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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. Puppetainer

    Puppetainer Well-Known Member

    I agree with both viewpoints. That is to say, yes the lecture seemed a little rough and first draftish, but it WAS COMPLETELY worth it! As I mentioned in my earlier post I was more than happy to be a part of Steve's beginning to explore this whole lecture idea. I'll gladly pay $30 and more to be a guinea pig! Or any other kind of pig they need!

    As for what Gordon was saying about using down time in the class...I was in that class with you buddy and doing the same thing! In fact I was working over my head much of the time while I was sitting down. Even though I couldn't really get a read on what my performance looked like in that situation I really wanted to continue practicing it that way as it does dramatically change what you're doing.

    It was an amazing and all too brief hour and a half! Though I had previously learned the basics of eye focusing and lip synching it was a VERY informative experience. How can you beat getting hands on instruction from an actual Muppeteer with over 30 years of experience? Answer: You can't!
  2. lynxminx

    lynxminx Member

    I would absolutely have paid more for a longer class- I'd pay even more over time for a set of classes! Since it appears a lot of you travelled to attend, I'm not sure what kind of enrollment he could expect for a local program; but I went on a random day and incidentally ran into two guys I work with on the local theatrical circuit...both were thrilled with the experience. In addition to the folks in the CfPA constellation, there's a healthy burlesque/vaudeville scene here in Atlanta, a disproportionate number of improv comedy troupes...there would be butts in seats.
  3. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    Get hands on instruction from a Muppeteer with over 31 years of experience?


  4. dwmckim

    dwmckim Well-Known Member

    Get experienced hands on a Muppeteer?
  5. RomanaFraggle

    RomanaFraggle Well-Known Member


  6. DrmaticEmphasis

    DrmaticEmphasis Well-Known Member

    I would LOVE to get some... hands on instruction...

    sorry... couldnt help it.
  7. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    Steve's wife might have something to say about that.


  8. loosetoon

    loosetoon Member

    The best feeling in the world was getting a slap on the shoulder or back from Steve saying you did a good job. When my wife was up taking her turn syncing to "Takin' Care Of Business" with Steve and another fellow, they were taking solos back and forth, the other puppets would stop and watch the soloist. It was an amazing, organic performance and we were all cheering and applauding. I got to do a similar solo when it was my turn with "Carry On My Wayward Son". Then during the final portion where 6 of us were up all at once syncing to all 6 songs, every now and then I would feel Steve's puppet head popping me on the back. Hilarious!

    I went ahead and made my own versions of the 6 song edits we worked with in the class to continue to practice!
  9. haakonsmary

    haakonsmary Well-Known Member

    What was the entire list of songs?
  10. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    aside from those mentioned:

    Another Brick In The Wall
    Wanna Soak Up The Sun
    Bohemian Rhapsody (non-Muppet version)
    Time Warp

    And one more I cannot remember. I think. That'd make seven which would time out for two each.

    My notes on the workshop are as follows. I don't think I'm really "giving anything away" since the true value of the workshop was having Steve there to guide us through these exercises. The exercises themselves are extremely basic, but it was the personal instruction that made all the difference:

    Ex1: Eye Focus
    Three people with puppets get up and get on-camera with their Steve Whitmire (tm) Brand training puppet. The puppets were extremely simple affairs with no features other than a mouth and eyes. No arms. Just a body and head. Each was numbered and color coded for reference.
    The three on camera would practice looking directly into camera, looking away, and looking back again. The lesson was to get comfortable working "backwards" on a monitor and get the feel for what establishing and maintaining eye focus with the puppet was like. Steve coached everyone along the way, standing behind us, with his own puppet. He'd make suggestions and sometimes physically reposition us so we could start getting a "muscle memory" for what height and position was like. Steve also gave detailed guidance as to how one stands to maximize your arm strength and to keep from sinking or falling over.

    Ex2: Lip Synch A
    Again, three people on camera with Steve behind us. You'd think that lip synch would be something natural, but its not. So the first part of lip-synch is simply making your puppet drop his jaw and say "ahhh". Steve would cue us to close the mouth. Its harder than it looks. Maintaining eye focus, height, and position as well. What comes of this is basic lip-synch. When a puppet talks, on the very ground level, without a soundtrack, he's basically just opening and closing his mouth in an "ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh" way. But there's finesse that gets added on top of that. However, we're all neos... so he encouraged us just to work on the basic mouth move. Maintaining the puppet upper lip level to the bottom of the frame was also a parameter.

    Ex3: Lip Synch B
    Three people on screen with Steve behind us. Using the basic techniques from part A, we recited children's nursery rhymes manipulating the puppet and trying to achieve a competent lip-synch to our own voices. Each group did a different rhyme repeated several times over.

    Ex4: Lip Synch C
    Two people on screen at a time with Steve behind us. People were chosen (in pairs this time) randomly from the group to go up and lip-synch to a single song clip. The list of songs is above. Each one had a different feel to it, and different challenges with the lip synch. Steve would help us to recognize where we might give it a little extra finesse due to a cue in the music, like the singer's voice change or warble or breath. Subtle stuff that he encouraged us to make use of in performance. Stuff that just adds another layer of reality to the illusion of your puppet being alive.

    Ex5: Lip Synch D
    Half the group up in front of the camera with Steve lip synching to ALL the song clips in a row. Quite a task since we'd all been putting our arms up through the exercises previous and we were starting to get a little raggedy. Of course, Steve was unfazed by the workout (and the two previous that day!). At least he SEEMED not to be tired. Either way... solid that man.

    And that was it. At least in a Reader's Digest condensed version. I have to stress that there was SO VERY MUCH MORE being taught in that workshop than what I've noted above. Steve was constantly talking, encouraging, correcting, giving out instruction, and guiding our posture, our performance, our on-camera skills, and more. Plus it was done in an amazingly giving and nurturing way. No hand slaps. No barking. And by jove it worked. I watched some of the inexperienced folks in the class visibly improve in just that short time. It was really amazing to watch AND to participate in.

    If this particular workshop is offered again, I encourage anyone who is serious about manipulating puppets in the "Muppet" style to sign up and go. I honestly believe that this is a VERY worthwhile thing for experienced puppeteers and non-experienced puppeteers alike.

  11. loosetoon

    loosetoon Member

    Gordon, it was just the 6 songs. The songs were edited in such a way as to make each clip last about 1 minute each. I made my versions from memory and I think I got them pretty darn close. I loved the way each song was designed to add just a little something else to the instruction. First was "Another Brick In The Wall" which was pretty straight forward lip sync. Then "Soak Up The Sun" added some longer held notes. Each subsequent song added a little something more for the puppet to do while singing, just like Gordon said.

    Here's a link to where you can DL my song edits: http://www.mediafire.com/?fjifuzjzunj
  12. haakonsmary

    haakonsmary Well-Known Member

  13. MelissaY1

    MelissaY1 Well-Known Member

    Those are all an interesting selection of songs. Steve is a known huge Rocky Horror fan so it's no surprise he chose Time Warp, and actually that's a perfect song for beginning performers as it has the different parts, male and female and also different speeds that you can learn mouth movements, etc. For example, Columbia's part is faster paced.
  14. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    It was so short a clip that we didn't get to that part. He was using it mostly to get us an example of a sung word that's been drawn out vocally. "And then a step to the ri-i-i-i-i-ight." "Pull your knees in ti-i-i-ght." "..its the pelvic thru-u-u-st that drives you insa-a-a-a-a-ane." That sort of thing.

    And good examples they are.

  15. MelissaY1

    MelissaY1 Well-Known Member

    Ah, that makes sense as well. I've been reading your posts here about the workshop and lecture and it sounds like it was an amazing experience. I've been friendly with Steve since I was 13 years old (I'm now 32) and I last saw him in 2003, and the last time before that was 1999, and I smiled at your post in regards to how he recognized you and acknowledged you when he saw you at the workshop. That's exactly the type of guy he seems to be. I'm glad you found the workshop informative and fun. I hope he considers doing a tour with it and comes back to the NYC area.
  16. maniacal muppet

    maniacal muppet Well-Known Member

    I was there! It was so awesome! Hes such a nice guy, and the class and lecture were both very informative. :)
  17. James Denny

    James Denny Well-Known Member

    I think the next time Steve is in the U.K. he should give his lecture, love to hear what he has to say and im sure im not the only one who would either. :):p:coy:
  18. froggiegirl18

    froggiegirl18 Well-Known Member

    You can hear part of the lecture in his interview on Muppetcast I believe episode 147..found at Muppetcast.com. Steve mentions quite a few things that were also in his lecture.
  19. James Denny

    James Denny Well-Known Member


    I'll check it out

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