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So you want to audition for the Muppets?

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by Sweetums74, Jul 29, 2005.

  1. OverUnderAround

    OverUnderAround Well-Known Member

    That's why it's 'occasional'... no need to relocate. Disney will just fly you to the event.

    Henson Muppeteers fly around the country for one-day events as well. Kevin Clash and others have done this many times. Fly to an event for one day, and then fly back home. Does it make economic sense? No, not at all. But that’s marketing and publicity for you.

    By the way, when I spoke to Todd a few weeks ago, he did say that the Occasional Muppeteer would be given two or three weeks advance notice of an event they would like them at. I guess that would give them time to learn a script and receive their travel itinerary. So it doesn't look (at least right now) that these Occasional Muppeteers will be called to work on a moments notice.

    Kynan, I notice your in Australia... Here's a question no one has asked you. If you were here in the USA...would you audition? Such a Muppet fan as your self should audition. C'mon! We need folks as your self to audition to preserve the true Muppet spirit.
  2. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    That's what I love about my ol' pal Kynan! He's not necessarily 100% one-sided as he's willing to look at things from different perspectives while still arguing his position on all this. :) Rock on!
  3. Blink

    Blink Well-Known Member


    You are 100% correct. I spoke with Todd last month and I was the one who got the list of muppet charcters that are being looked for. What I didn't post about was that during my conversation with Todd he said that there would most likely be about 3 understudies per character.

    My two cents is that Disney is looking to get the Muppets brand out to a wider demographic/and with more visibility. When you think about it, it makes a lot of good business sense (realize that I said "business sense"). I am not condoning the ethics of Disney focusing on the brand rather than the characters.

    And I must say that there is a lot of logic and excellent points in what Kynan is saying.

    However, I must also say that as a puppeteer I am more than excited about having the chance to audition to be a Muppeteer (after all that is what people will be doing). I know that the great many people who will be at the auditions will have a deep love and respect for the Muppet characters and will carry that with them if they are actually cast.
  4. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I don't think I can call myself a Muppeteer if I were to do that, though. At least, not without putting "Occasional" in front of it first, and even then it wouldn't sound right. Those guys we all know and love are the true Muppeteers.

    I would have to give myself the following title: "Puppeteer for Muppets Holding Company, LLC, Who Gets To Play With Really Cool Puppets" :zany:

    If Todd sees this, though, be sure we get to play with Penguins!
  5. Blink

    Blink Well-Known Member

    Good point.

    I guess you would have to find out what the actual title would be. Even if I had the word "Occasional" in front it that would be very cool.
  6. orionlukteel

    orionlukteel Member

    Whew - managed to read each and every post! All I can say is best wishes to everyone who goes!

    I'm about 4 hours from LA, and even though I do a killer Kermit, Waldorf, Stadler, Pepe, Animal, Dr. Teeth, and Rowlf, my puppeteering is limited to child care. :p

    I do just want to pass on a note from Dave Goelz that he sent in response to my awkwardly written letter back in 1993:

    "Just DO it - take every opportunity you can to work on your puppeteering. I was with the Muppets for xx years before I started to feel comfortable!"

    Sorry, don't remember the number of years, I don't have the note sitting in front of me :) but the rest of the note was VERY encouraging and he gave me contact info for job opportunities there. Didn't ever sound to me like someone who was worried about having understudies!

    Best of luck to all of you. Who knows, I might join ya, but I just don't have the hands...
  7. Kynan Barker

    Kynan Barker Well-Known Member

    No, OverUnderAround, I wouldn't audition. First and foremost because I know that being a Muppet fan, in itself, isn't enough. Being able to do a "pretty good Pepe" isn't enough.

    Have I had professional puppeteer experience? Yes I have.
    Have I had professional acting and improvisational experience? Yes I have.
    Have I spent 20 years watching the Muppets, learning and absorbing everything I can? Yes I have.
    Have I always harbored a little daydream that one day I might answer the door and be asked to sing backup for the Mayhem? Well...what the heck, I'm among friends here...Yes I have.
    But do I think that's enough to earn me a place as a Muppeteer? No, sir, I don't.

    I can't speak for everyone here, and I've repeatedly said that I don't want to discourage anyone from auditioning. You're right, OUA, the Muppets need people with heart and commitment to preserve their spirit. But personally, I would audition only under very specific circumstances.

    (i) I'd want to know that the established Muppet performers had been consulted and were in full support of the casting process.
    (ii) I'd want to know that training and support would be provided to ensure that each new puppeteer was fully prepared for the rigors of public performance.
    (iii) I'd want a guarantee that I would only be understudying my character in instances when the originating performer has been asked to perform, but was physically unable to do so.
    (iv) I'd want to know that (while the original performer would have final veto) as a custodian of the Muppet characters, I would have the ability to protect their integrity where I see fit. In other words, as Miss Piggy's understudy, I'd want to be able to say, "Miss Piggy wouldn't do that," without getting replaced by someone less difficult to work with.

    And finally...

    (v) I'd want to be really seriously fully prepared, personally and professionally, for a huge and instant onslaught of criticism from the rest of the fan community. 'Cause we Muppet supporters can be really very mean.

    Thanks for asking, OverUnderAround.
  8. Kynan Barker

    Kynan Barker Well-Known Member

    Thanks for posting this, Blink. Does this change anybody's perceptions of the auditions, I wonder?

    Three understudies per character means four separate versions of Gonzo, all claiming to be the "real" Gonzo.

    I don't doubt for a second that all the successful auditionees will take their positions extremely seriously. My concern isn't that the characters will end up in incompetent or uncaring hands. My concern is that the characters will end up in multiple, competing hands. And that's going to happen no matter who passes these auditions.
  9. OverUnderAround

    OverUnderAround Well-Known Member

    I agree with your guidelines Kynan.
    Maybe you should put them on your site as a sample of how things should be. :)

    I would just add one thing to your guidelines, like one understudy per puppeteer.

  10. Kynan Barker

    Kynan Barker Well-Known Member

    "Guidelines" isn't quite what I had in mind, OUA. Those are just the requirements I'd want satisfied in my own mind before I personally went to audition. (The ultimate requirement would be that I'd have to actually sincerely want to be a Muppet performer. And right now, I've got myself a pretty happy career not being one.)

    Well, as Blink has just posted, that one looks like it's already gone out the window. I would be interested to see what information Todd can provide on my other questions though.
  11. Secret Squirrel

    Secret Squirrel Well-Known Member

    OverUnder. I'm not auditioning either. It's true that to be a performer takes a certain amount of self-confidence and ego. But to me, it's the height of arrogance to think that one can simply pick up a Muppet and become one of those characters.

    It seems the current generation of understudies has made it appear like anyone can do it. But the fact that David Rudman can play Cookie Monster doesn't mean anyone can. It isn't just luck that earned Steve, David, Eric etc their positions. Talent, hard work, dedication. An unbelievable amount of all of those things. Combined in just the right way. In just the right people.

    In my view, it's an insult to their work to cite those guys as justification for open-slather cattle-call casting.

    secret squirrel
  12. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I admit, newbies to the world of The Muppets DO get some tension from the fans--but, are we mean or just picky? Besides that, I don't think anybody who's auditioning will be going on TV or movies or some such.

    I just still don't believe that any of the original performers are going to be bumped from the important performance needs. I just don't think they want to be popping up at every mall, school, etc. I mean, there's a bunch of malls around.

    Arrogance? Nah. Little Richard said there's a difference between being arrogant or sure of yourself. LOL! (He's a trip!)

    Still, who doesn't want to work with the Muppets?? An audition has opened up. What better way to get into the gears of a great machine and become a part of it than open auditions? What other way is there, anyway? When was the last time the Muppets even had auditions?

    Whether it's this job or not, nothing is easy in the beginning. It all takes a certain amount of practice, education, study...simply watching things over and over again on TV isn't going to be the practice you need. You need to have skill in the beginning and then form that into talent (stands true for any type of acting, even cartooning, painting, wall paper hanging).

    Even the guys we all love started out small, with small parts, and worked up to starring positions. It all has to begin somewhere. Why not this?

    I agree with the statement that if someone does a 'pretty good Pepe,' that's not promising! Either you're SURE you can do something, or you're not. Needs to be as spot on as possible!!

    But, we can't nay-say until we know the full extent of what's going on...and right now, we just don't.
  13. Kynan Barker

    Kynan Barker Well-Known Member

    Has anyone asked them?

    There's been quite a few comments here and at TP suggesting that maybe mall and school appearances are beneath the core performers. That Steve is too big a star these days to show up at a college graduation or a cruise ship, and it's an insult to even ask him.

    But Steve Whitmire isn't a star. Kermit the Frog is a star. Kermit's the one on the Walk of Fame; Steve just holds Kermit up while he's working. If this hierarchy of personal appearances is true, and a mall appearance is beneath anyone -- it's Kermit the Frog. Why isn't anyone here saying that Kermit (six-time romantic film lead Kermit!) is too big a star to show up at some random bookstore signing?

    If Steve's too big for the mall, then so is Kermit. Having some other performer do the gig doesn't mean Kermit's not slumming it. It means Kermit's now slumming it in a lesser performer's hands.

    If the mall is worthy of Kermit the Frog, then by gosh it's worthy of the best Kermit there is -- and that's Steve Whitmire.

    I'm a Little Richard fan, too. I sing along in the shower and everything. But I'm not gonna audition to BE Little Richard.
  14. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't audition to be Little Richard either. I mean, he makes make-up look good. HA HA!! Besides that, Beaker did a good job of it on Muppets Tonight. That Little Richard impersonation just can't be beat!

    Well, not so much that the mall appearance would be beneath Steve, per se; but, what if he's busy? What if he's appearing on the national news?

    Macy's did a big thing at the smaller mall here in Memphis recently. They brought down the big ol' Kermit balloon from their parade. Would something as small as that be worth Steve's time? Could be. Who wouldn't want a trip to Memphis for some blues, soul, and BBQ?! Is it something he would have time for? Depends on the projects currently underway. Disney is a business, and they want the money for the character appearance--they don't want to miss out on it.

    Obviously, if he's coming to Memphis, he's got a place to stay (whether work or visit) cause my door is always open to friends!

    But, still, I don't want to work in this crazy old insurance office forever. This would serve as a puppetry gig that a fellow could get paid for, something folks in Memphis just don't want to do (even the schools). It's also a way in to working with the Muppets down the line (not necessarily as a main character, but maybe for some other type show down the line). Other than this, what opportunity will a fellow have to get his foot in the door? If there were alternatives, we'd all hop right to it, I'm sure; but, this just doesn't come along every year...or every decade. Puppetry--especially the Muppet franchise--is something I'm desperately passionate about. It's what I love (cartooning is second)!

    Besides just loving it all, I'm truly fanatical about The Muppets and the performers. If I felt any of this posed a real threat to the Muppeteers, I would worry about it, sure. But I don't. I just don't see this as a threat to the jobs of the people we admire so much. They can't be reckoned with as far as the talent goes, and I don't think Disney/MHC would threaten their integrity as performers by doing this if a plan wasn't in place to benefit everyone on some level. I'm quite sure Disney/MHC agrees with me on that.

    Anyway, we only just learned about these auditions last month. You have to know that it's been in discussion longer than this, probably even back to the days before Oz even began filming.

    I was thinking back, too, on the fans' judgement of the performer. I don't think anybody will be getting TV or movie jobs from this (maybe background performers). There are more casual fans than those of us who live, breathe, and eat Muppets day-in and day-out (and I know I'm one of those kind of folks). But, who didn't complain when the reins of vocalizing these characters went to the new performers? Who didn't complain, too, when characters such as Rowlf or the EM Band went silent? Who complained when the JHC had a dry spell and didn't do anything with the Muppets? Who would complain if Disney/MHC didn't do anything with the Muppets? We all did/would. And we continue to complain about things and the reason is that we ARE big fans, and we all DO love the Muppets and the Muppeteers! It's our opinions as fans that we think we have the best interests of everyone at heart; but, do we really? Is it the best interests of the characters or performers we really have at heart, or our own fanticisms?

    That's a deep question! (Also seems like the opening to an episode of Sex in the City, don't it?) :p

  15. Kynan Barker

    Kynan Barker Well-Known Member

    If Kermit the Frog's live on the national news at the same time as Kermit the Frog is appearing live at a parade, then Kermit should get himself a new manager. No other star is expected to be in two places at once, and I can't see how it makes Kermit more real to be given the power to defy physics.

    Why is it suddenly so important that Kermit be everywhere at once, Kevin? Why now, at this time, has it suddenly become crucial for the Muppets to be in every town in America simultaneously? I've been following these boards for a long time and I don't recall anyone ever putting forward an argument for multiple Muppets until now.

    The fact that Disney has the money to do it isn't a reason to do it. Disney could put Muppets on the moon, doesn't make it a good idea. Disney could melt Muppets down and drop them in the water supply, Disney could grind Muppets up and put them in our vitamins, Disney could intravenously inject Muppets directly into our brains, but you know what? I think Kermit's got plenty of airtime as it is.

    You've said often enough that you don't see how this could threaten the jobs of the Muppet performers. You know how I feel about that. But forget that. Let's talk about how this is a good idea. Can anybody really make the case that Multiple Simultaneous Kermits actually HELPS the Muppet characters?
  16. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Not necessarily at the same time, but say Kermit is expected on Good Morning America at 8:30 am, and then there's a parade appearance at 11:00 am. Who's to say someone's gonna see both? Besides that, maybe it's a deal where they want someone cramped into the trunk of a car to have Kermit wave to the audience as grand marshall (poor Steve got that job years ago, bless his heart), and then at 3:30 pm in New York, they're making the video for that night's Kermit appearance on a nightly talk show. It doesn't all have to be considered as simultaneous, just all the same day in different parts of the country. How could he be in New York that morning, Memphis that afternoon, and New York on TV that night? Magic! The stuff Hollywood is made of!! :zany:

    Can't necessarily bring up how it actually can help the Muppet characters. But, there's a lot more things they could do with the Muppets this way. They could send some Muppets to childrens' hospitals/charities. That would help a LOT of the kids by making them happy, and happier children heal quicker (this is the reason Muley and I are ALWAYS down there at St. Jude or Ronald McDonald House). I dunno what else to throw out there, honestly.

    Still, I'm sure the discussion's gone on longer than just recently when we all found out about the auditions, and I'm sure they have a plan in place. I don't think they'd just hop out there doing stuff without a planned itenerary. After all, you run off the fans, you run off the money.

    But, still, what other way is there that someone could get in with performing with the Muppets than these auditions? This is it. The very thing everybody wanted to see happen, and now there's folks who don't want it to happen. We as a fan-base will never be satisfied, whether it's a new show (Muppets Tonight) or a movie (Muppets From Space) we've still found reasons to complain--but, as fans, that's our job! :crazy:

    Edited to add:
    I hope you don't think I'm being direct with you or anything, right? We're only having discussions..and I'm sure you know what places I'm just playing in the text, right?
  17. Was Once Ernie

    Was Once Ernie Well-Known Member

    Yikes! I was going to just stay out of this... but my judgement seems to be impaired this afternoon... so, I'm jumping into the fray.

    There are already multiple Mickeys running around the theme parks. I haven't heard anyone complain about him being in two (or three or ten) places at once. As long as they don't run into each other... which they're very careful about.

    As far as what Disney is trying to do... they're trying to re-energize the franchise. They want to make the Muppets an important property again. Do I think they are doing this for philosophical reasons or a love for the characters? No, I'm not naive. It's all business. It's show business. Everything they... or anyone else in business... do, is to make money.

    And no matter what they do with the Muppets, you can't kill great characters. I thought at one time that they had killed "Tom and Jerry". There have been soooooooo many lousy versions of them... the Chuck Jones shorts, the Gene Deitch shorts, the Filmation show, the 70's Hanna-Barbera show, the Film Roman feature where they talked! But none of those things killed them forever. If there's money to be made, they'll come back. (And by the way, they are coming back in new cartoons.)

    So, I don't think an alternate performer at a mall opening dilutes the real Kermit in any way. For that matter, the REAL Kermit is dead. But we have his body of work on video tapes and now some DVD's... hopefully more in the future. As far as I'm concerned, the real Muppets died with Jim.

    So, once you get into replacements, does it really matter who or how many replacements there are? I think not.

    You're all getting yourselves into a tizzy over things you have no control over. They're just puppets. They're puppets that we love and have touched our lives in a special way, but they're still just puppets. Worry about something else.

  18. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I promise ya: I won't "tizz" on anything! LOL!!

    I see the debate from both sides, honestly. And I realize that all the folks posting are good folks and have good intentions. I'm not fighting with anybody. I love everybody!!

    Except whichever of my neighbors keeps putting his cigarettes out in my mint planter!
  19. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

  20. Jinx

    Jinx Well-Known Member

    OK, to invoke the broadway idom YET AGAIN:

    One thing we must all remember is that the muppet characters are fictitious characters, the same way that The Phantom in The Phantom of the opera is, the way Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is, the way Grizabella in Cats is, the way Rod, Princeton et al in Avenue Q are. Granted that because of their history the Muppets have extremely well-developed characters, but they are fictitious ones nonetheless.

    For years you could have Phantoms, Jean Valjeans, Grizabellas etc. perfoming in separate cities simultaneously, and yes all of them were and are the real characters, under the auspices of their respective licensed producing agents.

    I've heard all the moaning and crying that "no one could play the Phantom like Michael Crawford". And having seen him in the role I would have to agree. But I've also seen some excellent performers in the role: Davis Gaines, Joseph Dellger, Franc D'Ambrosio, and Peter Karrie to name but a few. All of the above were very different from one another, but they were all, without exception, true to the essential character they played.

    If we were auditioning to perform as Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, etc we'd probably have a problem. They are actual people. But another person performing the roles that these gentlemen have done such wonderful things with in no way diminishes them. Neither performer nor character.

    As someone who has loved the muppets for the past 36 years I love the purity of the "originals" but I have also come to love the new Muppets, and yes, even the replacements.

    One last point to ponder, since we're all playing "what if?".
    What if it was Steve, Dave and the others who requested alternate performers? We all seem to be really good at speaking for the needs/wants of these people without an inkling of their positions on the matter... We also pretend that we know the ins and outs of running a huge business operation like the Muppets, when I would dare to say that there's probably not one person on this forum who would be qualified to speak for the needs of the company.

    As my former boss used to say, "In my humble but accurate opinon, the conjecture has gone way too far."

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