Adventures of a Semi-Wild Animal Tamer

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Forest Friends Update

Tue, Apr 14th, 2020 at 12:48 PM

Like so many of us puppeteers, I've lost all of my scheduled gigs for spring*, which is usually my busy season along with fall. I had built a brand new puppet to debut this spring, but with the cancellations she's not gotten to go out anywhere except for the last local Atlanta Puppetry Guild meeting. So, I'll have to give her an online debut instead. Please say hello to Persephone Penguin:

Persephone is a south African penguin who loves to dance, though she's still learning how. My thanks to Bob Abdou, Lee Bryan, Tricia Berrett, and anyone else at the last guild meeting who gave me advice on her stringing. This was my first attempt to build a marionette with an upright controller, so it was a big learning experience. After sifting through the ideas and moving some strings and connection points around, the controller is now working wonderfully.

While there's not much left that we can do away from home these days, we can still go out for exercise and I'm fortunate to live an a fairly walkable neighborhood. So, I've been taking Poe Possum, one of my hand-and-rod puppets, with me on walks and (from a safe distance) greeting others who are also out walking. Not quite the same as working a festival, but it's better than doing nothing and seems to help bring out much needed smiles.

Last week, I celebrated Easter by switching to Flip Flop, my lop-eared rabbit puppet, for whom I recently made a lovely Easter vest to go with the Easter egg necklace that he's had for a number of years. I'd bought the fabric to make a new vest for my white rabbit costume character, who normally acts as the Easter Bunny's eggstra special assistant in my neighborhood. That, of course, got cancelled, so I decided to put the fabric to better use for the time being.

P.S. I'm not taking any bookings right now since I don't know when it will be suitable to resume public performances. In the meantime, please visit the Center for Puppetry Arts' online offerings and support them during this time when they unfortunately have to keep their doors closed and their stages dark.

*Please don't feel concerned for me: I have a full-time IT job that is not threatened by the shutdowns, so I'm in perfectly good shape financially (mentally is another issue, but I don't think any of us are feeling too good on that front right now…) Please do keep in mind those puppeteers who make their living performing and are out of work right now. If you know one and can help him or her, please try to do so.

Mood: nostalgic

New Life for an Old Character

Sat, Feb 23rd, 2019 at 05:19 PM

Hard as it is for me to believe, I've been doing puppetry and building puppets for over sixteen years now, and during that time I've built nearly seventy-five puppets. Over twenty of them are fully-body costume-puppet (AKA body puppet) style characters, which I've always loved, but as one gets older it isn't as easy to climb into these giant things and bring them to life like you can in your twenties and early thirties.

Triton the Triceratops as a Static Display
That's not to say that I don't do costume character performances at all any more - I certainly do. Just not as many, and about half of my characters of this style are now retired for various reasons. A few got worn out from being popular, and some others just didn't quite work out in terms of designs. For example, I once made a giant tree-frog costume where I got down on all fours and hopped like a frog. I'd found I could do that pretty well at home, but didn't realize what my body would feel like after three thirty-minute sets of hopping in one day! That was the first and last time I used the tree frog in public.

Another retired costume character that got a little more time in the limelight was Triton the Triceratops. Inspired from seeing the triceratops in the Dinosaurs! show at the Center for Puppetry Arts, I'd been wanting to make a similar quadruped triceratops since 2003, but didn't get to the point of having the right opportunity and skill set until 2009, when I developed Triton to use at a local natural history museum.

Triton was definitely a hit, but he was a pain in the neck for me - literally! Try as I might to lighten his head, I just couldn't get the weight down to a comfortable level, and ultimately I started having neck muscle pain that still haunts me to this day. It's not chronic in the sense of hurting every day, but it doesn't take much now to irritate those muscles and get them hurting. Thus, Triton was retired after just one year of roughly every-other-month appearances. I soon disassembled him and packed most of him in a large plastic bin, but after a while I started thinking about him and wanted to do something useful with him.

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Mood: chipper

Evolution of a Tarantula

Mon, Oct 17th, 2016 at 10:32 PM

Terrence Tarantula
This Halloween season, I debuted a new first of it's kind puppet for me that also has roots going back over ten years: Terrence Tarantula, who is a rather large marionette.

Back in 2005, I created a large costume puppet tarantula that walks on all eights. I performed this character walking on hands and feet using hand stilts to balance myself, much the same as with my triceratops, billy goat, and arctic fox. The costume tarantula was very popular, but after four years of working with him, I had grown tired of lugging the rather large fourteen pound costume around to do performances. So, I retired him and built a flying fox fruit bat to take his place for Halloween events.

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Mood: chipper