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I'm going to be a puppeteer in Little Shop Of Horrors!

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by Zack the Dog, May 18, 2008.

  1. Zack the Dog

    Zack the Dog Active Member

    Hi guys, long, long ,long time since i've really posted much, but i just wanted to say that i got the part to be one of the puppeteers for Audrey 2 in a fall production of Little Shop of Horrors. This is going to be at a classic opera house theater in my area too and is not a high school production btw (not that there is anything wrong with high school productions but i graduated back in 2002!l lol!):)

    I can't wait! rehearsals start near the end of August and the show with 9 performances is in October! The puppets i saw and used were amazing and of high quality, i nailed my audition and i know that the directors really liked my lipsnyc with the plant! Little Shop has always been my favorite musical and i loved it when i finally got to see it live on stage when it was on tour back in 2006. It's always been a dream of mine to play the part of the plant and this really is going to be like a dream come true! I've been waiting for this chance for years!:zany: I acutlay one day hope to be in another production of the show someday and be the voice of the plant as well, but I know, one thing at a time! lol! It's just so exciting! I don't wanna wish the summer away, but I am really looking forward to it! I got my call back on April 1st and it was no April Fools joke!:insatiable:
  2. Colbynfriends

    Colbynfriends Active Member

    Nice Job man, i am so happy for you.
  3. Teenager's

    Teenager's Member

    Awesome! Congrats man!...what a Venue to play at!

    So are you a part of a team of Audrey puppeteers?
  4. Tztz

    Tztz Member

    "Zack the dog"?
    :-O
  5. Blink

    Blink Member

    Hey, great job Zack! Nice to see that you are keeping busy with the puppetry. Amazing news buddy.
  6. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    Congrats, Zack! Puppeteering Twoey remains one of my all-time favorite roles, having done the show three times. One thing I'll say right off the bat, (if I understand you correctly) you mention wanting to voice AND manipulate the puppets.... well, you'll soon learn that it's one or the other. There is no way you would be able to do both simultaneously, as they both require a LOT of breath, and in very different ways. The first time I did the show I lost 15 lbs, it's that strenuous.

    For me the biggest "workout" was in pod #3 during Feed Me/Git It. Fast & furious! But pod #4 is the duration test, and it's obviously the heaviest puppet.

    Any "advice" I would offer would be to work upper body conditioning leading up the rehearsals. During rehearsals and performances, apart from the obvious stetching exercises make sure you stay properly hydrated. This is EXTREMELY important!

    It's a grueling role, but you'll have a BLAST doing the show.

    One last thing to remember: the story is about Audrey and Seymour, not Twoey. She's the third leg of the triangle, but not the main star. It's really such a brilliantly constructed script without an ounce of fat in it.

    Have fun and keep us posted!
  7. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    Yay! Congrats and good luck! My school is doing LSoH next year and, as everybody knows here, I'm trying like crazy to make sure that I'm the Audrey II puppeteer.

    That's actually helpful advice for me, too. I've been working out since we ended the musical last year and I'm seriously hoping for the best. Do you think it would help to bring a puppet with me to the auditions or make a demo reel with some puppet videos done by me on it?
  8. That's great Zach...glad to see you on the boards again.
    I know your puppeteering will be awesome, because it is!
  9. Kye

    Kye Member

    Congrats! I just finished playing the role. Did you have the puppets there for the audition? nice!:)
  10. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    I think that bringing a puppet to use would be the best. A demo reel is going to have a different "vibe", and it lack the spontenaeity of performing live.
  11. Luke

    Luke Active Member

    Zachary, this is an awesome and most momentus day, i always said you'd go far! (at least thats my story)
  12. Zack the Dog

    Zack the Dog Active Member

    Thank you very much everyone! Yes i have been very busy and i hope to post around here a little more when i can!:)

    Teenager:
    Yes, the director said there would need at least three puppeteers.

    Kye:
    Yes they had the first and third versions of the plant that i tried out. i also brought a puppet frog of my own and did some improv for the directors. just to show them my puppeteering abilities in general.

    Jinx:
    Thanks for all the advice Jinx! luckily i have been working out already and i could already tell that it will be a difficult task, but one that i will LOVE! Oh and yes i know that i could not do both the voice and puppet at the same time. I know that both are always done differently. i said that i would like to be in another production of little shop one day and be the voice of of the plant then.

    Tztz:
    Yes that's me!
  13. Ilikemuppets

    Ilikemuppets New Member

    That's amazing Zack! Hope everything goes well!:)
  14. dkmontgomery

    dkmontgomery Member

    Great!

    Congratulations! :)
  15. ShiveringCactus

    ShiveringCactus New Member

    Oh, wow, I'm really glad I found this thread. First of all, congrats, Zack the Dog, I know how nerve wracking it is hoping to get that chance!

    I'm going to be puppeteering pods 1 and 3 in a local production in a few weeks and I'm pretty nervous. I haven't even seen the puppets we'll be using so I don't really know what to expect - anyone got any tips for handling the pod 3 (other than the upper body conditioning) ? Do you have one arm in the bottom half of the pod mouth and one in the top? I guess that's probably a pretty dumb question but... :o Also, just how heavy is it likely to be?

    Thank you,

    Deb.
  16. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    Cactus-

    Who's puppeteering pod #4?

    The puppets I've used for pod #3 had my upper body and right arm in the upper portion of the pod, and my left arm in the lower. Legs dressed in the usual root configuration. Seatbelted into the pot. The pod weighed approx 20-25 lbs (9-11k), but of course they'll vary according to materials used, etc.

    While operating I was basically leaning over onto my left side to keep my right hand straight to the top of the puppet and my left hand to the bottom.

    Keeping in mind the basic principles of lip sync, you want the lower "jaw" to do drop, rather than lifting the upper, so the left arm had a LOT of fast movement to do!

    (I should mention that in all productions I've done, the plant was stage right of center. If it had been stage left, I would have had my right arm in the lower pod and vice versa for the sake of easier body positioning.)

    One thing that makes pod #3 the ultimate workout is working the legs in the roots independently of the arms/body in the pod. This is where the seatbelt becomes the anchor point.

    All of this results in using your muscles in ways they're not accustomed to. I'd say to log as many hours as possible in the puppet, to get used to it. Remember too that you have to remain absolutely still inside the puppet from the Closed for Renovation scene up to Feed me/Git It. The first time I did the show I thought I'd pass out from the heat before the puppet even did anything! But with repetition, you get used to it and it's not a problem. Also, after the audience sees the pod not moving for about 20 minutes it comes as a BIG surprise when it not only moves but speaks! The effect is completely worth the wait.

    During the dentist scene I would rest a bit, breathe a LOT, and put the tongue puppet onto my left arm. I could then reach through an opening at the back of the "throat" and then into a small slit near the lips to regrip the lower jaw handle. As Seymour comes to feed Twoey, I could lip sync for the "Feed me! More!...more!" lines, then drop the lower jaw to wag the tongue about and assist in "swallowing" the parts coming in. To finish the act, do a big lick of the lips (accompanied, of course, by a nice slurping sound from your voice actor). We'd then end with a nice "ahhhhhhh" from the voice, and I'd flop open the mouth and let the tongue undulate.
  17. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    Jinx:

    Wow! That was pretty in-depth. I appreciate that. Could you maybe follow-up with that and talk a bit about what performing pod #4 is like? I've seen a video demo, but they weren't really clear about the inner workings. :concern:
  18. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    Well, since you asked...

    Pod #4 is another world unto itself. One of the biggest challenges I faced was a voice actor who wanted to speak very quickly. At first he balked when I asked him to slow down so I could lip sync. I figured that the only way to get him to see my point of view was to switch places and put him in the puppet. I’ll just say that he came around quickly and became a great performing partner.

    Pod 4, when built according to Martin Robinson’s How to Audrey II is operated generally in a crouching position. The puppeteer’s feet are in contact with the floor though an opening at the base of the pod. There are two shoulder straps that criss-cross and attach to the lower pod. The lower lip is operated by a strap that connects at the very front of the puppet, at the lower lip. The upper pod is operated by a crossbar that runs across the pod left-to-right. I padded this bar with a piece of pipe insulation, which made it easier on my hand, and also protected the “eating” victims. When Twoey is particularly menacing the pod is lifted from the floor and rested on the knees to give her some height.

    I would crouch facing about 45 degrees off-axis to the left, allowing my right arm to remain tucked closer to the body. This allowed me to lift and lower the upper pod faster than if I faced straight-on with the puppet. For basic lip sync I would lift the upper pod, keeping it essentially level while lowering the lower pod with the strap. So the right hand was going up and down in tandem with the left hand going forward and backward.

    Eating Mr. Mushnik was fairly easy. He would knock on the pod and I slowly raised the upper pod, allowing the lower pod to simply rest on the floor. Once inside, Mushnik would crouch slightly and I would chomp down very quickly, and immediately open the mouth very wide and Mushnik would fall back onto the lower lip and I would chomp down across his chest while he shrieked. (We referred to this as our tribute to Robert Shaw in Jaws.) During the fall he would hook his ankles around mine. Then I’d open wide again and he pulled himself into the pod and execute a third chomp. Then I immediately stepped to the side, standing sideways in the pod to allow Mushnik passages to scramble out the back as quickly as he could. While he was making his escape I would “chew” vigorously with the upper pod, not raising it more than a couple of inches, and accompanied by appropriate vocal effects from the voice actor. Once Mushnik had escaped I would stop the chewing which was the voice actor’s cue to take a one second pause and then erupt in a large, evil laugh. This allowed me to open the pod wide and demonstrate in a natural way that Mushnik had been “digested”. It was a GREAT way to end the scene.

    For scenes with the “grabbing branches” we had our timing carefully planned so that I would slightly move the pod to match the actions of the arms. I have seen productions where the arms move and the pod is still. This makes them look like separate entities rather than a single plant. When Audrey first gets chomped at the end of Sominex she was the one in charge of the ensuing thrashing about. I could really do nothing but go along for the ride, and a good actress can really sell it. When Seymour rushes in to save her Twoey laughs and I would just go straight to the floor. After the Somewhere That’s Green reprise we had it timed so that right when the offstage chorus begins singing their “ahhhhh”s the pod would very slowly open. Seymour would place her in, getting her head as deep into the plant as he could, but leaving her lower legs protruding. I would, again very slowly, close the pod over her. Audrey would grab either the upper pod’s lifting bar or my ankles (I always preferred it when she grabbed my ankles somehow:) ...). In preparation for the “big slurp” I would ever so slightly rock the pod forward to sync the pod, Audrey and the voice together. As the pod rocked back Audrey would slowly pull herself the rest of the way into the pod while the voice slurped. The voice and I would then do some very gentle chewing and a swallow, then fall to complete rest.

    Seymour’s final confrontation was a bit of a challenge. Fist the gunshots. We had to be very clear at what points he would fire the gun so I could slightly recoil to their sounds. For one production, when he fed the rat poison we had a tube arranged with a squeeze bulb. The end of the tube had been loaded with powder so I could squeeze the bulb to expel the “poison”. It was an OK effect, but I’m not certain it was worth the effort. Once he pried open the pod with the machete I aimed the pod downstage left. Seymour ran to that corner of the stage after the “...I’ll hack you to bits” line. I had opened the pod this time by standing wide and raising the top of the pod with my back and shoulders. Seymour finished his line and RAN and dove into the pod. I immediately slammed down the pod and began chewing violently while Seymour escaped. (with a running start it didn’t take long!) On his way into the pod he deposited the machete right at the front of the pod. This was the only way we could devise where I could find it every time. So I had crawled into the mouth to the front to get the machete, “chewing” all the while. Once I stopped, the voice actor would take a beat and then belch while I opened the mouth only enough to allow me to toss the machete downstage center.

    Getting ready for the finale needed to be carefully drilled with everyone involved. I stood and moved the pod as close to center stage as I could guess. An assistant would come and place me specifically while others attached the finale branches. While waiting for the curtain to raise I would make sure the trunk “skirt” was in good position simply by kicking it into place so I would not trip over it.

    Right at the line “Look out, here comes Audrey II” I would begin inching straight downstage. I never wore shoes in the puppet so I could feel where I was at all times. I would move all the way downstage until my toes reached the edge of the stage. This would leave a majority of the pod hanging into the audience where I could appropriately menace the audience. On the very last “Don’t Feed the Plants” I would raise the upper pod as high as I could and lower the bottom pod as low as I could so I could execute one last huge chomp right on the button/blackout of the number. I’d pause for a 3 count to make sure the stage was in total blackness and then run backwards upstage as quickly as I could. I knew to stop when I ran into the set. Then I collapsed until it was time to pop the pod and come out for my curtain call.

    Hope this info is helpful! Any questions, just ask.
  19. ShiveringCactus

    ShiveringCactus New Member

    Wow, thank you so much Jinx, that's a big help!

    We'll be getting the puppets a week before the show starts so I will try to get as much time with it as I possibly can.

    I'm not sure who's doing pod 4 yet. They said it could either be done by one big guy or a couple of smaller people (apparently the one they've got is controlled by some kind of lever system from behind rather than a person inside) so I may end up doing it yet, just depends whether they find a big guy instead.

    Thanks again for your fantastic posts, sounds like you did an amazing job as Twoey.

    Deb.
  20. Zack the Dog

    Zack the Dog Active Member

    Thank you as well Jinx! This is all helpful and interesting information!:) I just got the dates of the shows and when we start practicing in September. I can't wait!


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