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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Theatre Puppetry Workshop (Beginning): Weeks 4, 5, 6

Yes, leave it to a procrastinator to write about the beginning class when the intermediate class is almost over.

We continued to worked on the specifics and doing improv. There were some fun games too. There was one where we had to pick a random (fictional) movie title out of a hat and have people guess what it was. And there was another one where we did impressions of one another and then had people guess who the person was impersonating. We ended up doing inside jokes for the most part, but that was fun. Apparently I’ve developed a reputation of showing up to class late because I stopped to grab something to eat. Hm, what do you know? 😛

Each week, we were also introduced to a different kind of puppetry. Week 4 was puppets with glove hands, like Cookie Monster, Ernie, or Trekkie Monster. One person controls the head/mouth and left hand, while another person controls the right hand. It was fun working with a partner. Little did I know that it would become my main focus in the intermediate class.

Since I was in this class, there was an extra type of puppetry that was introduced… by me. I did a little show-and-tell with some Taiwanese puppets in class. I brought several puppets and showed videos of a recent performance I went to (more on that later). Always glad to share the art form that made me fall in love with puppetry, and performance arts in general.

In Week 5, we played with a marionette. It was heavier than all the other puppets we’ve played with, since the puppet needed to have enough weight in different parts of the body to be balanced properly and have a good illusion of weight. I wish we spent more time on this. If there were a whole class on marionettes, I would be interested in taking it. Probably not this year though, unless I get really rich.

In Week 6, we played with black-light puppets. This kind of puppetry is performed in the dark. UV light is used to shine on puppets covered in fluorescent materials. The puppeteers are supposed to dress in all black, and the background is supposed to be all black too. And then you’ll just see puppets floating around. When that’s done properly, it’s very cool-looking. But of course, we didn’t really dress in all black. And we couldn’t block out all lights completely and the curtain was not black-black. So it didn’t really work well, but at least it kinda worked. That goes to show you that how important it is to prepare the venue properly when you do this kind of puppetry.

Overall, the course was a fun introduction of different types of puppetry. I think I would still recommend the TV puppetry class more. However, I am totally biased. Since I already took the TV puppetry class first, naturally I would not learn as much in this class. It’s simply the law of diminishing return. Also I am part of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry so I already have opportunities to be exposed to different kinds of puppetry. So perhaps it’s not entirely fair to judge which class is more valuable. I would say that it’s probably better to start with the TV class as the beginner, because you get to see your own performance on a monitor while you are doing it. You get immediately feedback for what you are working on. In theater puppetry, you have no monitor so eventually you’ll need to learn to trust your hand to do the right thing, even though there’s no visual feedback to verify it. So maybe it’s better to get the basic mechanics down in the TV class.

Related posts:
Theatre Puppetry Workshop (Beginning): Weeks 1, 2
Theatre Puppetry Workshop (Beginning): Week 3


  1. March 21st, 2011 | 8:09 pm

    Hi Kelvin,

    It seems you’ve been really busy lately…three more weeks of classes already passed?

    It doesn’t stop to amaze me how many variations can exist when it comes to puppetry! The black-light puppets seem to free the puppeteer for different kind of stories. I guess every variation will have different possibilities and different problems and situations to deal with.


    Alien Ghost’s last blog post..Digitalization

  2. March 21st, 2011 | 9:46 pm

    Actually, it’s more like five or six week. I did just wrap up a project for a client this past Friday.

    Blacklight puppets look quite magical to people who’s never seen it. Actually, it looks cool even though you know how it works, because things seem to just appear out of nowhere and disappear.

  3. March 22nd, 2011 | 8:34 pm

    Black light puppets sound really cool. There’s nothing neat like that around here… except sesame street live.

    Katrina’s last blog post..20/90: Still Going

  4. March 22nd, 2011 | 11:08 pm

    It’s a little weird for me to see gigantic Elmo, Grover, Ernie, Bert, etc.

  5. March 23rd, 2011 | 1:31 pm


    It sounds like you’ve been having lots of fun in these classes. Like Raul, I didn’t realize there were so many types of puppets. It’s kind of cool. You said you’d like to work more with the marionette puppets. What is it about them that you like so much?

    Now that you’ve taken these classes, do they have puppetry theater where you can try out and be in a puppet show? In my community, we have what’s called, The Little Theater,” it’s a place where regular people can tryout for acting roles and then the theater puts on productions. It’s really cool because lots of people attend, if only see their friends acting on stage:~) I just if puppetry offered the same type of thing?

    I am pleased that you enjoyed your classes!

    Sara’s last blog post..Story Photo: Say What?

  6. March 23rd, 2011 | 8:19 pm

    Marionettes… just because they look difficult to master and I would like to learn how it works.

    We do have a recital at the end of the advanced class. Looking forward to that. 😀

  7. Naomi
    March 24th, 2014 | 5:58 am

    I would have thought that doing theatre first, then TV, would make more sense. In theatre there is usually more of a focus on developing character, expression, movement; and then for TV you simply hone everything. I think also for beginners if they approach TV first they are more likely to feel at a loss when there’s no monitor to work from.

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