Performing Puppets

Do you remember playing with hand puppets when you were a child? Did your parents purchase a puppet or did your mother show you how to make one?

A puppet can be created on a stick, or one finger of your hand. A sock pocket can be created with a lonely sock which has been left behind by a runaway partner. Or fingers can be folded into a slightly closed fist, draw a set of lips and eyes and it is puppet ready. Add a voice to your character supported by a script to tell a story and the show is now live.

These three simple methods of making puppets have existed and entertained children and adults for many decades. Puppets are fun as they challenge our creativity, imagination, and arts and crafts skills.

What is a puppet?

It is an object made from wood, paper, cloth, saw dust, straw, cotton, and other materials which can be shaped to represent a person, an animal, or an object. The puppeteer brings a puppet to life by moving its flexible parts his or her hand, strings, rods, or mechanical and electronic methods.

Nine Types of Puppets:

Finger – Simple painting on one finger which very young children enjoy.
Sock Barr Tillstrom introduced puppets Kukla, Fran, and Ollie… Then Shari Lewis with Lamb Chop.
Marionette (operated with strings) Ronnie Burkett and his marionettes, and Howdy Doody created by Buffalo Bob Smith.
Ventriloquist: Edgar Bergen and character Charlie McCarthy. World famous today is Jeff Dunham with his latest dummy called Achmed the Terrorist.
Body Puppet: The famous and popular play, The Lion King by Julie Taymor, is a great example of people being in the characters and operating the mechanisms to activate the puppets into action.
Mechanical puppets: The use of small or miniature machines to operate individual parts of the puppet or doll.
Pull string puppet: Dolls and puppets which work by pulling a string. The most popular version of a pull string is baby dolls which speak when the string is pulled. Words like “I love you” are spoken or it could be an animal making sounds or speaking. Pulling strings Moves the mouth, arms, and head.
Rod puppet: A singular rod holds the head or body of the puppet upright or rods may be attached to hands or arms to create movement. The Muppet Show introduced Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy. Sesame Street introduced Cookie Monster.
Shadow puppet: These are shadows of puppets which are created by shining a light onto a clear screen. Children have all experienced shadow puppets. Place your hands in front of a light source and see the shadow images cast against the wall. I bet you never knew these are puppet images.

Most puppet operators are shy individuals, but behind a mask, they are very confident and make excellent entertainers. The mask in this instance is the puppet which is the target for attention and exposure from the audience.