"puppet making"

Behind the Scenes of "The Great Red Ball Rescue"

The Challenges and Rewards of Developing New Work
by Guest Blogger: Sarah Goone, Artistic Intern

Puppet Showplace Artistic Intern Sarah Goone shares her experience assisting local artist Faye Dupras with the creation of "The Great Red Ball Rescue." The show is part of the 2014, "New Year, New Shows" series of world premiere performances by local artists. VIEW CALENDAR

I started working with Faye Dupras on "The Great Red Ball Rescue" a few weeks ago at her studio in her home, which was such a wonderful experience. She let me design and build some important props for her show based off of my own artistic ideas, and really encouraged me to do what I felt was right for the show.

Props created by Sarah Goone for "The Great Red Ball Rescue"
It was another situation in which I would be allowed to have the opportunity to play such a big role and hold so much responsibility for the set of a show. I think that it challenged me as an intern, a student, and an artist in taking the risks to trust my own instincts and skills to create something for another artist’s piece.

Set piece painted by Sarah Goone for "The Great Red Ball Rescue"

Once we moved the show to the Puppet Showplace Theatre for tech week, I helped Faye with her pre-set and am now running the light board for the rest of the shows while I am here. It’s really interesting for me to work the lights because I have only ever been involved in theater as an actor or in stage/costume crews, never in the sound or light area. It’s also great because I get to see the show so many times, and as a new piece of work, I can witness the changes that keep happening.

Sarah Goone and her "The Great Red Ball Rescue" display.

Behind-the-Scenes of "Robin Hood" at Puppet Showplace

by Guest Blogger: Sarah Goone, Artistic Intern

Puppet Showplace intern, Sarah Goone shares her experience working with Artist in Residence Brad Shur on his new production of "Robin Hood." The show premiered this January as part of the theater's "New Year, New Shows" series, an annual event that showcases new work by local artists.  VIEW SHOW CALENDAR

Sarah Goone, Artistic Intern at Puppet Showplace
Hello! My name is Sarah Goone and I am currently the Artistic Intern at Puppet Showplace Theatre for about 7 weeks this winter. I kicked off the season on literally the first day of the year at First Night, where I first met Roxie, who’s acting as my supervisor while I’m at Puppet Showplace, and many other amazing people from the theater and from other puppet theaters. It was a crazy, long first day, but I knew right away that I was in the right place.

Robin's clothes on the clothes line made by Sarah in "Robin Hood" by Brad Shur
Right after the crazy First Night, I started working with Brad Shur on his original production, "Robin Hood." My first assignment was to design and sew tiny clothing items to go on a clothesline in the "Robin Hood" set. I was very grateful that he gave me so much freedom to do so. I am very experienced in sewing but have never made a pattern before, and Brad just told me to try something out and see what I could do. I worked for the day on some little knickers, a few shirts, and a few pairs of socks. It really was not that difficult, and I was pretty happy with what I had come up with, as was Brad.

Guard costume built by Sarah for "Robin Hood" by Brad Shur
After that, he just kept giving me a lot of projects to either completely construct props by myself, or to help prime and sand different props and scenery items that were in the process of being built. My favorite project was to completely re-sew the Guard’s costume because it again challenged my patterning skills, but this time for an actual puppet to wear. It also was a very challenging knit fabric to work with, so finishing the costume felt like I had really accomplished something great. 

Maid Marion's mask, details painted by Sarah for "Robin Hood" by Brad Shur
When I saw one of his shows on the opening weekend, it was so exciting to point out all the things I had made to my roommates who came to see the show with me. I never thought, going into the internship, that I’d be able to say I helped build the set and even got to mend and create some costumes!

Overall, I had an amazing time working with Brad, and enjoyed the times when we’d both be working in the same space so he could tell me about how he got into puppetry, which is very similar to how I did, and he gave me some neat insights into the “puppet world”.  -Sarah

For more information about becoming an intern at Puppet Showplace: VIEW INFO

Around the Puppetry World in Four Weeks

A whirlwind tour via Brad Shur’s “Introduction to Puppetry Arts” 
By Guest Blogger, Holly Hartman, Volunteer Media Consultant

In the past, I’ve brought children to a range of enchanting shows at the Puppet Showplace; since becoming a volunteer, I’ve been wowed by its programming for adults. Boundary-pushing Puppet Slams with excellent live music, touring theater companies, evening classes for puppet fans at every level of experience—all this is available right here on Station Street, along with a glimpse into New England’s thriving puppetry arts community.

One of the highlights of my autumn was taking an adult education course at Puppet Showplace: Introduction to Puppetry Arts, taught by Brad Shur, the theatre’s Artist in Residence.

Week One: Learning by Doing

At our first meeting, Brad demonstrates the basics of puppetry performance with an instant “tabletop puppet”: a plastic bag twisted into the shape of a bird. Thanks to his skill, this weightless creature is strangely convincing. Its chest heaves with breath, suggesting emotion; it looks around at us, suggesting thought; the effort of its slow movement across the table suggests muscle. Minutes into the course, I’m hooked.

Next, Brad passes around a variety of puppets. In trying them out, I realize that puppetry may be the epitome of hands-on learning. Playing with a George Bernard Shaw glove puppet built by Puppet Showplace artist emeritus Paul Vincent Davis shows me how its shoulder joints flex as well as where its eyes focus in space, neither of which is evident from the outside. In using a Red Riding Hood puppet made by Puppet Showplace founder Mary Churchill, I learn that her trademark crochet material moves sinuously with the hand, while the character’s weighted boots fall authoritatively on the table. I see that if you spent time with these puppets, they would teach you how to operate them.

Brad Shur (center) Puppet Showplace Artist in Residence with Introduction to Puppetry Arts class.
The remainder of the class is given to puppetry history, some lip-synch practice with the eyeball puppets known as “Peepers,” and, finally, building a box-shaped mouth puppet from construction paper. This activity will pretty much characterize my experience of the class: a hands-on approach to education that offers a lot of fun in a little time, as well as a lesson in how effective simple materials can be.

Week Two: History in Motion

This time class starts in the theater, where we watch a riveting series of video clips of iconic puppetry: old (Vietnamese water puppets) and new (animatronics), simple (naked hands) and complex (Bunraku), analytical (Burr Tillstrom’s Berlin wall piece) and magical (the giant marionettes of Royale de Luxe). I’ve seen photographs of some of these performance styles on the Puppet Showplace Pinterest boards, but to see them in motion is an utterly new experience, enhanced, like everything in this class, by Brad’s insightful commentary.

For the remainder of the evening, it’s back to the art table to create shadow puppets. Once again, simple materials do the trick. Using cut paper and a brass fastener for a hinge, each of us makes a creature with one moving part. Around the table, paper tails wag and tiny jaws flap.

Week Three: Taking the Stage

We return to the theater, where each of us takes our shadow puppet onstage behind a lit screen, then trades with another student so we can see our own puppet in action. A vaulted turtle drifts down from above, toward the light, then inches its head out of its shell; an elephant undulates its jointed trunk as it struts across the scrim.

One thing that strikes me about our shadow puppets is how expressive the outline of each one is, as individual as handwriting. Also, they are all captivating onstage. Brad points out that this is the only form of puppetry that doesn’t depend on a puppeteer’s skill in bringing the object to life, but instead makes use of the magic of light and shadow. Immediately I start pondering whether I can fit Shadow Puppetry 101 into my schedule this fall. (I can’t, alas—but the course will return next year.)

Next, we begin building rod puppets—using a rod, of course, along with balled-up newspaper wrapped by masking tape, a surprisingly malleable combination of materials. I lose track of what my classmates are doing as I form a pear-like rabbit head and hunchbacked rabbit body. When I look up, I see that the population of the class has doubled: every human is now accompanied by a rustic creature in process.

Week Four: Lights, Puppets, Action!

I’m thrilled to see my half-completed rod puppet again after a week apart. The room fills with the sound of newspaper crumpling and masking tape tearing as we finish building the bodies, then give our puppets rod-operated arms that swivel at the shoulder and bend at the elbow. With these points of motion, plus a turnable head, we have a crew of what Brad calls “robust” puppets, capable of a range of movement—and possibility.

This evening, those possibilities play out via fairy tales. We pair off and use our diverse cast of characters to retell classic stories: in my case, a rabbit and a snowman perform an unorthodox version of the Frog Prince. Working on the puppet stage is a ton of fun, though I can’t quite see what my rabbit puppet is doing through the thin black fabric that conceals our faces. No matter; I can hear the audience laugh.

I took this class hoping to learn more about the history and practice of puppetry, which I did; what I didn’t expect was to spend so much time building and using puppets, which was wonderful. As I walk up Station Street at the end of the evening, two people smile at me; I turn onto Harvard Street, and a little girl at a bus stop grins and clasps her hands. That’s when I remember that I’m holding a two-foot-long floppy-eared rabbit on a stick. I am sorry that the class is over, but I can already tell that it is a gift that will keep on giving.

To learn about upcoming adult classes, click here