May 03 2009

Illusion of Life

Published by at 12:28 am under Construction

When I was very young, I had a spider marionette that I used to make dance and walk. I really loved that spider and had a wonderful time trying to figure out how to make it move so that it seemed real. Then, as life often goes, my interests shifted and I became fascinated by other things. Then, many years later, while living in Upstate New York, I became a semi-professional puppeteer for a while. I worked with Holly Adams and the Mental Health Players/Peacetown Puppets department of the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier in Binghamton. Holly is a deeply talented actress and director,  and was a wonderful mentor as well. She taught me how to work with puppets, how to make them appear alive in their motion and in their ability to listen to one another in a performance.

Now, a little less than a decade later, I’m back to puppeteering! No education is ever wasted. Although there is a part of me that would love to join the cast of Avenue Q, my work with puppets has been in the service of education in the congregation I serve. (Not that being part of Avenue Q wouldn’t be educational!) There is a small group of us at the church who have experience as puppeteers; we’ve built some new puppets and are using them during classes this spring. Very early on in the process, the two I built looked like this:

Just the beginnings of people back then…but now, I’d like to introduce you to Tolo and the Commodore:

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Tolo is the guy on the left in the blue; this spring he’s playing the part of Carlos in our puppet shows. On the right is the Commodore — he’s got long white hair and a white soul patch, not to mention a great deal of cool. He’s often seen sporting a pair of shades and refusing to admit that he’s named for how much his long hair looks like the ropy hair on dogs of the Komondor breed.

<i>Tolo looking very PQ (Puppets Quarterly)</i>
The Commodore

Although creating the illusion of life out of any puppet is an amazing thing, bringing your own creations to life is even better. There are a number of companies making puppets these days, some even specifically for congregational use; that said, I’m no slouch with a sewing machine and I’m almost always willing to try something new. I’m incredibly pleased with these guys, and I’m looking forward to making more.

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I think they could use a few more friends…

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