So, now it’s performance time and you have everything organized and under control. Yes? No? Well, I hope this blog post will help you answer that question with certainty.
I always suggest that, along with having a detailed program together (which I will get into later) that you never do a performance before having a minimum of five to six practices with a full-on professional quality run through. The last two practice performances should be exactly like you would do it on stage in front of an audience. It will be in these practices that you work out the timing, the “bugs” and work in any changes that need to occur.
Do a dry run impromptu performance. Schedule to do your performance during a small church service, or at a nursing home, maybe even a daycare depending on the age level and material content that is in the performance. These places are a good way to perform and get your feet wet while not jumping into a large event and bombing out the first time out of the gate. These crowds are generally smaller and are more lenient when it comes to criticism. After a professional run with a smaller crowd, the team will be more apt to take on larger venues.
Now once a program is worked out and runs like clockwork, then you can move your mandatory practices of a program to three or four prior to an event because the material has already been performed and is known, but never assume that because a program was successful that it doesn’t need to be practiced in order to do it again.
This is the series of skits, songs, and individual performances sequenced together to create the performance.
There will be many times where your team will be given a specific time frame in which to do your performance. If it runs long, there will be times where you can get cut off mid skit which only reflects on the team and its level of professionalism. There will be times where you will be given a specific subject matter to address and every skit; song and transition will need to be focused on that particular subject.
Timing is the key
If you are given a 30-minute time slot, it should take you 30 minutes to complete your performance. If it is over then it makes you appear unorganized and if it is less it makes you appear unprepared. Even your transitions should flow in a manner that keeps good timing as it goes from one part of the program to the other.
A personal pet peeve of mine (and, yes I have many) is when a series of skits are just thrown together to take up time. This is NOT a program and makes for a poor performance. Now, when I talk about a program, I am not talking about the times when you will be given just enough time to do one song. What I am talking about is when you have an entire performance that is yours. There needs to be a common thread that joins everything in the program together. If you are not given a theme to go with, create one.
Bad example: A skit with the theme of peace (no fighting) followed by the Carmen song “God’s got an army” which has in the first verse “not afraid to fight.”
Good example: A skit with a theme dealing with dying (a grandpa died) followed up with a puppet rendition of “I can only imagine” by Mercy Me.
This is another pet peeve of mine (see, told you) that does actually detract from the performance, however, the transition from one skit to another can take away from the mood set by the previous skit if it is too abrupt or has nothing to do with the previous skit. It will leave your audience confused. This is where the emcee plays a big role in the flow of the performance. Whether on stage or off, the emcee guides the audience from one skit to another with a connection, so the audience feels that they are watching one performance rather than a cluster of small time consumers put together.
There are going to be times where a good transition is done without any narrative at all. I have seen some of the best transitions follow through with just a good lighting or sound effect.
A good example of this is the aforementioned skit on dying followed by the Mercy Me song. There were two small stages set up. The little boy and his mom, after their conversation, were praying. The little boy ends his prayer and then makes the inquiry to his mom that he wondered what his grandpa was going to do when he sees Jesus. As this was said, the spot on this stage went down as the spot on the other stage came up focused in on the lower portion of the stage. Where there was a puppet dressed as an angel singing the solo of the song. On the last verse, the tight spot on the soloist opens up wider to show the upper stage where grandpa is walking off stage with a Jesus puppet looking all around as if he is standing in heaven absolutely amazed.
Opening and closings
Starting a performance often depends on the venue and the host of the event will, often times, segue into your program, but you always want to have some sort of opening, whether it is an emcee on stage introducing the characters or an off stage narration setting the scene. You never want to just jump into a performance. Well, almost never. Of coarse, as I have stated before, if it is intentional and does not detract from, but rather enhances the scene, then it is not wrong.
By creating a segue that fits into the performance, you give the audience a specific beginning so they aren’t left going “Oh, the puppet show has started” and the same goes for the ending as well.
A good ending, and I stress the word good, gives the audience an acknowledgement that the performance is over without them saying “is that it?” or expecting another skit to follow; and NO, a good ending isn’t abruptly pulling the puppets down with a “that’s all folks” style comment.
Set up and Striking
Set up and striking (tearing down) needs to also be considered when putting together a program. How you set up and take down your equipment, props, and etc. will depend on multiple factors.
From the get go, have all of your ducks in a row so that everyone involved knows what their tasks are. “No Puppet Left Behind” should be your motto. As aforementioned, I always say leave a place cleaner than when you left it. This extra policing will insure that nothing gets left behind or misplaced.