Stars and Space Creatures

We are nearly done with objects for Arts on the Horizon’s new baby theater show Space-Bop. We are thrilled to be collaborating again with Tia Shearer-Bassett and working for the first time with Christylez Bacon and Seamus Miller. Back in the summer of 2015 we participated in a workshop of this piece and now rehearsals start in just a few days! Meanwhile, here are some photos from the building process.

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A new star pattern, with one of our light-up gadgets in the background.

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A rather bumpy planet surface.

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The somewhat messy beginnings of another planet.

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Pieces of the astronaut helmet, before being put together.

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Outer Space and Baby Theater

Workshop moment with a rocket ship! Photo courtesy of Arts on the Horizon.

Workshop moment with a rocket ship! Photo courtesy of Arts on the Horizon.

Along with the Capital Fringe Festival and our one-night revival of Saudade, this summer was spent working with our friends at Arts on the Horizon to workshop a new baby-theater show called Space-Bop. It stars a clown and musician who travel into outer space, encountering planets, stars and space creatures. Among the objects we created for them is a colorful rocket ship, a tiny astronaut and a pet star.

One of the challenges of this show was coming up with ways to make objects light up, since light and darkness is important to our ideas of outer space and bright lights are engaging for very young audiences. It was very gratifying at the workshop performances to hear tiny voices say “How does it DO that?” As we look ahead to the full production this winter, we are pulling inspiration from other environments to add to our imagined idea of this space-world.

One big inspiration for our work on this piece was the Australian puppet show The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik. Strangely enough, there are many connections to be made with underwater adventures and outer space. Other sources for visuals include classic moon landing photographs, early cinema such as this gem from Georges Melies and vintage design featuring rocket ships. We will post more process photos as we continue working and if you have a little one or just like wordless theater, be sure to put the show on your calendar for February.

A Quick Guide to Puppets

Curious about puppets? Looking for some basic information about how to tell what kind of a puppet you might be looking at? You’ve come to the right place. Puppets are quickly gaining exposure in our popular culture, but they belong to a very old tradition, and are just as diverse as many other art forms. Here are some basics to know:

The definition of ‘puppet’ can be slightly different depending on who you talk to. Most people picture the fabric toy puppets they might have had as children, or the Muppet characters created by Jim Henson for Sesame Street. We often say that a puppet is any object brought to life by an operator, a definition which includes both realistic and abstract characters.

A hand puppet created by a student.

A hand puppet created by a student.

Hand puppets are puppets operated by the puppeteers hand inside the puppet’s body, usually making the head and hands move. Punch and Judy are good examples of traditional hand puppets. Sometimes a hand puppet is operated by two people, such as Telly Monster from Sesame Street.

Rod puppets are puppets with a rod holding up the body and usually two rods controlling the hands or arms. This allows the puppeteer to put some distance between themselves and the puppet. They are traditionally found in southeast Asia, primarily Indonesia.

Czech style marionette.

Czech style marionette.

Marionettes are puppets controlled by strings or wires. A good example of marionettes are the puppets in the movie The Sound of Music. Some marionettes can have up to a dozen strings controlling all the different parts of the body. Marionettes are usually human figures but can also be animals or abstract figures.

Over-life-size puppets is the term used by puppet historian John Bell to describe puppets that are larger than human size or enclose the puppeteer inside the puppet. Big Bird, from Sesame Street is an example of this kind of puppet.

Shadow puppets that we created for Fabulas Mayas at GALA Hispanic Theatre.

Shadow puppets that we created for Fabulas Mayas at GALA Hispanic Theatre.

Shadow puppets are flat cutout figures traditionally seen in silhouette, behind a screen. They can be made of paper, plastic, or leather and are sometimes opaque and sometimes translucent.

Object puppet is a term we sometimes use to describe characters that are created from found objects. All puppets can be classified as ‘object theater’ but these are characters made from a single object such as a hairbrush, fork or pair of binoculars.

Bunraku is a style of puppet originally from Japan. They are usually half or three quarters of human size and are operated by three puppeteers at once.

Kismet Rehearsal Videos

Our puppets Kismet and Mophead taking a break on the set.

Our puppets Kismet and Mophead taking a break on the set.

We’re heading into our last few rehearsals before tech starts later this week.  New faces, new movements and even some new puppets! We have loaded our cabinets, drawers and lots and lots of paper into the Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint and are figuring out how Kismet’s story fits into this space. Looking back over the past months of rehearsal, here are a few (very tiny) videos of our experiments and ideas from this crazy journey.

From the Rehearsal Room #1

Rehearsals this month have been taken up with some strength conditioning (puppetry can be strenuous!), lots of experimenting with puppets, discussing the storyboard and story elements in detail and some puppet building. We will be sharing more insights into the process (including interviews with our cast, video and more) but here are some photos of early meetings in February:

Amy and Genna's puppets encounter each other.

Amy and Genna’s puppets encounter each other.

Russell, working with the Swirl Dancer puppet.

Russell, working with the Swirl Dancer puppet.