Ah, procrastination. This time, I waited till the entire course was over to write about it.
Originally, I thought this would be the most useless class in the entire series, and boy, was I wrong!
I was thinking: in the Beginning class we would learn all the basics; in the Advanced class we would learn about actually rehearsing for a show. In the Intermediate class? I saw it just as a transition since you would just be doing basically the same thing you did in the Beginning class, except you would be sharing the stage with other people. Not too different. But wow, was I wrong. I actually learned a lot from this class. You know what made all the difference?
Yup, nitpicking. The best thing about this class was that the instructor, Christian, was really nitpicking in this class. Though he kept apologizing for doing it, I really thought the nitpicking was great. I mean, I paid for the class, so please call out all my mistakes and help me fix them!
How this class was different from the beginning class was that, instead of having all these different exercises and choreography taught to you, you would come up with your own choreography. And then you kept refining it and fixing all the mistakes along the way.
What he nitpicked on was really nothing we didn’t know. Nitpicking reminds me of nose-picking, so let’s use that as an example. We all know (I think) that you shouldn’t pick your nose in public. But some of us will still do it unconsciously. It’s not until someone points out to you, “Dude! Gross! Stop picking your nose!” that you can be aware of it. After this habit is corrected, even if you had a relapse sometime down the line, it’s also more likely that you will catch yourself when your finger is about to violate the restraining order.
It was pointed out to me that there was something a little odd about my lip-sync. It wasn’t very precise and was a little stiff. I tried different things in class and I worked on it at home in front of a mirror. I realized that I probably picked up some bad habits while practicing with a puppet with a thumb-hold that I’ve been procrastinating on fixing, so my hand ended up having to be stiff and stuck in a certain position to grab onto the mouth plate. So I loosened up my wrist and the lip-sync was much cleaner and more natural in the next class.
It was also pointed out to me that I needed to be more specific in the breathing and gestures. As a human, taking a breath, whether through the nose or mouth, is relatively silent for the most part. And then when you talk, you move your mouth and make sounds. The primary thing you do with the puppet’s mouth is, of course, talking or singing. But if you remember to also do a breathing motion before the words, it makes the puppet look so much more alive, even though the addition is really subtle. I still don’t remember to take those breaths every time (and you probably don’t need to if you just have a short sentence), but I am a lot more conscious of it now.
Compared to TV puppetry, where you have a monitor and you are watching your own performance at all times, it’s harder to correct these things in theatre. The puppet is right next to you, so you can’t really see it. You can either use the mirror (which is eventually take away) to correct yourself, or you have to rely on the instructor. This means you have to be a lot more aware of what you are doing, because you don’t have a monitor you can watch to realize that you are doing something wrong.
Another cool thing about this class was that we got to work on those glove-hand puppets (like Cookie Monster, Ernie, and Trekkie Monster). The puppet would take two people to operate. One person would be doing the head and left hand, while the other person got just the right hand. My partner all these four weeks was Andrew. We started out with him on the right hand, but we ended up switching back and forth. It was very interesting to see, because the character seemed to take on a slightly different personality depending on who was on the left and who was on the right, even though we were doing the exact same choreography.
At the end of the last class, we filmed what we were doing. We did one wide shot with all the characters, and we did one close-up for each character. When we watched the clips on TV, I thought, “wow, that actually looked really good!” Things really came together and that was definitely quite a rewarding experience.