Archive for May, 2010

I-Fest Hands-on: The Singing Drum Set

May 27, 2010

We’ve been talking about instruments for puppets here on the blog, so what better I-Fest hands-on class to highlight than Bram Jarvis’ Singing Drum Set.  Get your I-Fest registration in now so you can sign-up for this and other great hands-on courses!

The Singing Drum Set
Bram Jarvis
(HO-I47)
Class Size Limit: 15
Cost: $45
Day: Friday
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Age: 15 and above
Skill: Beginner to Intermediate
Supplies Needed: a good pair of scissors, a glue gun and glue sticks.

You won’t want to miss this opportunity to add a clever and useful puppet to your instrument collection. Join this class and learn puppet building techniques that will help you in future projects and take home a fun addition to your puppet family.

I’m with the Band – Part 2

May 26, 2010

Guitars

Probably just about every puppet team has had their puppets play guitar at some point or another.  There are certain things we need to keep in mind when our puppet characters attempt to become “guitar heroes.”

One Way Street has a variety of different guitars available that work well for puppets.  The “Silver Rock Guitar” is a plastic toy guitar that has a silver metallic look that can really pick up and reflect your stage lighting in a visual striking way.  This type of toy guitar has actual strings, so you’ll want to take those off.  Sorry to ruin the fantasy for you, but the puppets won’t be doing any actual guitar playing.  The strings will just get in the way, so get rid of them.  One Way Street has also started carrying several foam guitars that come in a variety of different styles.  These are great because they are much lighter than a plastic guitar would be.  Strength is the name of the game in puppetry, so the less weight the better.

First you’ll need to figure out how your puppets will hold their guitars.  Have you ever noticed that most puppets play the guitar left-handed?  Just like Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney.  The reason that happens is very simple…there’s a right-handed puppeteer underneath.  For a right-handed puppeteer, it is easiest to have the puppet’s left hand strum the guitar and attach the right hand to the neck of the guitar.  The opposite is true for a lefty.  You will want to attach a strap of some sort to the guitar.  Fix one end to the neck of the guitar and the other to the bottom of the guitar.  You will want to make the strap so that it can fit tightly around the back of the puppet.  A loose-fitting strap will cause the guitar to hang too low on the puppet.  You will probably want to use some T-pins to hold the strap in place on the puppet’s back.

The best way to attach the puppet’s hand to the neck of the guitar is to sew the puppet’s hand in place.  However, rubber bands can do a great job as well.  Wrapping a rubber band around the neck of the guitar and putting the puppet’s hand through the rubber band at both ends makes a strong attachment.  However, one problem I always had was that the puppet would have a “flat hand” on the guitar.  It didn’t look like he was actually holding the instrument.  One of our puppeteers at One Way Street discovered a way of fixing this several years ago.  Take a large safety-pin and insert it across all four fingers of the puppet on the inside of the hand.  Then, take a smaller safety-pin, grab the first safety-pin with it, insert it into the palm of the puppet and then close the pin.

Essentially, you are making a “T” shape with the two safety pins.  This should curve those four fingers down a bit.  Now, when you attach the hand to the neck of the guitar, it will look more like the puppet is actually grasping the instrument.

For the strumming hand of the puppet, we’re going to attach an arm-rod a little bit differently than we normally would.  Usually, we attach the rod so that the rubber band goes around the outside of the puppet’s wrist and the rod is on the inside of the puppet’s wrist.  But for strumming and instrument, we’re going to do the opposite.  This is that the rod does not scrape against our instrument prop and possibly damage it.

Your puppet is now ready to rock!  But make sure your puppeteers spend some time learning how a guitar player moves.  They don’t just stand there and strum!  They move around the stage.  They lean back during the big solo.  They look down at their fingerings.  Adding these little touches will make the puppet’s performance more realistic.

I’m with the Band – Part 1

May 25, 2010

Puppet bands are common in puppet ministry programs, so puppeteers are going to want to learn to work with instrument props.  It can be challenging to have our puppets play instruments and make it look believable.  In this series of blog posts, we want to share a few tips and tricks to help your puppets master their instruments.

Trumpets and other Horns

For many of our puppet instruments we use children’s toys.  They are the perfect size for puppets, not to mention the fact that they are a whole lot lighter than the real thing.  You can often find puppet sized trumpets at your favorite toy story, One Way Street also stocks toy trumpets.

The first thing we need to do, with any instrument, is look at how the instrument is actually played and try to duplicate this with our puppets.  In the case of trumpets, the musician presses the horn’s mouthpiece against their lips and blows air through the instrument.  Note: The mouthpiece goes against the lips of the player, not in their mouth.  So to stick the mouthpiece of our prop trumpet into the mouth of a puppet would be wrong.  However, it’s hard to keep the mouthpiece against the puppet’s lips.  So, our first step is to take a piece of a wooden or metal rod and glue it to the inside of the mouthpiece.  You want to have a good inch or two of rod sticking out of the mouthpiece.

This will give the puppet something to bite down on.  This will help the mouthpiece to stay pressed against the puppet’s lips.  For instruments like a saxophone or clarinet, use a popsicle stick.

Next we will want to attach the trumpet to a rod for manipulation.  Drill a hole somewhere in the bottom of the instrument.  For a trumpet it would probably be at the bottom of one of the valves.  Make the hole just big enough to insert a puppet arm-rod.

Then secure the rod by putting some hot glue in and around the hole.  Be careful when you do this, not only is the glue hot, but the glue will make the metal arm-rod hot too!

Now that we have the trumpet on a rod, we need to get the puppet attached to the trumpet.  The ideal way to do this, is to actually sew the puppet into the instrument.  Place the puppets hands on either side of the trumpet and use some thin invisible thread to sew his hands around the instrument.  Now, sometimes we need to use a quicker method, so we turn to good old rubber bands.  A trumpet usually has all sorts of open spaces which we can put a rubber band through.  Then we put the puppet’s hands through the rubber band on either side of the horn.  Ta-da…it looks like the puppet is holding the trumpet.  To operate the puppet’s arms we won’t need anything more than the rod that is attached to the trumpet.  Manipulating that, will manipulate the puppet’s arms.  This same method will work for other prop horns.

Once the puppet is rigged up, have the puppeteer who will be operating it spend some time looking at how trumpet players move their bodies as they play.  Notice how they lean back on higher notes.  Notice how they often sway the instrument side to side with the beat of the music.  Notice how they have to breathe between passages.  All of these things can be duplicated with the puppet.  Simply holding the instrument up to the puppet’s mouth is not enough.   This is a perfect opportunity for directors and puppeteers to work together to find the best result.

Puppet Festival Hosts Wanted!

May 24, 2010

One Way Street’s Puppet Ministry Festivals have been a fantastic opportunity for leaders and youth to receive valuable training and share their ministries for over 30 years.  Right now, we are looking for churches in four specific locations that would be interested in hosting a festival:

Indianapolis, IN

East Coast of Florida (Jacksonville area)

Pittsburgh, PA

Seattle, WA

Festival hosts have a unique opportunity to serve other churches in their area and at the same time earn One Way Street resources for their own ministry.  Please contact Susan in One Way Street’s Events department (susan@onewaystreet.com) or call 303-790-1188 x 225  if you would like to be considered as a host.

Should Puppets Pray to Accept Jesus?

May 24, 2010

Here’s another big question in the world of puppet ministry…should puppets pray to accept Jesus?  I think most puppet leaders would say “no.”  That is a difficult subject, though.  Obviously, puppets aren’t really alive, so they can’t be saved.  We don’t want to confuse a child by leading them to believe that puppets can go to Heaven.  However, one of the goals of a good puppeteer is to create the “illusion of life.”  In a skit, the puppets are, essentially, actors.  They are playing a role.  At One Way Street, we often have puppets talking about salvation, but we don’t show them actually taking that step of faith.

This brings up another area we need to be careful about…altar calls with puppets.  Puppet shows aren’t just silliness.  Puppets can be serious and can lead up to an important time of decision.  Again, puppets can talk about being saved, but we wouldn’t have a puppet lead an altar call.  For one, we do want to make sure we respect the importance of a time of decision.  But also, we don’t want to have children coming forward who are motivated more by wanting to be close to the puppets.

We don’t want our puppets to ignore this subject.  If we do, we’re missing one of the main purposes of having a puppet ministry.  But we don’t want to present salvation in a way that will confuse our young audiences.

Taking Your Puppets Outside – Part 2

May 22, 2010

Here are some more tips for teams that want to take their puppet ministry outside this summer!

Sound Advice

Sound is an important aspect of any puppet show.  If the audience is going to get the message, they need to be able to hear it clearly.  Puppet teams need a good dependable sound system when performing inside, but it’s even more important when performing outside.  When you perform outdoors, the sound has no walls to bounce off of, so it’s more challenging for your audience to hear.  You’ll probably have to crank that sound system up a bit more than you normally would.  Oh, and don’t forget to ask about where your power is going to be coming from…don’t wait until the last minute on that one.  You don’t want to show up in the park and then find out that you have no way to plug in your sound system.

Protect Your Gear

It is wonderful to be outdoors and experience God’s creation, but let’s face it, there’s a lot of nasty stuff out there.  Dust, dirt, bugs…none of these would be high on the list of things I want coming into contact with my puppets.  You may want to plan on a way of covering your puppets and props when they aren’t in use.  Usually we will keep our puppets on racks backstage, so they are ready to go quickly.  But for an outdoor show, you may want to keep your puppets in a covered tub until they are ready to make their entrance on stage.

Now That’s Some High-Quality H2O

Puppetry is a strenuous activity.  When you’re team goes outdoors, where there’s no AC, they’re going to get hot!  They’re going to get sweaty!  They’re going to get gross, or at least grosser than they already are.  We don’t want any puppets dropping out of a scene because the puppeteer passed out.  Have plenty of water on hand so the performers can stay hydrated.  However, make sure that the drinks stay away from your puppets and other materials.

Choose your Material Wisely

The material you perform in an outdoor venue needs to be able to grab your audience’s attention.  You are not in a controlled environment.  There are many chances for your audience to be distracted.  A dog starts barking, a low-flying airplane zooms overhead, the sun goes behind a cloud.  If the performance is holding the audience’s attention, these kinds of interruptions won’t matter so much.  It’s also worth noting that many outdoor performances may be in an event like a fair or community celebration.  People are walking around and may join your performance midway through.  Choosing to perform short pieces with an easy to understand message may be better than doing a performance with a long drawn-out storyline.  I’ve spoken to many teams who perform at fairs that love to use the Righteous Pop Music series of parody songs.  They say that people hear a song they recognize, but something sounds different, so they stop to watch the program.

There’s no way we can plan for every challenge that is presented by performing outside, but hopefully these tips will help you be a bit better prepared.  We hope that your ministry has a fantastic summer season!

Taking Your Puppets Outside – Part 1

May 21, 2010

The summer is upon us. The weather is turning warm, well sort of…here in Colorado’s high elevations there’s always a chance of getting a light snow in even May or June. At this time of the year, puppet ministry teams may be called upon to perform in an outdoor venue. Maybe it’s the church picnic in the park, or a special outdoor outreach event in the church parking lot, or maybe even riding a float in the 4th of July parade. Outdoor performing presents several challenges for a puppet team. Here are a few things to consider when taking your team out into the wilds of nature.

Ask What Happens if it Rains

Whether you’re performing for your own church or you’ve been invited to perform for another, ask the big question…what’s Plan B? If it rains, what do we do? A backup venue may need to be planned on. Of course, it’s not easy for a puppet team to just pick up and move to the church gym at a moment’s notice. Use your resources to watch the weather forecast and set a time for when a decision about change of venue needs to be made.

Puppet Stages and Wind Do Not Get Along

In my times performing outside, rain has not been a big issue. Wind, on the other hand, always seems to be a factor. One time, my wife and I did a performance on Christian night at a local amusement park. The gale force winds would’ve sent our puppet stage curtains floating off to Kansas had a mime team that was performing on the same stage not been there to hold the curtains down. Some teams that perform outside have gotten into the habit of traveling with some weights to help hold their curtains down in the wind. Heavy items like bricks or even simple hand weights could come in handy. If you are concerned about the safety of your puppeteers in an especially windy environment, move the performance inside. Sometimes, even the lightweight stands of an aluminum tripod puppet stage can be rocked a bit by a strong wind. The puppet team I grew up on would tie sandbags to our stage tripods when performing outside to keep them in place.

Backstage View

It’s important to remember that you may be performing in an area where there is no wall behind your performance. People may be able to see, or even wander, backstage. You may want to enlist some extra security help to make sure only the performers are handling the puppets and other equipment.

We’ll bring you a few more outdoor puppetry tips in Part 2!

I-Fest Hands-On: Props Galore

May 21, 2010

Sheri Brubeck and her team, Glory Fingers, will be performing as one of our featured groups at the International Festival of Christian Puppetry and Ventriloquism.  In this hands-on class, you’ll get a chance to learn some of their expert prop building technqiues.

Props Galore for “This Little Light of Mine”

Sheri Brubeck
(HO-I32)
Class Size Limit: 20
Cost: $12
Day: Thursday
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Age: 16 and above
Skill: Beginner
Supplies Needed: hot glue gun with extra glue sticks, X-acto knife with extra new blades, black sharpie, sharp scissors and a pencil.

Class members will learn how to create a hinged wing flying butterfly, a monochome to full color changing flower prop and a simple flying bumble bee. The butterfly and color changing flower will be created in miniature to make transportation home in a suitcase possible. Materials will be inexpensive and readily available at most hobby or home repair stores.

Yoda – Greatest Puppet Performance Ever

May 21, 2010

Today is an important day in the history of movies, and the history of puppetry. It’s the 30th anniversary of the release of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the greatest of the Star Wars films. From a puppetry standpoint, Empire marked the first appearance of Yoda. In his original appearance, Yoda was a puppet brought to life by Muppet puppeteer Frank Oz. Now 30 years later, I still feel that Oz’s performance in this movie is quite possibly the finest puppetry performance ever captured on film.

I remember my 4th grade class having an intense conversation with our teacher, arguing whether Yoda was a puppet or little person in heavy makeup. My teacher was sure it had to be a person. The expressions, the movement of the eyes…there was no way it could be a puppet, he argued. I’m sure he was not the only person who was fooled.

Now Yoda was a very intricate puppet, capable of things that your average puppet ministry puppet could never do. I would still suggest that there is a lot that puppet team members can learn by studying Oz’s performance. The audience literally forgets that they are watching a puppet, which is something many puppeteers would consider a goal when they perform. When the audience forgets about the puppeteers, they pay greater attention to what the puppets are saying. Obviously, in ministry that is very important.

So…Happy 30th Birthday Yoda! You don’t look a day over 800.

I-Fest Hands-On: Suds the Soda

May 20, 2010

Bram Jarvis leads some of the most popular I-Fest hands-on classes each year.  You won’t want to miss the chance to build this unique soda puppet.  Register for I-Fest (July 5-10 in Bourbonnais, IL) now! Don’t miss out!

Suds the Soda
Bram Jarvis
(HO-I29)
Class Size Limit: 15
Cost: $30
Day: Wednesday
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Age: 16 and above
Skill: Beginner to Intermediate
Supplies Needed: a pair of scissors, hot glue gun and glue sticks

Come wet your appetite as we make a soda puppet that will add variety to your 50s numbers or soda shoppe. Pieces will be pre-painted so you take home a finished puppet. You may use this fun puppet under blacklight or without.