Too Much Light

Touring a puppet show is always challenging, but when the show in question involves shadow puppets, things become especially tricky.

Shadow puppetry depends on the interaction between light and objects (usually flat cutout puppets made of cardstock). This means that controlling light sources becomes even more vital than it would be for another kind of puppet show. In a theater, that is fairly easy. Most theaters are built without windows, so there’s no extra light spill to interfere with the shadows. But our show Saudade was intended from the beginning to be an outreach show; a piece that is shared in community spaces such as schools, churches, libraries and community centers. And almost all of these spaces have, well, windows.

IMG_5797

The perfect shadow puppet space, with side light on the audience but not the enclosed stage.

When we get to a new performance space on tour that has windows, placing the stage becomes extra important. We’ve had lots of discussions as to how we can achieve the best lighting: do we worry more about light spilling onto the screen from the front and perhaps washing out the shadows? Or do we worry about light spill from behind, which could distort the shadows or reveal certain images before they are intended to be seen?

IMG_2622

This was a good setup–no windows behind the stage & blinds that blocked most of the side light.

 

Sometimes we attempt to cut off the light with curtains, venetian blinds, or shutters and hope for the best. Often we are setting up the show a good hour before we start, which means that the sun can sink lower in the meantime, finding its way through cracks in the curtain or blind. We have fond memories of how various venues have gone the extra mile to try and block windows, including covering them with trash bags (at a transitional school in Winnipeg, Canada) or with large sheets of cardboard (at a church in Minneapolis). For the record, cardboard works the best.

IMG_2567

This was the pitch black gym that made the kids scream in Winnipeg!

In the end, not all light spill is terrible. It can be helpful to have just a little bit of light as we go through scene changes and prepare puppets for upcoming moments. It can also help the audience feel more comfortable. We did one show in Winnipeg at an after-school program where we were performing in a gym with no windows and it was pitch black when the lights first went out. Not only did that make several of the children scream (whether with fright or anticipation I’m not quite sure) but it meant we had no help whatsoever when trying to find the next puppet if one screen light had gone out and the next one wasn’t on yet. As a result, there were a few fumbles when the wrong puppet was picked up and had to be fixed quickly.

Light is essential to shadow puppetry and controlling it is a must when considering where and how to take a shadow puppet play on tour. We hope this post can help other people with these challenges when taking shadow puppets on the road.

 

Advertisements

ICYMI: Saudade Trailer!

Our March tour of Saudade is halfway done and it’s World Puppet Day! If you haven’t had a chance,  check out this new trailer and a few other blog posts about amazing puppetry and puppeteers from around the world.

An Interview with Gabriela Cespedes from Argentina

A Brief History of Puppets and Social Justice

Recycled Puppets by Ashley Bryan

A Few Puppeteers You May Not Know

 

 

Revisiting Saudade

As part of our preparation for this tour of Saudade (which starts on Friday!) we were able to bring in photographer Liza Harbison to take some shots of the shadow puppets. Here are a few:

 

Winnipeg Photos

Some photos of our trip to Winnipeg this month for the Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival:

IMG_2623

The entire show of Saudade. Everyone was very impressed by our packing abilities!

IMG_2626

The poster for the festival.

IMG_2616

Genna sorts control rods before a show.

IMG_2618

The puppets (60 in total) laid out ready for a show.

IMG_2562

We performed in the gym at the NEEDS center, a community space for newcomers. Our fantastic sound guy, Hassaan is at the computer.

IMG_2606

Talking with the kids at the NEEDS Center after the show.

IMG_2640

The rivers of Winnipeg are beautiful in the sun.

IMG_2556

Cecilia and Genna at the opening dinner of the festival.

 

So Many Changes

Like many artists, I am rarely satisfied with the first iteration of a project. After the performances of Saudade at the Intersections Festival, we had lots of conversations with audience members and each other about what could be clearer, stronger and more powerful in the piece. From puppet movement to sound, to crankie images, we examined each element of the project to see what could be improved.

Because we are going to the Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival in May, we have a deadline for completing all these fixes and it is getting close! Here are some photos of the work we’ve been doing:

IMG_2470

A new frame! We hope this will make everything a little more visible to the audience.

IMG_2479

Here, the fabric panels are coming together and the crankie is in place.

IMG_2480

We’ve added scenes to the end of the show. Here, Cecilia tries to manipulate three puppets with two hands.

We’re Going to Canada!

Wit’s End Puppets is taking to the road! Or the plane, as a matter of fact. We have been invited by the good folks at the University of Manitoba’s Mauro Center for Peace and Justice to perform Saudade at the Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival in May.

This is the first time we have been able to take a larger show to an out-of-town event, so we are extremely excited! Since we wrapped up our INTERSECTIONS run, we have been making some changes to the show, adding puppets, polishing scenes and revising sounds to better achieve the effects and images in our minds. We received lots of excellent feedback from our audiences at the Atlas, and have been considering how best to incorporate audience suggestions. The show has a new ending, several interludes that break up the stories of our three main characters and we are working towards creating recorded monologues to begin and end the show that will feature the voices of many of the people whose stories were captured and shared in the script. Here are a few pictures of the progress we’ve made so far:

Amy is carefully placing the tiny paper birds between these two silhouettes.

Amy is carefully placing the tiny paper birds between these two silhouettes.

A new scene added at the end of show.

A new scene added at the end of show.

The ending images were all cut in one long big piece this time.

The ending images were all cut in one long big piece this time.

We have to carefully cut off the bottom edge to make sure everything matches.

We have to carefully cut off the bottom edge to make sure everything matches.

SAUDADE Process Video

Saudade7This video contains some of the various pieces of the process it took to create Saudade: building shadow puppets, experimenting with movement on the various screens and finally the moving crankie and puppets in the finished piece. We hope you enjoy it!