There are many different varieties of puppets, and they are made of a wide range of materials, depending on their form and intended use. They can be extremely complex or very simple in their construction.
Puppetry was practised in Ancient Greece and the oldest written records of puppetry can be found in the works of Herodotus and Xenophon, dating from the 5th century BC. The Greek word translated as "puppet" is "νευρόσπαστος" (nevrospastos), which literally means "drawn by strings, string-pulling", from "νεῦρον" (nevron), meaning either "sinew, tendon, muscle, string", or "wire", and "σπάω" (spaō), meaning "draw, pull".
The movements of animals may be compared with those of automatic puppets, which are set going on the occasion of a tiny movement; the levers are released, and strike the twisted strings against one another.
Types of puppetry
Puppetry by its nature is a flexible and inventive medium, and many puppet companies work with combinations of puppet forms, and incorporate real objects into their performances. They might, for example, incorporate "performing objects" such as torn paper for snow, or a sign board with words as narrative devices within a production. The following are, alphabetically, the basic and conventional forms of puppet:
Black light puppet
The black light puppet is a form of puppetry where the puppets are operated on a stage lit only with ultraviolet lighting, which both hides the puppeteer and accentuates the colours of the puppet. The puppeteers perform dressed in black against a black background, with the background and costume normally made of black velvet. The puppeteers manipulate the puppets under the light, while they position themselves unseen against the black unlit background. Controlling what the audience sees is a major responsibility of any puppeteer, and blacklight lighting provides a new way of accomplishing this. Puppets of all sizes and types are able to be used, and glow in a powerful and magical way. The original concept of this form of puppetry can be traced to Bunraku puppetry.
The bunraku puppets are a type of wood-carved puppet originally made to stand out through torch illumination. Developed in Japan over a thousand years ago and formalised and combined with shamisen music at the end of the 16th century, the puppeteers dress to remain neutral against a black background, although their presence as kind of 'shadow' figures adds a mysterious power to the puppet. Bunraku traditionally uses three puppeteers to operate a puppet that varies from 1/3 to 1/2 life size.
Carnival or body puppet
Carnival puppets (AKA body puppets) are usually designed to be part of a large spectacle. These are often used in parades (such as the Mayday parade in Minneapolis, United States) and demonstrations, and are at least the size of a human and often much larger. One or more performers are required to move the body and limbs. In parades, the appearance and personality of the person inside is not relevant to the spectator. These puppets are particularly associated with large scale entertainment, such as the nightly parades at various Disney complexes around the world. Similar puppets were designed by Julie Taymor for The Lion King.
The Jim Henson Company also has their version of these puppets called Full-Bodied Puppets.
The finger puppet is an extremely simple puppet variant which fits onto a single finger. Finger puppets normally have no moving parts, and consist primarily of a hollow cylinder shape to cover the finger. This form of puppet has limited application, and is used mainly in pre-schools or kindergartens for storytelling with young children.
The sock puppet is a puppet formed from a sock and operated by inserting ones hand inside the sock. One then moves his hand up and down to give the impression of speaking. Sometimes eyes and other factors are added to the sock in order to make the puppet more realistic. Sock puppets are also popular in many puppet performances, as they are simple to make and easy to use. They are mostly used in satirical or childish works, as they are not very professional.
Hand puppet or glove puppet
The hand puppet (AKA glove puppet) are puppets controlled by one hand which occupies the interior of the puppet. The Punch and Judy puppets are familiar examples of hand puppets. Larger varieties of hand puppets place the puppeteer's hand in just the puppet's head, controlling the mouth and head, and the puppet's body then hangs over the entire arm. Other parts of the puppet (mainly arms, but special variants exist with eyelids which can be manipulated; the mouth may also open and close) are usually not much larger than the hand itself. A sock puppet is a particularly simple type of hand puppet made from a sock.
British traditional hand or glove puppets, Punch and Judy
Simple sock puppets
Hand or glove puppet dog
Also called a "two-man Muppet" or a "live-hand puppet", the human-arm puppet it is similar to a hand puppet but is larger and requires two puppeteers. One puppeteer places a hand inside the puppet's head and operates its head and mouth while putting their other arm into a glove and special sleeve attached to the puppet (the right arm if they are left handed and left arm if they are right handed). The second puppeteer puts their arm into the glove and special sleeve attached to the puppet in order to operate the other puppet's arms. This way, the puppet can perform arbitrary hand gestures. This is a form of glove or hand puppetry and rod puppetry.
Light curtain puppet
The light curtain puppet presentations use specifically focused light to highlight small areas of a performance, allowing the puppet to be seen while the manipulators remain invisible. The puppets stand on a stage divided into an unlit background and a well-lit foreground, meeting to form a "curtain" of light. The puppeteer dresses in black and remains hidden in the unlit background of the stage while the puppet is held across the light curtain in the lit foreground of the stage. "Light curtain puppet" is an umbrella term, and any puppet which is extended into a well-lit area where its handler remains separated from the puppet by a division of light may be called a light curtain puppet.
Marionettes, or "string puppets," are suspended and controlled by a number of strings, plus sometimes a central rod attached to a control bar held from above by the puppeteer. The control bar can be either a horizontal or vertical one. Basic strings for operation are usually attached to the head, back, hands (to control the arms) and just above the knee (to control the legs). This form of puppetry is complex and sophisticated to operate, requiring greater manipulative control than a finger, glove or rod puppet. The puppet play performed by the Von Trapp children with Maria in The Sound of Music is a marionette show.
Marionettes from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, New York, USA production of "Cinderella Samba"
Puppeteer performing in New Orleans, Louisiana
"The Giglet Sisters" posed on puppet theatre stage
"Uncle Rastus" an elderly man playing a banjo
"Mrs Garbage" and " Mrs Guppy", charwomen
The marotte is a simplified rod puppet that is just a head and/or body on a stick. In a marotte à main prenante, the puppeteer's other arm emerges from the body (which is just a cloth drape) to act as the puppet's arm. Some marottes have a small string running through the stick attached to a handle at the bottom. When the handle is squeezed, the mouth opens.
Pull string puppet
A pull string puppet is a puppet consisting of a cloth body where in the puppeteer puts his/her arm into a slot in the back and pulls rings on strings that do certain tasks such as waving or moving the mouth.
A push puppet consists of a segmented character on a base which is kept under tension until the button on the bottom is pressed. The puppet wiggles, slumps and then collapses, and is usually used as a novelty toy.
The toy theatre is a puppet cut out of paper and stuck onto card. It is fixed at its base to a stick and operated by pushing it in from the side of the puppet theatre. Sheets were produced for puppets and scenery from the 19th century for children's use.
A rod puppet is a puppet constructed around a central rod secured to the head. A large glove covers the rod and is attached to the neck of the puppet. A rod puppet is controlled by the puppeteer moving the metal rods attached to the hands of the puppet, any other limbs and by turning the central rod secured to the head.
Rod puppets from the Horse and Bamboo Theatre production 'Harvest of Ghosts' 1997
A shadow puppet is a cut-out figure held between a source of light and a translucent screen. Shadow puppets can form solid silhouettes or be decorated with various amounts of cut-out details. Colour can be introduced into the cut-out shapes to provide a different dimension and different effects can be achieved by moving the puppet (or light source) out of focus. Javanese shadow puppets known as Wayang Kulit are the classic example of this.
Shadow Puppets, Jakarta, Indonesia
Supermarionation is a method invented by Gerry Anderson which assisted in his television series Thunderbirds in electronically moving the mouths of marionettes to allow for lip-synchronised speech. The marionettes were still controlled by human manipulators with strings.
A Ticklebug is a type of hand puppet created from a human hand to have four legs, where the puppet features are drawn on the hand itself. The middle finger is lifted as a head, and the thumb and forefinger serve as a first set of two legs on one side, while the ring finger and little finger serve as a second set of two legs on the opposite side.
Table top puppet
A table top puppet is a puppet usually operated by rod or direct contact from behind, on a surface similar to a table top (hence the name). Shares many characteristics with Bunraku.
The Ventriloquist's Dummy is a puppet operated by a ventriloquist performer to focus the audience's attention from the performer's activities and heighten the illusions. They are called dummies because they do not speak on their own. The ventriloquist dummy is controlled by the one hand of the ventriloquist. Such acts aren't always performed with a traditional dummy, occasionally using other forms of puppetry.
Edgar Bergen, seen with Charlie McCarthy, is one of America's best known puppeteers.
Ventriloquist Ramdas Padhye has been performing in India for over 40 years.
Performers like Jeff Dunham, here with Achmed the Dead Terrorist, have revived interest in North America.
A water puppet is a Vietnamese puppet form, the "Múa rối nước". Múa rối nước literally means "puppets that dance on water", an ancient tradition that dates back to the 10th century. The puppets are built out of wood and the shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers to control them. The appearance is of the puppets moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this puppet form.
The water also provides the best setting for the puppeteers' theme: day-to-day village life. Water puppets bring wry humor to scenes of farming, fishing, festival events such as buffalo fights, and children's games of marbles and coin-toss. Fishing turns into a game of wits between the fisherman and his prey, with the fisherman getting the short end (often capturing his surprised neighbor by mistake). Besides village life, scenes include legends and national history. Lion dogs romp like puppies while dragons exhale smoke and shoot sprays of water at the audience. Performances of up to 18 short scenes are usually introduced by a pig-tailed bumpkin known as Teu, and accompanied by a small folk orchestra.
Not all forms of puppetry need specially created items to puppet. Object Puppets can be created with found everyday objects either assembled in advance or during performance. Señor Wences was a Spanish ventriloquist who became popular through his appearances on the American program The Ed Sullivan Show. His characters included Johnny (a face drawn on his hand) and Pedro (a gruff head in a box) who would talk when Wences opened the box. Similarly, chinface puppetry involves puppet features drawn or attached onto an upside-down chin.
The word puppet can mean a political leader installed, supported and controlled by more powerful forces, without legitimacy in the country itself. In modern times, this usually implies no democratic mandate from the country's electorate; in earlier times, it could have meant a monarch imposed from outside, who was not a member of a country's established ruling dynasty, and/or unrecognised by its nobility. "Puppet government", "puppet regime" and "puppet state" are derogatory terms for a government which is in charge of a region or country, but only through being installed, supported and controlled by a more powerful outside government (see Quisling).
In a more general sense, a puppet is any person who is controlled by another by reasons of (for instance) undue influence, intellectual deficiency, or lack of character or charisma. Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein's novel The Puppet Masters depicts alien parasites who attach themselves to human beings and control their actions.
Poppet, a word that sounds similar, is sometimes a term of endearment, similar to "love", "pet", "doll" or "dear". It alludes to folk-magic and witchcraft, where a poppet is a special doll created to represent a person for the purpose of casting healing, fertility, or binding spells.
|Look up puppet in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Animation or digital puppet. Animation is a related but essentially different process from puppetry. Animating puppets in time-based media such as film or video is a simulation of movement created by displaying a series of pictures, or frames, whereas puppetry is the live manipulation of figures. Puppet animation, or "puppetoon", can refer either to stop motion filming, where the movements of the puppets are created frame-by-frame; or Supermarionation (see above)
- Karakuri ningyō - Mechanized puppets or automata from Japan.
- Lübeck Museum of Theatre Puppets
- Pelham puppets - A type of factory-made puppet created by Bob Pelham famous for making mainly string puppets (Marionettes) In the UK from 1947 to 1993. In 2008 the Pelham Puppet company was revived by a former employee of the original factory and now produces a new line of Pelham Puppets some echoing former styles.
- Persian theatre
- Puppetry - for the cultural and theatrical history of puppet theatre
- Punch and Judy
- Rajasthani Puppet - String marionettes originating from the state of Rajasthan in India
- Das Spielhaus, East German television variety show
- Thai hand puppets - A variety of hand puppets from Thailand
- Herodotus, The Histories, 2.48, on Perseus
- Xenophon, Symposium, 4.55, on Perseus
- νευρόσπαστος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- νεῦρον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- σπάω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- List of Ancient Greek words related to puppetry, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- Aristotle, On the Motion of Animals, 350 BC.
- Adachi, Barbara C., Backstage at Bunraku, Weatherhill, 1985 . ISBN 0-8348-0199-X
- Currell, David, Introduction to Puppets and Puppet making, p.7
- Robinson, Patricia and Stuart, Exploring Puppetry, p.64
- Currell, David, An Introduction to Puppets and Puppetmaking', p.7
- Ghosh, S. and Banerjee, Utpal Kumar, Indian Puppets, Abhinav Publications, 2006. ISBN 81-7017-435-X.
- Bell, John, Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History, Wayne State University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-89558-156-6.
Books and articles
- Baird, Bil (1966). The Art of the Puppet. Plays. ISBN 0-8238-0067-9.
- Beaton, Mabel; Les Beaton (1948). Marionettes: A Hobby for Everyone. New York.
- Bell, John (2000). Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History. Detroit, USA: Detroit Institute of Art. ISBN 0-89558-156-6.
- Binyon, Helen (1966). Puppetry Today. London: Studio Vista Limited.
- Choe, Sang-su (1961). A Study of the Korean Puppet Play. The Korean Books Publishing Company Ltd.
- Currell, David (1985). The Complete Book of Puppetry. London: A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd. ISBN 0-7136-2429-9.
- Currell, David (1992). An Introduction to Puppets and Puppetmaking. London: New Burlington Books, Quintet Publishing Limited. ISBN 1-85348-389-3.
- Dubska, Alice; Jan Novak, Nina Malikova, Marie Zdenkova (2006). Czech Puppet Theatre. Prague: Theatre Institute. ISBN 80-7008-199-6.
- Dugan, E.A. (1990). Emotions in Motion. Montreal, Canada: Galerie Amrad. ISBN 0-9693081-5-9.
- Feeney, John (1999). Puppet. Saudi Aramco World.
- Flower, Cedric; Alan Fortney (1983). Puppets: Methods and Materials. Worcester, Massachusetts: Davis Publications, Inc.
- Latshaw, George (2000). The Complete Book of Puppetry. London: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-40952-8.
- Lindsay, Hilaire (1976). The First Puppet Book. Leichhardt, NSW, Australia: Ansay Pty Ltd. ISBN 0 909245 Check
- Logan, David (2007). Puppetry. Brisbane, QLD, Australia: Brisbane Dramatic Arts Co. ISBN 978-0-908045630-1.
- Mulholland, John (1961). Practical Puppetry. London: Herbert Jenkins Ltd.
- Richmond, Arthur (1950). Remo Bufano's Book of Puppetry. New York: The Macmillan Company.
- Robinson, Stuart; Patricia Robertson (1967). Exploring Puppetry. London: Mills & Boon Limited.
- Rump, Nan (1996). Puppets and Masks: Stagecraft and Storytelling. Worcester, Massachusetts: Davis Publications.
- Sinclair, Anita (1995). The Puppetry Handbook. Richmond, Victoria, Australia: Richard Lee Publishing. ISBN 0-646-39063-5.
- Shellstein, Sheldon; Sheldon T. Shellstein (April 2006). "The Rise Of Shoop: the meteoric rise of Sheldon". Kid Time Press.
- Suib, Leonard; Muriel Broadman (1975). Marionettes Onstage!. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. ISBN 0-06-014166-2.
- Stephenson, Will (2012). Dr. Puppet and the Puppeetos. Peppler. ISBN 11234566748 Check
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