This post was inspired by an interesting — and unusual — DVD I found at the library. It’s called Marianne’s Theatre, was produced by the National Film Board of Canada, and is a puppet show within a puppet show, done with stop motion animation. It was created by a man named Co Hoedeman, a Dutch-Canadian filmmaker, who won an Oscar for one of his animated films, The Sand Castle, in 1967. If you’d like to see the film Marianne’s Theatre, it’s available to watch on the NFB website.
In Marianne’s Theatre, there is a traditional hand puppet, and also puppets made of paper that are brought to “life” through the stop animation technique used in the film. It got me thinking about puppets and puppet theatres, and what fun they can be for kids (and grownups, too).
If you’ve seen the movie The Sound of Music, you’ll remember the puppet show during the song The Lonely Goatherd. Those were marionettes, doll-like puppets made of wood, with many joints, which are worked by pulling strings from above. It’s a very complicated kind of puppetry. (That’s the kind of puppet Pinocchio was before he became a real boy.) The people who made the marionettes for The Sound of Music were Bil Baird and his wife Cora, who did many shows with their marionettes. You can read about Bil Baird at this link. You can read more about marionettes and their history at the website Puppets Now.
Hand puppets, while not as elaborate, are easier to work with — and to make. You can even make them out of old socks! These days, when people think of puppets, they often think of The Muppets, which are probably the most famous puppets in the world. When I was growing up, there were Canadian TV shows that featured puppets, The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup, and Shari Lewis’s Lambchop was well known, too. Shari’s daughter, Mallory, is continuing her mother’s tradition. (There were lots of other TV shows with puppets, as well.) The puppets on The Friendly Giant were made by the Keogh family, and I was delighted to learn that Nina Keogh is still making puppets for TV and other artistic productions. Here’s a cool history of puppetry in Canada — I’ve linked to the page about Nina Keogh, but there’s lots of other information there, as well.
Kids can make puppets, too — as I mentioned before, you can even make them out of socks (that’s how Lambchop started out). Just put an old sock on your hand (check with a parent first that it’s one you can use), stuff the toe into your hand between your fingers and thumb to make the mouth, and then draw or stick on the eyes and nose — there’s your puppet. You can make it as elaborate or as simple as you want. Here’s a slideshow of instructions from Sesame Street (where they definitely know about puppets!). Or, you can make paper puppets on sticks, like the boy in the picture at the top of this post did.
Once you have your puppets, you need a place for them to perform! Here are instructions for making a puppet theatre out of a box, from the Inhabitots website.
Have fun with your puppets!