lazy tongs

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Postby Tony James » 16 Feb 2009, 15:00

That looks about it Chris.

They are very good at locking and even better at trapping your fingers if you don't take care or are in too much of a hurry!
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Postby lesclarke » 24 Feb 2009, 22:38

I am considering building my first hands-in-front booth and have just looked at the Expanded Frame File to refresh my memory, and once again get my head around the 'equation' which is shown on page 10.

Reading it again and looking at the diagram it is not completely clear, stating that (y) is the 'width of the booth' But, all the measurements, including the width (y) always refer to the distances between the rivet points, and are not the component lengths.

This point is fully explained in the example, on page 12. 'Key To Measurements' pointing out what must be added to these dimensions for each component.

CvdC's figures earlier show this very clearly by an actual example, with an overall width at 910 mm using 24mm wood gives 886 distance from centre to centre of the uprights.

I have just had an attempt to establish my personal ' hands-in-front' working height, not use to this style, seems like hard work to me.
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Postby James » 24 Feb 2009, 23:41

You could always try hands in front in your old booth standing on a block to get used to it prior to building another booth.
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Postby Chris » 25 Feb 2009, 00:13

A very good idea James. The height you comfortably hold your arms cannot be easily calculated, and your stance and desired visibility all affect the height. I had to remake a booth to alter my an inch and a half.
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Postby lesclarke » 25 Feb 2009, 00:39

Yes, a good idea, I'll give it a try.

It's interesting to hear that the ideal working height is not so easily arrived at.

I get the impression that the majority work hands-in-front these days, so can anyone give examples of the relationship between their height, or eye level and the height of the playboard?
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Postby Tony James » 25 Feb 2009, 00:51

I've always worked hands above. Does working hands in front utilise arm and shoulder muscles in a different way?

And how do you avoid catching the bottom edge of the gauze with the upper arms?

I'm used to a fair degree of freedom of body movement, including getting very close to the front when dangling the crocodile over the playboard.

I've always presumed, perhaps wrongly, that the gauze would restrict movement.
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Postby Chris » 25 Feb 2009, 12:52

Here are some pointers Les.
The things that are to be considered are:
1. How much can be seen through the gauze - the puppet of course, but ideally the children seated on the floor so you can establish and eye-line as well as being able to see what is going on
2. Comfortable position.
3. Least restriction of movement of puppets without much disturbance of the see-through backcloth.
4. Height of playboard. One advantage of hands in front is that it gives a lower playboard for seated children at domestic shows.

So look at these drawings:

<img src="images/handsinfront.gif" alt="hands in front positions" align="right">
Fig. 1 shows the most comfortable position which also gives maximum vision. It is however the most restricting in that it brings your face very close to the gauze, it is difficult to move the puppets without disturbing the gauze and it limits the height to which you can extend the puppets.
This gives the lowest possible playboard height for a standing performer. I would suggest that a very tall performer must choose either the position in Fig 1 or Fig 2 to get the advantage of easier viewing in close quarter situations.

Fig.2 with upper arms more or less parallel to ground is my preferred stance. It gives a pretty good eye-line to the children provided they are seated well back. If they come nearer however there is a blind spot for a metre in front of the playboard.

Figs 3 and 4 show positions which many seem to favour. These positions give maximum movement and freedom from fouling the backcloth. They sacrifice the visual advantages which, to my mind, are the chief virtues of the hands-in-front technique.
<br>
Three ways to avoid, or limit backcloth movement:
With positions 1 and 2 it helps to have a length of bathplug chain stitched into the bottom hem of the gauze. The weight helps considerably.
Alternatively a length of spring curtain wire can be run through this bottom hem, and hooked to screw eyes either side.
With positions three and four it is possible to have a batten at the top and bottom of the gauze, fixed either side of the booth, and thus keeping the backcloth taut.
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Postby lesclarke » 25 Feb 2009, 13:40

Thanks for that Chris. It's good to have it all so clearly shown in the diagrams and the various pros and cons explained.

It will be an interesting process to develop what best suits my own needs and preferences. I was originally put off from hands-in-front because I had a fear of colliding with the backcloth and years on I now use a number of large props so I guess I'm in for quite a bit of experimenting to get the balance right.
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Postby Tony James » 25 Feb 2009, 13:46

That's very helpful and interesting Chris. Thank you.

Figs 3 and 4 show positions which many seem to favour. These positions give maximum movement and freedom from fouling the backcloth. They sacrifice the visual advantages which, to my mind, are the chief virtues of the hands-in-front technique.

That's an interesting comment.

Eye contact is not something I have working hands above. It gave me great concern when I first started. I had always worked children through maintaining eye contact and apart from Punch, I still do. Because I don't have it once inside the frame, I'm not certain what it is I'm missing. What advantage I might gain from it.

Clearly it would be useful on the odd occasion when something unexpected happened but mostly the show bats on. Because I can't see the audience I suspect my other senses are sharpened and I am more acutely aware of slight and unusual differences occurring.

Obviously I don't generally direct comments to or conversation with a particular individual in the audience so I'm not even aware if I am missing a presentational trick here. I say generally because occasionally a child will come forward and engage a conversation with Punch or Joey but I don't need to be able to see them to reply. And there's always the odd especially loud individual response from one direction and a figure can direct a reply in the same direction and again, I don't need to see the individual to do that.

I would have thought that the real day to day advantage of a hands in front compared to a hands above was the smaller, lighter frame to carry and store, quicker and easier erection and covering, practical height and size for indoors domestic use and when outside, the easier dressing and securing, especially in breezy conditions.

I would suspect it is easier in a practical sense to move from hands in front to hands above. I could see myself feeling very restricted by that gauze. I wonder how many said that when hands in front first became popular?

And on that point, when did hands in front start to become popular and replace hands above?
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Postby Chris » 25 Feb 2009, 15:20

I would say that establishing an eye line is the most important single part of any puppet manipulation. I am not talking about your eye contact Tony - it is the puppet's eye line that matters. It is what brings puppets alive and separates the puppeteers from the jigglers. How often do we see shows where the puppets gaze into space way above the audience heads, and often not even looking at the character they are supposed to be addressing.
The gauze helps you to more accurately establish the eye line, but good over-head operators also are adept. Of course the fact that you can also see what is happening outside the booth, and respond to individual children is also a great additional advantage.

The smaller-lighter booth advantages you imagine are very slight. It is a relatively small saving of timber and canvas and would hardly be worth changing for that. The lower booth can be erected in places where perhaps a tall one couldn't - a garage, a low ceiling cottage or a child's bedroom are examples which come to mind. You are wrong that hands in front is better in breezy conditions. Wind is one of the great problems. The gauze tends to billow, one way or another, sometimes moulding to your features. And if you have a microphone suspended behind the gauze as I do you can be battered on the nose and teeth by sharp gusts.

Incidentally I meant to say in the previous posting that if you use a black background then you have little to worry about if the backing moves - nobody will see it. It is only with the painted cloths that it shows.
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Postby Tony James » 25 Feb 2009, 16:10

I was on the wrong track totally about eye lines. You're right. I thought you meant the operator sight lines. I agree - it is important to have the eye line correct.

In fact this was another of those things I learnt on the job and then later discovered a book - booklet, twenty pages - that described it all. Manuel of Hand Puppet Manipulation by Lettie Connell Schubert.

When I mentioned breezy conditions I was actually thinking of the relative ease of building up a 6 foot high frame and dressing it compared to an 8 or 9 foot high frame. I once saw an experienced person struggle in a strong breeze to position the dressed upper half onto the lower. It was managed eventually by putting the top on the bottom undressed and borrowing a chair to stand on to dress off the roof and top

In a busy season there can be as many breezy days as there are calm.
.

What I have also witnessed is an excellent pantomime style interior house scene with a big fireplace centre and a semi obscured ghostly looking operator's face staring through.

He was aware of it too \nd didn't think it important!
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Postby Chris » 25 Feb 2009, 16:17

The chief thing in favour of Hands in front of face is that it is better for the audience in most situations. The lower proscenium is more visible to a seated child.

Punch developed in the streets, and moved to the seaside. In both situations it was quite usual to have had a partially standing audience and therefore a high playboard was pretty necessary. Hands above was the norm.

At one time real punchmen used to sneer at those using hands in front of the face, just as real punchmen sneer at those pathetic non-swazzlers. Their big argument for hands above head was that puppets could dance and chase and run round each other. This is all very true - but what is also true is that such movement is only visible to an audience who's eye level is roughly the same height as the playboard. To a seated audience on the floor, looking up at a five/six foot playboard, only puppets hard against the playboard are visible. Move them 3 or 4 inches back and only head and shoulders are visible. Move them back a foot and they disappear altogether.

Thus when more and more of the Punchman's work was playing to seated audiences, more and more of them realised that the sensible answer was a lower playboard. This meant either working seated, or working hands in front. Most now opt for the hands in front method.

And although some retain the hands above for their outdoor shows many, having tasted the advantages of hands in front, work in a high booth when outdoors, but stand on a platform within so that they can still work hands in front.

And for those who say "It isn't traditional" I say "Poppycock!" The Punch tradition has always been to adapt to the prevailing circumstances. Punch the Marionette became Punch the Glove Puppet when it became necessary to move from the big fairground theatres to something that could be dragged round the streets. When the summer crowds streamed to the seaside Punch was quick to follow. When the demand for indoor shows began to increase the heavy wheeled frame of the streets gave way to the more portable and versatile folding frame. It seems to me to be following the pattern when we adapt to a lower playboard as we move from a mainly standing audience to a mainly seated one.
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Postby Tony James » 25 Feb 2009, 16:39

That's all perfectly true. And for those reasons I stick to hands above, work right up to the board - which accounts for my lower costume wear. Children do sit at the front and adults tend to stand behind.

Indoors I use a very small frame and I sit down working hands above. Martin Scott Price at Blackpool works in an even smaller frame, sitting down on a cushion.

But just going back to an earlier question, when abouts did the hands in front frame come in and gain popularity?
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Postby Chris » 25 Feb 2009, 17:18

<center>Nineteen sixty two and a half</center>
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Postby Tony James » 25 Feb 2009, 18:40

Thank you.

And as I always say to children 'Which bit of you is the half?'

Go on then Chris. What makes you pinpoint it to 1962?

Did someone make an announcement, write an article, give a lecture or offer something for sale?

At a guess, and based on what you said before, was it a children's entertainer looking for a smaller in house frame rather than real Punchmen who stuck to their hands above?

Or was it you?!!?
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