Puppets in Primetime...and on the Silver Screen

We at Puppet Showplace love live puppet theater more than anything, but we also know how important TV and film have been to making puppets famous around the world. Our regular Friday evening series, "Puppets in Primetime," is coming up April 16th at 6:30. Come on by the theater for a double bill of classic Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock episodes.

If you're craving more puppets on the big screen, our friends at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge are doing a weekend muppet marathon, with screenings of the Muppet Movie, Labyrinth, and other great films.

When I watch TV or film puppetry I'm always on the lookout for examples of the subtle manipulation techniques that really make the puppets come to life. It's a lot harder than it looks! Not only do puppeteers need to re-wire their brains while performing on camera so they can watch their puppet in monitors that show everything in left-right reverse, but they need to choreograph their movements so they translate well from 3D to 2D.
For a manipulation skill that's also translatable into live puppet theater, next time you watch the muppets try using your hand as a mouth (for extra fun, add a set of "peepers" eyes from our store) and see if you can talk in time with the puppets. Make sure the movement is mainly coming from your thumb rather than your top fingers--otherwise, your eyes would move every time you opened your mouth! This skill, called "lip synch" is one of the first things puppeteers need to master when working with talking mouth puppets.

Bonus: for an example of (intentionally) not-so-great on-camera puppetry, check out last week's episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart where he satirizes RNC chairman Michael Steel with a crazy puppet routine (the puppet appears about 10:30). Funny, or just painful to watch? The character is based on a Sesame Street routine set in a restaurant where Grover waits on a man who keeps sending his soup back. Enjoy!