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Steve Whitmire Lecture/Workshop at the Center for Puppetry Arts

Discussion in 'Muppet Headlines' started by MelissaY1, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. froggiegirl18

    froggiegirl18 Well-Known Member

    It's hard to even put into words what the event has meant to this puppeteer and Muppet fan. I went this past Sunday. The lecture was amazing. For me it took the basic of what I know about character development a step further. He also spoke of what it meant for him when he landed the role of Kermit. It was great to hear these tid bits of behind the scenes. We also saw some clips from "Sam and Friends", which I had never seen before so that was a huge surprise and also a clip from "A Frog Prince", which I had not seen any of it since the early 90's..so that made me super happy(I was little when that movie came out and it was one of my favorite). The workshop was fantastic too. I had so much fun, I'm going to try and go on Saturday morning for the lecture if there are seats available if not I signed up for the morning lecture on Sunday and the last workshop. And don't be super bummed about missing this..I was bummed when I read on the forum about a Muppet week in California I think in 2003..I was in college and could not afford to go..I was sooo bummed..so you never know..just stay tuned and also if you are a puppeteer get plugged into the puppeteers of america your guild members can be a great resource too. :0)
  2. froggiegirl18

    froggiegirl18 Well-Known Member

    Actually that Muppet event mentioned wasn't in 2003 it was in 2001..I was bummed because I didn't even know about the event until two years after..as in I found out about it in 2003..the event was Muppetfest. Oh and don't get me wrong about don't be bummed..Steve is doing a fantastic job teaching..I just wanted to give some encouragement that you never know what neat events are just around the corner.
  3. stephenjlizard

    stephenjlizard Well-Known Member

    I'll be at the lecture & workshops Saturday and maybe part of Sunday. Look around for me & say hi!
  4. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    I won't have much else to do so I'll be looking to hang out at the Center on Saturday and then do the lecture and workshop on Sunday.

  5. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    The countdown has started. Tomorrow morning I'll be on a plane for Atlanta. Woot.

  6. DrmaticEmphasis

    DrmaticEmphasis Well-Known Member

    Just came back from my very long drive... absolutely loved my Whitmire experience today... though I was SO tempted to steal my puppet.

    If you went to the Sat. lecture or especially the Sat 3:00 workshop... Would love to hear how you liked it :)
  7. JoeyMuppet

    JoeyMuppet Well-Known Member

    My trip today, to see Steve Whitmire

    First of all, my mom and I left our house in Villa Rica, about 9 this morning, to see Steve Whitmire's Lecture/Puppetry Workshop. I really wish I could've told him this.. but I honestly loved getting to go to it, and getting to meet and puppeteer with him, this afternoon.. honestly made my day. I really enjoyed the lecture that he gave.. everything that he talked about relating to the Muppets and puppetry in general, really made you think and realize what all goes into being a puppeteer.. and also how you have to take your emotions(or words), from your head, move it through your arm and then bring it through what your doing with the puppet. When I got ready to go to the 3pm workshop, I was pretty nervous and scared.. but as soon as the workshop started and I really got into it, everything changed right away. I agree most of my group were adults, but that didn't change anything.. we all worked as a group and we were all there for eachother. Also.. while I was puppeteering, this afternoon, I got afew laughs from the people in my group and plus what really made my day.. were the various complements that I got from Steve Whitmire. After I got done.. I changed from a nervous teenager to a guy who was grinning from ear to ear.
  8. Puppetainer

    Puppetainer Well-Known Member

    Just finished up with the lecture and class. What an amazing time! Met up with a couple of fellow forum folks while there too! It was a terrific time and totally worth the 30+ hours of driving! Unfortunately there are STRICT limitations on any kind of photos or recording so I only have my memories and some photos of the outside of the Center. Wish I could share more.

    I thought that it was a very generous offering by Steve. It's something new he was experimenting with and I was excited to be a part of it. I could see that his lecture is in it's early stages and will get even better with time but I enjoyed all that he had to offer. The class was a great (if all too brief) hands on training in the basics of puppetry. Focusing the eyes and working on our lip synching skills all under the close supervision of Mr. Whitmire. That was the highlight of the day for me I know. I hope he chooses to offer further classes in the future!
  9. TravelTravel

    TravelTravel Member

    Thanks Steve!

    A big THANK YOU to Steve Whitmire, the Center for Puppetry Arts and The Jim Henson Legacy for offering this wonderful learning opportunity!

    It was a thrill to experience the lecture and workshop, but more importantly, I was happy to see this master sharing his expertise with current and future puppeteers to carry the puppetry art form forward.

    I especially enjoyed Steve's point that SUBTLE movement is essential for television puppetry. Bigger movements that play well to large rooms in live performances often become over-magnified on the screen. I noticed definite improvement in our performances by the end of the workshop.

    The workshop was perfectly organized and there was not a moment of wasted time. Melissa Whitmire had a big role in making it run so well. We were lined up by height (shortest to tallest) before walking into the room, which meant the camera could gradually be raised as each group of three performed. The puppets were numbered with medallions on their chests, which made it easy for Steve to provide personal feedback about specific puppets in the shot. The whole event seemed very generous ... the sharing of information, the gentle feedback, and the well-planned use of time.

    One big way we can all thank the Center for Puppetry Arts (and encourage them to offer similar training in the future) is to become a member. The cost is only $45 to join, and members receive significant discounts on workshops, performances and museum store purchases. As an example ... Steve's lecture and workshop was $30 for the general public, but only $10 for members! Membership info is available at www.puppet.org.
  10. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    Just got back to work (and my computer access to internet(s).

    I will post thoughts and dishings as soon as I'm able (after I stomp out a whole passle of fires at work and in my TVTV life)!


    (I took detailed notes) :)
  11. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    This is the body of an email I just sent to a friend. I figured that since it was a good description, I'd copy and paste it here to save myself some time.

    It was interesting in the lecture... as Steve was explaining things and getting us to understand the underpinnings of what makes a Muppet a Muppet, I thought to myself, "Somebody should tell the suits at Disney this stuff."

    Within several sentences, Steve divulged that this was mostly the verbiage that was assembled to do just that... explain the intrinsic worth and function of the Muppets as a property... so the Disney Execs could stop trying to apply a formula to the Muppets when they already had a very successful and much more far-reaching formula already their own.

    I was also happy that Steve recognized me right off the bat when he walked in. He seemed genuinely surprised to see me. Which is just fine. He said hello.

    I'm glad that I had a favorable impression on him from St.Paul. Later, in the workshop (which was basic, yet did MUCH to guide me to understanding more about performance AND how to teach that material to my own people here), he called me out by name... which maybe he cribbed from my sheet, but it was still very nice to have that recognition. NOTE: He also talked with several others he knew. It wasn't just me. I don't want to give the impression that the experience was all about, nor enhanced for everyone else by Steve talking about me. C'mon... I got an ego, but not that much of one. :)

    He mentioned the shoot on Extreme Makeover : Home Edition and wondered why I'd make the trek all the way to Atlanta and I told him that we'd started a conversation in St.Paul that we didn't finish, so I had to come to Atlanta to do so.

    He apologized for not being able to actually talk with me one-on-one, but the workshop was going to have to move forward and that just wasn't possible. Perfectly fine. I knew that. I also knew he'd be completely ragged out after two days of lecture and workshops! The man is a masochist! LOL!

    What I didn't express was that he was going to be answering my questions WITH the workshop. They all pertained to the basic training techniques that I needed to impart to my puppeteers on TVTV. So, no matter whether it was a direct conversation or me taking copious notes, I got the answers I was looking for. At least for starters.

    On the subject of Steve, I couldn't have imagined a more patient and generous teacher. His guidance was direct, firm, and patient. And it was nothing less than a fantastic experience.

    Every participant (that I spoke with) was very interested in a continuing course. Moving to more advanced technique and more camera time. And I am certain that a much larger fee could be extracted for such an event. I mean, really... 40 dollars? That's insanely cheap for the experience we were treated to. That having been said... the next course will probably be $500 and I won't be able to afford it! LOL!

    Anyway, it was a tiring weekend.. and the main focus was only 3 hours of it! Lots of walking... I didn't have a car!

    Met some cool folks from here on the board. Looking forward to hearing from you guys!

    Finally, I gotta share this. And I'd hoped to share it with Steve but didn't get the chance.

    After the lecture on Sunday I was standing next to a daughter and father in the CFPA at the Jim Henson lobby exhibit. The little girl was watching the video that was playing next to the case that contained an ACTUAL Big Bird body puppet. When Big Bird appeared on the video, the little girl grabbed her daddy's hand and started saying, "Daddy! Big Bird! Big Bird!" The "object" in the showcase wasn't Big Bird to her. That image... the CHARACTER on the screen... THAT was Big Bird.

    Which totally illustrates (quite succinctly) the thrust of Steve's lecture. There are intangibles involved with the value of Muppets.

  12. RomanaFraggle

    RomanaFraggle Well-Known Member

    That was.. kinda beautiful. That last part there.. it was *so* true.

    I mean, I remember hearing somebody say that learning about the Muppets (as in, seeing the puppeteers do their work) takes a little away from the magic.. but that simply isn't true. In fact, it seems even more magical to me.. because that character is coming from such a normal looking person (even though the video clips of Steve had him with some pretty wild hair XD)

    And that's what made me want to try puppeteering. If I could play a character and be me at the same time, like these incredible people, I can learn to be just as comfortable with myself as I would be playing a character. I don't know if that makes sense, but.. it makes sense to me. :)
  13. lynxminx

    lynxminx Member

    I've been lurking for a few months...didn't think to check here before attending the Whitmire lecture since it's not a local board....you long-distance travelers is crazy! I'm not a puppeteer- the workshop was my first experience- but I live in Atlanta, so it was easy enough to drop in (Sunday 1/17, 3pm).

    Not to harsh anyone's mellow, but the lecture could use some honing. He got a little cosmic for a 1-hr (or for that matter, 10-hr) lecture. Not everything can be reduced to a flowchart, but an outline or procedure for building or deconstructing a character, based on the principles of sentience he discussed, would have been more practical. The workshop by comparison was a total blast, and I hope he might consider doing longer classes or series of classes at the Center some day.
  14. DrmaticEmphasis

    DrmaticEmphasis Well-Known Member

    I 100% agree... you could tell he was very very not used to doing lectures. He was not very good at bringing things back to his original point. He also read his slides... which is the #1 no no of doing lectures...

    But hey... if he does more, he will get better at it... and may I please volunteer my services, Mr. Whitmire, in making your powerpoints look nicer. hehe
  15. DrmaticEmphasis

    DrmaticEmphasis Well-Known Member

    You know something that really surprised me about the lecture though, was the audience. For some reason, I just thought it would be more women than men. I just didnt think this stuff appealed to guys as much as girls... I guess I always knew that 90% of the Muppeteers were men... but... I dont know... I was surprised...

    Im prolly insulting 70% of the board, but I really dont mean it like that... I just for some reason always assumed it was a girl thing... maybe from ex-boyfriends telling me it was... but the audience was a good majority of the male persuasion.

    I was just surprised.
  16. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    Well, as far as the lecture goes, he did say that it was basically the information he assembled to explain the Muppets to execs at Disney... which kinda takes it out of the "educational lecture" category and places it more in the "business presentation" category... which is really a different animal (no pun intended).

    He was digging into the philosophical DNA of the characters to bring us all around to his flow of thought. Maybe it was too deep for a 1.5 hour lecture... he had to skip the final six pages of his presentation for time... but it wasn't like it didn't apply. Could it have been a little more succinct? Yes. But he's an artistic guy who's job necessitates being absorbed in detail and minutia. I can't blame him for his presentation style.

  17. lynxminx

    lynxminx Member

    Yeah...reading through this thread (which I should have done in the first place), it sounds like he made it further into his material on other days, and some of that material dealt with expressing sentience through a puppet. Wish I'd gotten a chance to hear...:/

    It was all pertinent, just broad in scope for the time allotted. Consciousness is a huge and widely-discussed topic. Puppetry not so much...
  18. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    Anybody else go?

  19. wes

    wes Well-Known Member

    yeah I Did...

    I agree with some above the Lecture was a little deep, I'm glad i didn't bring my whole group after all. It was exactaly what i teach but with alot of Five dollar words...But hey the guy works in Hollywood.

    Know the workshop was awesome! I love the hands on stuff and i learn stuf i really never knew.

    I didn't think i would learn anything new...but i did, and i didn't really understand how much different T.V. Puppetry was from Live puppetry.

    I guess my only issue was i wish they could have been longer and that we could have had more time with Steve it Felt abit rushed...but if i had all those classes to do i'd be rushing to...but i have to say the whole thing was organized very well...like a fast well oiled machine.
  20. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    I understand the desire for more. It was a great learning experience and I'm sure that if Steve was more of an Energizer Bunny than he already is, he would have made the classes 2 hours long just to be more than fair to everyone.

    And I'm not playing apologist here, but for $30 (non members)? I'd pay 3 times that much just to sit in a room with Steve Whitmire for an hour and a half listening to him spin tales much less actually get instructed and coached in tv puppetry basics by him.
    I got no complaints.

    One of the things I was purposely doing during the workshop was "participating" from the sidelines. When I was sitting in the chair, I had the puppet on and was working along with the folks on-camera. At least in lip synch and non-over-the-head ways. When Steve was talking about the little dip in the voice in a song and telling us to take advantage of that in the performance, I would face my puppet towards myself and work it along with the music. Might as well make the most of "down time", right?


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