Keeping your puppet at a steady height while on stage is important to the believability that the puppet is real and there is a floor under him/her/it. It is totally unnatural for a puppet to move up and down while on stage; unless he or she is doing squats or playing on a remote lift.
It is, however, acceptable to move from side to side on occasion. This is another technique that will give a realistic feel while helping the arm to get circulation in it. When arms get tired, like with the stargazer, some puppets will find themselves standing in quicksand. That is, the puppet slowly starts sinking down. As the puppeteer’s arm gets tired it begins to lower.
Proper Puppet Posture (say that 5 times fast)
Another thing that happens when the puppeteer’s arm gets tired is the lazy prop. The puppet begins going forward until it is lying on the front of the stage. This looks unprofessional, gives the impression that the puppet doesn’t want to be there, and it could also knock over the stage if you are not careful. I have seen this happen a few times.
I have also seen puppeteers who get away with this mistake go on to make a habit of doing it from the beginning. Let me say that in my puppet troops, if you are too tired to keep your puppet off of the crossbar or using the front of the stage as a rest, then you are too tired to do the performance and I will not let the puppeteer practice.
It may seem harsh, but what’s worse, not letting a puppeteer perform or letting him perform with poor standards and the stage falls over in the middle a performance that someone has paid you good money to see? Plus, my puppet troops are all ministry based, so we do it all for the glory of God and I believe that we should give Him our best.
Puppets should keep a good steady posture the entire time that they are on stage. There are some techniques that can be done to help prop the arm up, but in the end, it is more professional to keep your arms and upper body in shape, so no matter where you are performing, you will not have to worry about your arm losing its strength.
Practice tip: There is only one-way to keep from quicksand and lazy prop and that is to have physically fit arm, shoulder, and upper body. A good way to practice position and form while building up your dexterity, it to hold a 12 ounce can of soda as if it were in your puppet’s mouth and your puppet was on stage. Keep it up for as long as you can. Try to get up to 10 minutes without dropping your arm, when you accomplish this, move to cans of soup and then small dumbbells.
Know Where You Are
I rarely see this, but it does happen. Magnetic attraction takes place between puppets. Puppets start leaning into each other to the point they are almost holding each other up.
In real life, everyone has their zone of comfort, the same would hold true if your puppet characters were real so give realistic distance between the puppets. This also means that there needs to be an effort behind stage for puppeteers to give each other space to move around. It is a given that there are going to be times where puppets need to touch in a skit, but when possible, they need to all have their own personal space to move around in.
Like I have stated numerous times now there are exceptions to every rule and in this case, if the skit calls for the puppet being tired, then intentionally having the puppet lay on the stage while yawning or snoring is realistic.
Two more basics to go and then on to the advanced stuff. Connect with me on social media or through Youtube, can’t wait to hear from you.