of “47 Beavers and the Big Blue Sea” which will incorporate an interactive video background. (Hopefully… I’m still getting that together!) By the way, do you like the guitar? It’s modeled after a ukulele that my mom got in about 1954 when she went off to summer camp. But this one is MUCH lighter… it’s carved from insulation foam. Kewl, eh?
There will be a couple of blacklight numbers in my show that are going to feature some bunraku-style puppets. The guy pictured to the right will be rigged so that I can control his whole body myself. He’s a fun mix of the Pinhead and Melonhead patterns from the ever-helpful ProjectPuppet.com. If you’re needing puppet patterns, check ‘em out. Great stuff, easy to do, clear directions, love it.
The other blacklight characters are a new incarnation of stretchy puppets that have been bouncing around my brain for a few years. There are three different shaped characters in this line and I finally got a chance to bring ‘em to life! I’ll be bringing in a crew of my nearest-dearest fabulous puppeteer friends to help me with these guys. They take three performers per character and they’ve got some great possibilities. Of course, now I’m getting myself into a rut with all my stretchy weirdness… Hmm… What does this say about the way my brain works?
But coming up with crazy puppet designs has been just part of my last few weeks. There’s also the I-Fest museum preparation (you’re welcome, Susan) and getting ready for my eight workshops. They have recently posted the complete I-Fest schedule, but for those interested, here’s a listing of my classes with nifty little del.icio.us links to more resources and info related to each class. Be impressed.
Hands-On: Working with Video Monitors - Unlike traditional stage performance, video puppetry provides the performer with immediate knowledge of exactly what the audience will see. Working with monitors is a skill that takes time to acquire. Whether you’re looking at television puppetry, webcast performance, or recording clips to use in children’s church, you’re going to need to know how to use monitors. We’ll try new things, unleash possibilities, explore limitations, and discover the benefits of developing new skills. You will receive a DVD of your practice.
NEW! Ten Secrets for Puppeteers and Directors - So you know how to select your pieces and move your puppets. But how do you make a performance that really connects with your audience? In this class, Amy will share essential details of acting, staging, and composition that are often neglected in the puppet world. Techniques and creativity are just part of a good performance; Come learn some important secret ingredients so you can give your audience the whole enchilada.
No Puppet Is an Island: The Art of Interaction - Appropriate puppet actions and reactions are extremely important to the believability of your puppet character and overall performance. Play along as we explore ways to interact with (and react to) what is happening around us in the stage.
Hands-On: Let’s Play - Puppetry Improv - Loosening up and playing is such an important part of getting to know your puppet and being free to flow. We’ll explore exercises and games to work on character development, drama basics, and live performance skills. We’ll all be learning to open up and play our way to better improv skills. Participants will receive a CD rom and packet. Directors are invited to come observe the class at no additional charge.
It’s All in the Wrist: Nuances of Puppet Head Movement - Get ready to go way beyond lip synch and eye contact. Your puppet’s head movement—from positioning to forming words—can make your character lifelike or kill the puppet’s believability. Play along to learn performance secrets that the professionals use and practice tools to develop these new skills.
Web Essentials for Creative Ministry - So, you think your puppet team should have a web site but you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you have a site already but you’d like to liven it up a bit. This class will provide some basic information about how to plan and build a ministry site, and suggest tools to better manage, expand, and promote it.
Hands-On: The Harder Moves - This manipulation class, for intermediate to advanced puppeteers, will explore some of the more difficult moves that can be done with a regular rod-arm puppet. Be ready to play along as we break down movements such as 360-degree spins, swims, claps, and complex choreography including tap, Irish, and swing moves.
NEW! What I’ve Learned About Puppetry from VeggieTales - Everyone’s favorite talking vegetables can do so much more than tell us Bible stories, they can also teach us principles of movement that we can adapt right into our puppetry! Don’t believe me? Join us as we analyze eye focus, poses, and body movements that show emotion and define the characters, and then try them out with a puppet! Bring your favorite puppet and be ready to play along in this unique class for puppeteers of any skill level.
So, it’s gonna be quite a time, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends, making some new ones, and putting faces to screennames. If you’re headed to the conference, make sure you come find me. Oh, and for those of you in the Chicago area–the evening programs are open to the public (tickets are $5). I’m on Thursday night, July 12th, with the incredible ventriloquist Dennis Lee.
OK. Enough shameless self-promotion. You may now return to your regularly scheduled surfing.