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Can Anybody Be Puppeteer?

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by Buck-Beaver, Oct 6, 2008.

  1. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I read a great quote today from Alan Cook, who runs the Int'l Puppet Museum in California and has got to be one of the most knowledgeable puppeteers I have ever met:

    "...one phrase Betsy used frequently in her puppet courses, was "anyone can be a puppeteer". My brain would say to itself, "anyone can be a brain surgeon too, but I would be careful which one I picked."

    Call me elitist if you will, but this made my day.
  2. CoOKiE

    CoOKiE Well-Known Member

    I too disagree. I've seen REALLY bad puppetry. And its NOT for everyone. Its a talent you either have or don't.

    As it may come easier to me then others, I too once thought its for everyone, but was sooooo wrong. Not everyone can move the mouth correctly... they open their whole hand and not just move their thumb.

    Thats the hardest... however the most common is not matching the mouth with your words.
  3. Frogpuppeteer

    Frogpuppeteer Well-Known Member

    when i started puppeteering at my church this was the issue i had with the other kids, they could grasp the mouths move to words concept
  4. practicecactus

    practicecactus Well-Known Member

    My high school music teacher would say "everybody can sing.. Absolutely everybody can sing. Some are terrible, and some are better than others, but everyone can sing."
    Just because ya can do something, doesn't mean ya should.
  5. wes

    wes Well-Known Member

    Of course do not think any body can be a puppetry, I can give you a few examples.

    1. I had a Young Girl that was real smart(book smart) top of her class, I tried teaching her the skills need to work a puppet properly. She could never put it together I explained how to do it and i worked one on one with her but she never could pick it up. And she was not stupid, she was really upset that she could get it.

    2.My sister knows how to do puppets very well we learned growing up together. i mean she can do it as good as me, She just doesn't like it. She needed a job and i gave her one working for me at Zoo city's puppet theater and after years of not doing it she pick it up like she had been doing it for years, I was floored!

    these two events makes me think that not everyone can do it and other may do it flippantly, but who would wnat to watch a show they do.

    My three cents worth.
  6. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    This is really a tricky issue; on the one hand I think it's important to be as supportive as possible of anybody who wants to be involved with puppets and resist the urge to be dismissive or discouraging. On the other hand, I also think it's equally important to acknowledge just what a difficult art form it is and that there is a great deal of skill involved.
  7. Melonpool

    Melonpool Well-Known Member

    I think it is something that can be learned -- although it's a lot more commitment than a lot of people want to put into it. I had to work really hard to get to the skill level I'm at now, but truth be told, I'm still not the best puppeteer in the world. I'm a much better builder than a puppeteer -- but I've been blessed to know three very natural puppeteers and have learned a lot along the way.

    I think the biggest mistake a lot of potential puppeteers make is that they believe that they're brilliant puppeteers from the get-go -- and they refuse to listen to any criticism they get along the way. But, these are the same people believe that they can do-no-wrong at baseball, retail work, acting or art. Or, they give up really soon when they realize they aren't the best thing since sliced bread in these fields.
  8. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Reminds me of the movie Ratatouille where Chez Gusteauv's motto is "Anyone can cook".

    My opinion, is similar to that of CoOKiE, SOME people CAN pick it up, BUT, SOME people CAN'T.

    The main problem? It's like just about every muppeteer have said over the years: it LOOKS easy, but it isn't necessarily so. Especially when you're doing SERIOUS multitasking (working the head with one hand, working the hands with the other, watching the monitor to make sure the set up looks right, reading your lines at the same time).

    However, I'm sure if some people who are genuinely interested in puppetry, and practice at it long enough, they can get it; even Frank Oz says it took him about ten or fifteen years to get used to the whole production of all of the multitasking, but he did say some people just simply can't.
  9. KaityDid

    KaityDid Member

    i'm in a group at school, we do educational theatre (ironically, we're called the Educational Theatre Company, ETC if you will) and we do puppets sometimes. we use the Kids on the Block puppets. it's really hard to the syncing down right between your words and the movement of your hand for the puppets mouth. and then holding up the puppet is a lot of hard work. one of the puppets has a really huge head and is really heavy and makes it hard to hold her up. at the most we're holding the puppets up in the air for about 5 minutes or so, it gets to the point where you have to hold your arm with the hand that isn't holding the puppet. it's fun, but it's a lot of hard work.
  10. Teenager's

    Teenager's Well-Known Member

    I believe that Puppetry can really only be learned by the individual...and Not taught...
    it takes too long to learn for it to be taught by an institution.

    I also believe that Puppetry chooses the person...and they're born with the ability to perform the tool......It may take years for them to realize it....but it'll come out eventually.
  11. Pork

    Pork Well-Known Member

    What you guys are saying is true I think. Just wondering...is it possible to be a puppeteer...without being able to do voices. Like, being a backround puppeteer or something. Because I really love using my puppets, but, um, yeah. They are all mute it seems. I do practice voices...when I'm home alone...and nobody else but me will hear my lame attempts. Anywho...just wondering. (and sorry if this is off topic)
  12. ChickyBoy37

    ChickyBoy37 Well-Known Member

    Frank Oz once said that it takes 10 to 15 years to be an expert and some people just can't do it.
  13. Teenager's

    Teenager's Well-Known Member

    Yea!.....But there are of course other styles of Puppetry that don't need voices---like table-top, shadow, rod etc......

    But I think you can work toward those voices---just don't think as "cartoony" think naturalistic.....just change your pitch if you want and try moderate accents..

    A lot of times though the puppet brings the voice and talks when it wants to......so spend some time with it on your arm, in front of a mirror, sitting in a chair etc....and wait....it'll speak when it wants to.......don't try to force a voice through the puppet.

    It's sort of like mask work.....performers stare at the mask (sometimes for days) until a character comes out from the mask & it tells the performer.
  14. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I think so; some people are best at the puppetry, but not necessarily the voices, meanwhile, some can do great voices, but can't really work puppets well (ala Marilyn Sokol). That's how dubbing works.

    That's what I said six posts ago.
  15. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    I am pretty much with everyone else that puppetry cannot be taught easily. As much as people don’t want to comprehend that, it’s something that cannot be learned overnight. Seeing bad puppetry is something that probably makes all of us groan. Like someone opening their whole hand and not just their thumb and not moving any other part of the puppet’s body not only looks bad but doesn’t show any real skill. Like D’Snowth said, it takes many years to become a master puppeteer; I will admit there are struggles I can’t even get past yet as a puppeteer. There is no harder performing art.
  16. DannyRWW

    DannyRWW Well-Known Member

    hmmm... on thought is also that there are different formats for puppetry as well. I have really tried to do more video work, but I find sometimes I freeze up or do it all wrong (lip synch, movements, etc;) because I am worried about watching myself on a monitor (I'm not very proud of much of what I have done on you tube). I do fine when I use puppets behind the stage, but I can always see room for improvement. Of course it is interesting watching early muppet work and you can see this as well. Myfavorite style of opperating my puppet is similar to what they do on avenue Q with the puppeteer in the open. Much more comforting and great for working with toddlers. Being a teacher I have a lot of opportunity for this. It seems when I perform this way everything goes smoothly (lip synch, movements, etc;).

    I agree with the comments about not discouraging people who are new to this. I work with children and I would take a passionate (and humble) puppeteer over a skilled puppeteer any day. I have worked with children who have a gift but no heart. I much more prefer the ones who try to learn but love puppeteering. I've seen a few who I can see in years may be great puppeteers. Passion can lead to skill if someone is willing to work at it. I think I've wanderd off here a bit but I think passion and commitment are the keys.
  17. Pork

    Pork Well-Known Member

    Cool, that's good to know. Thanks for the tips about voices too, I will keep my puppet with me more often. :)

    That's good to know, thanks. :)
  18. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    Actually, another quote from Gusteau from that movie fits perfectly with this thread, too. (Modified for obvious reasons)

    "You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true - anyone can be a puppeteer...but only the dedicated can be great."

    Doesn't that define us so truely? :D

  19. Frogpuppeteer

    Frogpuppeteer Well-Known Member

    i find this true, you cant teach it cause some people just wont pick it up, puppetry is a thing were you have to learn yourself
  20. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I kind of clung to this opinion for a long time (you could probably dig up years-old threads on here where I advocated it), but I just don't think it's so. The problem - as I see it anyway - is that the vast majority of puppeteers who try to teach puppetry are largely self-taught and aren't formally trained so they don't really know how to teach it themselves.

    If you study math, you learn via a system your teacher learned how to teach. There may be more than one method (some are better than others) and the methods may be updated and changed over the years, but they are part of a centuries-old tradition of teaching math. That's equally true of dance, acting, illustration and most other artforms.

    Puppetry doesn't have the same teaching tradition unfortunately. Until about 100 years ago, most puppeteers were highly secretive and the only way to learn puppetry was to apprentice with a puppeteer for years or try to copy on your own.

    BTW, I am not suggesting you can't be self-taught and be a good puppeteer, just that ineffective puppetry training is usually the fault of the teacher/instructor.

    There is just not enough good puppetry training available.

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