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

Puppet Jukebox II (point five?) – The Return of the Return of the Gaga

This past Friday, we were invited to the WhiteFire Theatre to do one more night of the show that we did in December. Since we already performed the show three times (and certain portions seven times) before, we didn’t really rehearse for this one. We just met up a few hours earlier for a review.

The show went well and it was pretty fun for me. I thought it was better than the ones we did six weeks ago. Not sure why. Perhaps it was because that everyone already knew full well what exactly was going to happen next. At least that was how I felt after the first performance of this show. I didn’t feel rushed with anything. I knew the order of the show by heart and I knew how much time (plenty) I would have to do costume changes and so on. I’d say most of the cast members had that too. Besides, I have performed with these people and I know I can trust them to improvise if something happens to go wrong. I was pretty relaxed overall. And the show went really smooth.

I did, however, flub my lines in one of the songs. I performed “Hound Dog” as performed by Elvis Presley, with a dog puppet, of course. This is a song that’s really repetitive. There’s very little to memorize but somehow I forget the lines all the time. I guess I just couldn’t get my head around how repetitive it was. Basically you sing the first verse. Let’s call that A. And then you sing the second verse. Let’s call that B. And then you sing A again. And then there’s an instrumental interlude (dance break!) and you sing B again. Really simple. But I guess this is what goes through my mind:

I would sing A correctly. I would then sing B correctly. And then I would want to sing A, but then I would second guess myself: “Wait, didn’t I sing that part already? Maybe I should sing the other one.” And then I would proceed to sing B, which I just sang like, two seconds ago. And then I would be thinking “ah, crap” and now I got a decision to make after the interlude. Do I sing A again, since I accidentally left it out? Or do I sing B again, since that’s what the lyrics said? But then I had just finished singing B twice. Maybe I shouldn’t do it a third time?

Maybe that’s why I often messed up there. So this time, I started singing B and thought “ah crap, I am just repeating myself”. And that’s when I started making up new lyrics while interacting with the audience. After the interlude, I actually forgot to resume singing, so I ended up making up more stuff. The audience seemed to really like it though, more than the original, since it became really silly. Oh well. Although that was kinda unprofessional, it somehow worked out for the better, in my opinion.

I had a lot of fun, but initially, I was somewhat ambivalent about doing the same show again. I was excited to see everyone together again, but didn’t care as much about what we would be doing. To me, I just feel like seeing and hanging out with these people. Everyone looked like they had fun at the end of the night, but before the show, some of us were feeling like “this again? can we do something else now?” I guess we will never make it in a professional theater career where we do the same show over, and over, and over, and over again. It seems to me that it’s time to shelf this one for now and do a new show. And then we shall be more excited to bring Puppet Jukebox back sometime down the line for Puppet Jukebox 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and to the infinity and beyond.

And it was always good to see friends swing by to see the show! 😀

Puppet Jukebox II: The Return of the Gaga

This past weekend, we did another three performances. Two nights, and one matinee. Around half of the cast are people that did the previous show in May and the other half are people that just finished their classes at Puppet School. I thought that was a good mix, and we have some very capable performers.

Here’s a video of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, as performed by the very talented Keith Ferguson.

Isn’t that fun?

Really, at this point, I was just there to have fun. Since I already did the show in May for four performances, this felt more like performances #5, #6, and #7 as opposed to a new show. And from experience, I knew that I could trust it to work out fine so I was very relaxed the entire time, possibly a little too relaxed. I knew exactly how much time we had for costume and puppet changes and so on, so I never felt rushed about anything. And really, I felt like I was just hanging out with friends. There just happened to be people watching.

And we had a very nice theater to perform in. The audio was set up so much better and there was an actual backstage. And we had really good people running tech. The lighting and sound was just run so smoothly. As someone that’s seen and done many student productions throughout college, I have lots of appreciations for this. The crowd was small (since we only did one week of marketing) but they were so enthusiastic that they sounded like a bigger crowd than they really were. Having a mix of old and new materials allowed us to do a lot more ambitious things, since we already had a foundation to build on.

One of the new number we added this time was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Because of that, we had to learn this:

It was a fun challenge, since I am not, and have never been much of a dancer. But the dance instructor in that video got a series of videos that really broke down every single section of the dance and I was able to learn it through lots of Youtube watching and practicing. It actually turned out to be quite fun. Some of the stuff I learned I was able to apply to another song I was performing. So, hm, I probably learned more about dancing than puppeteering having done this show. Hm, didn’t expect that. And I am starting to pay a lot more attention to how people dance now. I also lost weight. 😀

And I want to thank everyone for coming, whether you are here to support me or our mutual friends: Jay, Edmund, Angela, Clara, Alan, Terri, Heidi, Natalia, Kyle, Jenn.

And finally, this is a video of an exercise / practice from class (I think… I wasn’t in that class) of a song that ended up in the show. The version from the show was better, of course, since the video was from a few months earlier and things have since been polished more.

Enjoy! 😀

Puppet Jukebox II

Isn’t that a cool picture?

Last May, we did a puppet show called Puppet Jukebox. And now, we are bringing it back for another weekend of performances. So here it is, the sequel: Puppet Jukebox II: The Return of The Gaga.

It will be the same format. We are going to walk you through the history of music in the last century. We have a mix of people who have performed in the first one, such as myself, and a new group of graduates performing together. We have a mix of songs from the previous show and some new numbers. The theater is better, and the stuff we are doing is more ambitious. And it’s going to be fun.

So, if you are in the Hollywood area, here’s the info:
Opening night: December 10th, 8pm
Matinee: December 11th, 3pm
Closing night: December 11th, 7pm
at the Hudson Theatres
6539 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90038-1548

For more info and tickets, visit

Here’s a video from the last performance:

Puppet Jukebox: Behind the Scenes

This video is made by fellow cast member Herman Gonzales. This gives you a glance of what the rehearsals are like and also let you take a peek backstage.

Thank you, Herman, for documenting this! 😀

Puppet Jukebox – Matinee & Closing Night

On Saturday, we did two shows. The first one was the matinee, which was supposed to be family-friendly with all curse words and adult jokes cut out. The second one was the closing performance where we got to go back to saying fuck (yay?). And they were both sold out as well! The theater seats about 50, so all four sold-out shows would be around 200 people that had seen the show. Not too shabby at all.

Before the matinee, we went over our lines to make sure we didn’t say anything that we shouldn’t say in front of kids. For example, I was debating whether to replace the “shit” in “your dress looks like shit” with crap, poop, doodie, or booger. Eventually I went with doodie. When we were done, I was relieved: “Yay! We didn’t slip!” And if you’ve been in our class, you would know that it was a challenge given how many inappropriate things we’ve said in class.

What really surprised us was that none of the kids were kicking, screaming, or crying. I mean, in all these movies and shows I’ve been to, if there were a certain number of kids, at least one of them would start crying and the parent would have to get the kid outside somewhat embarrassed. Well, none of that in this show. And once again I realized: Wow, puppet shows are magical.

After the show we brought out puppets to talk to the kids. The kids really loved the puppets. I can definitely relate. My family came to see the show too (though they are all adults). Yay!

At night, we got back to our regular uncensored show, yay! It was the last show, so for sure there was the “Yeah! Let’s go out with a bang!” attitude in everyone. I don’t usually use curse words very much when I talk, but somehow found it liberating to be able to say fuck again. However, when we got on stage, we realized that there was a 10-year-old in the first row. Well, we did already say that the show would be adult-themed so I thought “fuck it” and went on to say the aforementioned “shit” without censorship. It was not until after the show that I realized that I had the honor of being the first person to curse in every performance. Even if anyone had any reservations about cursing (I doubt it), it was basically green light the rest of the way after I let that one out. And we proceeded to say shit and fuck numerous times throughout the show. Hooray!

And finally, we did The Hustle without a hiccup! I did have another hiccup though when I was singing “She’s A Lady”. I wasn’t sure how it happened. At one point, either the music skipped, or it was turned much lower than the microphone, so I wasn’t hearing the music well. Or maybe I just got too excited? I was singing ahead of the music, which never happened in any rehearsals or previous performances. But at some point I caught myself doing that and found my place in the music again and finished it correctly the rest of the way. I hope the audience was distracted enough with the subsequent singing, dancing, and bright colors to remember that.

And really, it was the last night and everyone just wanted to put on their best performance and this led to many amazing performances. There was a camera recording the show, so we were watching the performances backstage via the video feed, and man, many of these performances were simply amazing. Many high-fives backstage after each number.

We closed out the show with an opera. Well, it was really us singing (painfully obvious) fake Italian to a background track. The four of us theatre puppetry students played the main characters, while the TV puppetry students joined in as the chorus. Every student was on stage at the same time. There was just something beautiful about that. Now, though there were character descriptions and a general plot line, everything else was improvised. We weren’t singing the same words every night. We weren’t singing the same notes every night. Every night it went slightly different. So we were all very happy afterwards with that crescendo we did. Without rehearsing and agreeing beforehand, Libby, Keith, and I all reached for that same high note towards the end, and wow, that felt just great.

And at the end of the last scene of the last show, my prop broke. What great timing! Now that’s a sign telling me that, yes, that’s a wrap. I had a wonderful time performing with this amazing group of people. More on that later. :-)

Puppet Jukebox – Second Night

Second night was much better! 😀

Actually, I am not sure if the performance was better, but it certainly felt better than the first night. Since we already performed it once, we were more relaxed and more comfortable with it. Knowing what worked and what needed to be fixed from first night was a very good thing. I mentioned that the first night was sort of a blur to me. Tonight it felt so much better. Nothing felt rushed. I knew where things were. I knew what needed to be done. And I was ready, standing by, and prepared long before each entrance. We also got a video feed to see what was going on out there (some of it, anyway) so that made it even more enjoyable. But really, the best thing was being relaxed enough to actually enjoy it.

Another reason that it felt better was because we had a better crowd. Sometimes I don’t know why you get a better crowd one night than the other. This didn’t even have anything to do with whether the performance tonight was better or not. We started the show with a video, and from the response to the video, you could already tell what kind of crowd it was. Maybe it was because it was Friday? Or maybe this was within margin of error in sampling? I don’t know, but it certainly helped tonight.

Our theatre puppetry class instructor Christian came to watch the show. He loved it. We are glad.

The microphone stuff was still a little iffy. It seemed to work in some songs and not the others (probably intentionally turned off because of the feedback problems?). Well, I am just going to assume that we won’t have microphones the rest of the run. As long as the music wasn’t dialed up too loud, most of us should be able to sing over it without major problems.

The wig on my puppet almost came off in one of the songs. I just made a joke about it and kept on going. When mistakes like that happen, you can handle it one of two ways. You can just ignore it and keep on going. Or you can acknowledge it (by joking about it) so that’s done. We can move on. It probably ended up being more entertaining anyway, so that’s all good. Still though, that’s not really supposed to happen, so I brought the wig home with me to do some rigging. It usually isn’t a big problem but since my puppet did have a lot of head movements, it can be an issue.

Two sold-out shows in a row. The two shows tomorrow (Saturday matinee and closing night) has two and five tickets left, respectively, and is very likely to sell out soon. Grab your tickets now:

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