Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thoughts on a puppet festival

As if I don't have enough interests in my busy life, when I heard about a puppet ministry festival that was going to be in town this past weekend I decided to check it out. After all, I've always been a huge fan of the Muppets from the Muppet Show. So much so that I bought my daughter a DVD of the original Muppet Movie a few years ago because I remembered how much fun we had when we saw it in the theater. Turns out I loved it more than she, and the DVD soon found its way onto eBay...sigh.

Anyway. Back to the puppet festival.

Another clown had contacted me to tell me about the event and since it was a minimal investment of time and money I went ahead and registered. I thought I might discover a way I could use puppets either in my clowning or with the children's sermons at church. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect.

I guess in my mind, I was envisioning an event more like some of the clown conferences I'd attended in the past. A fairly small group of attendees - less than 100 - and mostly adults. Small enough that when I arrived by myself I'd certainly find someone to sit with and chat to.

Wow! I sure wasn't prepared to walk in to the noise and high-energy of hundreds of middle-school age kids! Who know? I guess puppet ministry must be quite popular in a number of churches. With crowds that large everyone was pretty well paired off with one another so I ended up spending the first evening on my own.

I have to admit I was lost that first night. I have zero experience with puppets and had no idea what was meant by shadow puppets, Bunraku puppets, rod puppets or moving mouth puppets. So I sat in the large auditorium, gazing about, listening in on conversations, all the while trying to determine if perhaps I was in over my head.

The evening opened with a puppet performance, which was quite entertaining, but then we broke away to attend one of five breakout sessions. With no explanation given to go along with the session titles, I debated between "storytelling" and "rod arm puppetry: basics and beyond".

I choose the basics and beyond class thinking it would be perfect for a beginner like me. Wrong! I should have stuck to something I knew, like storytelling. I did learn a few things, but most of the time in class was used for people to practice with their puppets. *Sigh*

So I debated about attending the second day. But, cheap-skate that I am, I couldn't stand the thought of having paid a registration fee and not attending any workshops. So I bravely went back for day two.

Fortunately, this time I ran into someone I knew and was able to sit with her for half of the day. The morning workshop was fabulous and I did end up with some great, creative ideas that can be used for more than just puppetry.

The afternoon breakout session was just okay. The one I wanted to attend was "beginning ventriloquism" because, well, just because it sounded like fun. Who wouldn't want to learn that skill? Sadly, it was held in a room that was too small. We ended up standing along a side wall in an overcrowded room with poor ventilation. I ended up leaving in search of my second choice - "balloon sculpture". *Sigh* That class also was standing room only. Only one workshop had plenty of seating space and while it was interesting it was not only way beyond my level of puppeteering, but it was another hands-on class.

While some of the day was not quite what I expected, I did manage to catch the "I think I want to try this" puppet bug and purchased a few skit books as well as an intro to puppetry DVD. While it would have been nice to purchase a puppet, at approx. $80 per puppet, it was too much of an investment for something I may or may not end up using.

After coming home from the festival, I popped in the DVD and hubby sat down to watch. Turns out he might be interested in learning puppetry with me.

Which means we' re going to need puppets for practicing.

But I sew! Surely I can make one of these puppets.

As I searched the Internet for puppet patterns I stumbled across a fabulous set of videos on how to sew your own moving mouth puppet! Now I can hardly wait to begin creating our new puppets and begin putting into practice a few things I learned this weekend. Who knows? Maybe at next year's festival I won't be the one who looks lost and bewildered. Pin It


  1. I love that you can find a way to fit sewing into puppetry.

    My kids weren't big fan of the Muppets - until I showed them a few of the old muppet show t.v. shows on youtube - now I reward them with The Sweedish Chef videos.

  2. There are a couple of Japanese craft books that have puppet patterns inside! Off hand I don't know of any names, but they are toy books for children under 5. I can't wait to see you create your own puppet!

  3. One-Way Street has a festival in our neck of the woods, too! Both my younger kids are heavily involved in the puppet ministry at church, so I've been to the 'competition' night a couple of times. Wow, lots of interesting stuff! (and I knew what all those kinds of puppets were!)

    I've thought about making some puppets for the kids, I need something else to sew for other people!

    But you can bet I'll be interested in any that you make!

  4. Anonymous6:17 AM

    You should've called me!! I could certainly use a refresher course in puppetry--took one about 20 years ago--still have my puppet too! Glad you were able to get something useful out of it 'tho.

  5. Have you seen the movie "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" with Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman? My second cousin, Kevin Frisch, was the puppeteer in that movie.

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  7. Here's an idea we've used for puppets a couple of times...
    Find a large nerf ball and slice it in half-ish (more like 2/3); the upper part forms the top half of the head and the lower the bottom jaw. You can scoop out the inside to allow your hand in and glue felt, fake fur and feathers for the covering. This gives you a kind of muppety puppet.
    Use plastic ping pong balls for eyes that sit on top of the head. Sew little "hoods" to create the eyelids (also helps hold them in place). These make great frog eyes! Plastic softballs make great BIG eyes!

    ETA: posting this twice due to egregious spelling errors the first time.

  8. Anonymous10:40 PM

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