Puppetry Tips, Tricks & Techniques for Every Puppeteer
Puppetry is one of the oldest performing arts, first recorded in the 5th century BC in Ancient Greece. The puppet show has been a popular form of entertainment, with performances in theatres, television shows and festivals around the world, appealing to young children and adults alike.
A puppet can be as simple as any inanimate object that is made to move in a dramatic way by a person and often represents a human being, animal or character.
Once you’ve selected a puppet, you’ll want to develop your puppet’s voice and personality. With a vivid imagination and some basic puppetry tips and techniques, you can master your puppeteering skills and bring your character to life.
Practice opening and closing the body parts of your puppet. Depending on the type of puppet, open and close your puppet’s mouth, hands, fingers, legs and feet. For example, move the mouth of your puppet by squeezing your fingers together and opening and closing your thumb.
Developing your hand-eye coordination are important skills you need to be to be a puppeteer. Watch ventriloquist performances and puppet show videos for some inspiration on mastering the movement of your puppet.
Your Puppet’s Expressions
Familiarise yourself with your puppet’s potential range of expressions. Put your puppet through its paces emotionally with the following expressions – surprised, sad, angry, happy, excited, frustrated, sneaky, scared, shy, bossy, sleepy, mean, nervous, silly, confused, impatient, curious, kind and grumpy
Try to maintain your puppet’s emotion with its mouth closed and open, or while the puppet talks.
Lip synching your puppet to existing songs or stories can help you to work on your performance and the timing of mouth movements without the added difficulty of performing a consistent voice or coming up with your own script or dialogue.
Practicing your puppet’s mouth movement with lip synching can help to make sure your puppet’s mouth is moving in a believable way. Think about the syllables in the words your puppet is saying and move the puppet’s mouth according to the number of syllables in the words it’s speaking.
Some of the best puppet performances on TV, in particular from Jim Henson’s first skits, featured lip synching to popular songs. It’s a great way to attempt different attitudes and personalities as you begin to develop your puppet’s character.
Pick a short song or story to begin with. When you’re happy with your performance, you can try filming it to see how the audience sees the performance.
Develop your puppet’s voice and personality by reading a children’s book, fairy tale or a short story. You could have your puppet give a commentary on the story and the characters in the story, or place themselves into the story and tell the tale from a particular point of view.
Perform to Children
If you’re going to use your puppet for more than just entertaining yourself, you’ll probably want to prepare to stage a performance. Young children are often more than happy to watch a puppet show. This can be an opportunity to perfect your craft and even improvise in order to hold your audience’s attention. You could also answer questions that children pose to your puppet character.
To begin, you might like to try a one on one performance with a child and as you have more practice, perform for more children. When you feel confident with your act, you might like to take on a bigger challenge and perform at a children’s birthday party, camp or perform at your local library.
Making a friend might be as simple as putting a puppet on your other hand. If you have friends that love puppets, you might like to bring on other performers to widen the cast of your puppet show and to take the pressure of the performance off of you.
Host a Puppet Show
Now you’re ready to host your own puppet show. The type of puppet show and size of the audience are totally up to you. You can simply sit behind a couch or hand a string across the room with a blanket over it and perform a solo show for your family and close friends or you can make an elaborate production with a puppet theatre, cast of puppets, and detailed scene.