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Any Tips for Arm Fatigue?

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by crazy chris, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    just wondering if anyone else experiences this during live performances...and what tips you might have

    at one point in my show...my main character is in the air for 11 minutes straight... i start to feel the burn about 8 minutes in...

    the way my stage is set up... we stand behind a short curtain (which is directly behind a lower front curtain)... and extend our arms forward at an odd angle... i noticed most puppeteers who do television and film operate their puppets over the head... but i dont have that luxury given the fact that the puppets would be 8 feet in the air...

    i also have issues with my co-puppeteers being somewhat shorter than me... thus making our curtain level needs at odds all the time...so i feel the need to scrunch a bit

  2. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    ps- i wrote the show to purposefully have breaks for the character ...knowing i couldnt extend my arm out forever.... but during this particular segment its unavoidable

  3. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Arm fatigue is a problem for all puppeteers I think. The solution is to develop long term muscular endurance. The easiest way to do that is probably to just rehearse a lot. Other than that, you can look in to resistance training and other forms of exercise designed to increase endurance, especially in your arms, shoulders, and the rest of your upper body.
  4. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    thanks for the tips buck! ive been working out and practicing 3 or 4 run throughs a day... its definately helping....slowly

  5. Puppetainer

    Puppetainer Well-Known Member

    Okay Chris I'm going to suggest a solution that I haven't actually tested out yet but am planning on trying. I'm planning on shooting some puppet videos. We have puppeteers that come in a wide range of heights as well. The larger problem I'm facing though (no pun intended) is the limited ceiling space we have. If I were to build the sets high enough so that even the shortest of our puppeteers was working standing up with their arm above their head...well we'd need to put in a sky light.

    As that is not in the budget I was thinking of using some sort of stools or chairs on casters. This would seemingly solve two problems at once. It would sufficiently lower our working height and as we can adjust seat height fairly easily we could balance the level for everyone. My only real concern is making sure we aren't making "rolling" noises that the mics are going to pic up as we work. Haven't had time to test this whole plan out yet but thought I'd throw that out there for you.
  6. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    good idea puppetainer!

    i actually checked out a couple rolling stools at hobby lobby one day...but one of my puppeteers said they are death traps...lol... he said if ya sit slightly the wrong way...or sit down at the wrong angle...your in the floor and the stool is across the room

    i still wanna try it though....

  7. charlie bird

    charlie bird Well-Known Member

    Hi ,
    I 've usesd chairs with weels in a black lighte performance ,pitch black.I'ts not that hard. In it I actually spinned around a couple of times and used my feet to pool the chair when I went to the other side of the stage.
    I came up with it the same day some one asked me to do the show.It worked great for me ,but if you add 3 more people back there it wont be the same storry!
  8. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    yeah...we have a hard enough time walking passed each other... let alone doing wheelies and stuff...hahaha

  9. Was Once Ernie

    Was Once Ernie Well-Known Member

    Actually, the Muppets do this all the time when they are in a situation where they have to be lower than standing. I actually own the chairs that they used on "The Muppet Movie". I bought them at an auction right after the movie wrapped and I had seen them being used on the set. The really important part is to have back support, so a rolling stool won't work for that. If you have support for your back, it will extend the time you can comfortably have your arms up. Plus, the Muppet chairs can tilt backwards, so your arms can be vertical, which also takes some of the strain off from trying to hold them at an angle. I've been able to puppeteer for much longer periods of time using these chairs.
  10. muppetperson

    muppetperson Well-Known Member

    I suppose this could be an expensive idea, but for characters that have a long performance, you could have another duplicate puppet made and another puppeteer,and build the set so there is some kind of object that the puppet can go behind or aside and do a switch, but still keep talking, to give yourself a break.
  11. Animal31

    Animal31 Well-Known Member

    I don't know how intricate you want to go, but how about rails that the chairs would sit in? They could roll side to side without getting in the other one's way...

    I'm surprised they never came up with some sort of arm rest that your arm could sit in to give you a rest during a performance? Something out of view that would attach to the chair in some way?
  12. SesameKermie

    SesameKermie Well-Known Member

    Another option might be to rewrite the scene blocking so the character ducks out of sight but keeps talking. That way the story still gets told, but the puppet is not in the air so long. Granted it depends on the gag because it still has to be believable, but it might help.
  13. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    thats pure genius!

  14. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    i agree....i tried creating a arm resting bar ...but my puppets have different mouth entrances...some are in the back of the neck...and some are the normal hole in the bottom....so for the ones with the hole in the back of the neck...the arm wresting bar was useless...

    ive actually devised a way for it to work now... my puppet has a furry human hand attachment...which i use alot... but at times the character puts his arm behind his back the way mark twain might when delivering a monologue... i have an 18 inch deep table directly below the front stage and i put 2 milk crates on it behind my character.... i rest the furry arms elbow on the crates and brace my puppeting arm until its recharged... then im back in business for a few more minutes..... so far its working great in practices

  15. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    very good idea!

    my character is sorta the ring leader... and he introduces each of the characters and sings some songs in between... so he just seems to always have to be up there

  16. Jinx

    Jinx Well-Known Member

    You're not likely to find a mechanical solution that works in all situations, although you may come up with something that helps.

    As Buck mentioned, conditioning is the key. We're asking our muscles to do something that they don't do everyday, so fatigue is naturally going to occur. But if your objective is to hold a puppet up for a long time, start practicing holding a puppet up for increasingly long periods.

    I did a show a couple of years ago that required the puppet to be in full view for the entire show, which was about 55 (!) minutes. It was not fun but I had built up the stamina to be able to pull it off.

    One nice thing, at least for me, is that the conditioning seems to have remarkable lasting power. The first time I did Little Shop of Horrors I thought I was going to die, both from the strain of the heavy puppets and the heat inside. The second time I did the show it only took about 2-3 days to come up to speed!

    When all is said and done, fatigue is just part of the gig...
  17. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    woooooooooooow! 55 minutes...thats insane!

  18. Onath

    Onath Well-Known Member

    You would be amazed how strong your arms can be with some training.

    Couple of tips I have picked up.

    First always remember to stretch. This includes you legs, arms, back, hands, fingers, neck, etc... It is no fun to pull a muscle.

    Second any strength training is great. (Pushups, pullups, lifting weights)

    Personally I find that the puppet thing is an endurance excercise.
    One of my favorite things to do is puppeteer while I watch TV or a movie. Basically throw the puppet in the air and lip synch along to the actors. I can sit with my arm up through an entire movie no problem now.

    My recommendation for starting this method.

    Watch a half hour tv show- puppeteer through the show rest at commercials. Try it for one show a day. Then work up to two shows a day for another week.

    Once that gets easy- try going through the whole show and commercials then two shows.

    Once you can get through two half hour tv shows. Throw in a favorite movie and see how far you can get without stopping. Then try and beat that time. Before you know it you will be able to puppeteer for hours non-stop.

    Please remember to STRETCH!

    Hope this helps.

    Becareful you don't work out so much that your forearms are to big to fit in a puppet. I'm on the verge of not fitting into lots of puppets.
  19. crazy chris

    crazy chris Well-Known Member

    great tips onath!

    i will definately use those!

  20. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    Chairs...official Muppet rolly chairs. Here's an image of the one Dave Goelz used on-set when filming Extrememmakeover home edition:

    I saw the underside of it. It had no less than eight casters inside the bendy-board "skirt" at the bottom. The seat portion is from a riding lawnmower.


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