This is the place for Technical Tips, Questions and Answers.

Postby Chris » 17 Jul 2007, 21:03

<blockquote>The conundrum is that, generally speaking, the designer, builder, actor, director, manager, gaffer is usually one in the same person. So the construction, performance, presentation etc. is always going to represent that person’s taste, style, bias unless another person is involved in collaborating regarding the various aspects of the production. That can be a very valuable tool, to have another’s input if the ego can stand it.

Now I don't see this as a conundrum Charles. I think that being the designer-maker as well as performer is a definite advantage in making for a unity of purpose. (It is a bit like the great painters of old grinding and mixing their own pigments.) It produces a type of "family" puppetry that was common in Britain and America of the 20th Century, as opposed to the co-operative group puppetry of Eastern Europe during the same period.

As for the "other" person being valuable: yes indeed, in either of two ways. In many of the husband and wife puppet theatre teams then each complemented the other and though each brought differing skills they were so intimately involved that they can be considered one production unit.

Then there is the value of the "other" as critic - someone not involved with the creation but someone who can represent a discerning audience member and express a reaction.

Of course the technical excellence possible with large companies of specialist craftsmen, designers and actors cannot be denied. They can tackle projects impossible to the man and wife puppet companies that were once the norm. But there is still attractiveness in the idea of the puppeteer playing God; making the puppets and bringing them to life in a setting designed by himself and giving them words written and spoken by himself. We don't all fully achieve that, but the ideal is probably what draws us to the peculiar form of puppetry that is the Punch and Judy Show.</blockquote>

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Postby CharlesTaylor » 21 Jul 2007, 17:17

Chris, I wish I had your succintness! You put that so well. It reminded me of a favorite poem I want to share.

Forman Brown was the author of plays and writer of many songs for the Yale Puppeteers, the Turnabout Theater and of Elsa Lanchester’s songs for her performances at Turnabout and for her one woman show she did in her latter years. Elsa is the sister of Waldo Lanchester. And for those who are too young to know, she was Sir James Barrie’s last Peter Pan that he directed. She liked to claim she was his favorite. Her biography, Elsa Lanchester Herself, is fascinating reading. Elsa is best remembered as the Bride of Frankenstein's monster and Mary Shelly in the same movie. Up until her death she received more fan mail for that film role than any other. It perplexed her greatly since that was a minor role compared to the body of work she did in her life. She also was the wife of Charles Laughton.

The Poem to which I refer was written in 1933 for Punch’s Progress the early chornicles of the Yale Puppeteers. It ends with their adventure opening a theater on Olvera Street in Los Angeles. Many decades later, 1980 he revised it and added the missing years including the Turnabout Theater that was extremely popular in Los Angeles from 1941 through 1956 and then revivals through to 1980. The book is Small Wonders. They continued performing in their elder years in a large house with a theater, Turnabout House, for their fans and friends.

In a copy I have of Punch’s Progress, and Small Wonders, Forman Brown writes:

I have played god, stood balancing above
the yellow glow of lights and pulled the strings
that make alive the tiny wooden things
and felt not mercy, kindliness or love,
but only aching fingers, eyes that strain
to make the puppet pass across the stage
and simulate the human heritage
of pleasure that is masquerading pain.
Some day I shall not make them act like men,
I shall be God indeed, and shall not care.
Ah, how I’ll send them swinging through the air!
Ah, how I’ll make them leap and grovel then!
Ah, how I’ll laugh when they who watch the show
whisper “He’s mad!” He’s God, I’ll have you know!
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