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

Marionette video – Scene from Batman

So, earlier I mentioned that we were doing a dialogue piece with marionettes. Well, here it is – a scene from the 1966 Batman movie.

To give you a little bit of background (since all these puppets look the same), this is the scene where Catwoman, Riddler, Joker, and Penguin are discussing how to set up a trap to get Batman. Catwoman is not shown in this video (since she has few lines) but she is assumed to be sitting a seat with her back to the camera. From left to right, you have Riddler (Toby Rogers), Joker (Farah Griffin) and Penguin (yours truly).


http://youtu.be/O-uTTNyWP-4

There might be some confusions watching this video since all the puppets look the same, and they all have crazy cartoonish villain voices. Still fun to watch though!

Of course, watching it closely, there are still things that I can pick on, particularly my own part. Not necessarily because I am the most harsh on myself, but because I know my part best. There’s definitely parts where I should’ve been more still when my character wasn’t talking, and I should’ve landed the feet and butt better when the puppet is standing up and sitting down. But overall, I thought we did great for the limited time we spent rehearsing. There’s always room for improvement, of course.

Next level of classes begin this weekend. I’m looking forward to it. 😀

Marionette Workshop (Intermediate): Weeks 5, 6

Hello there! I’m back! There are actually many things to post about with various events going on, but first, the regular workshop series.

In Week 5, I skipped class to go to a Taiwanese puppet show. I’ve already uploaded the pictures and some videos. Will share them once I’m done writing the captions.

In Week 6, I arrived a little earlier than everyone else, so the teacher and I could go over what I missed in the previous week. However, we ended up chatting about the show I went to and also doing repairs on my puppet because a string came loose when I was doing a walkthrough of the dialogue piece. And there were some other strings hanging not quite right, so we ended up mostly fixing strings. But that meant I got some puppet repair tips.

For example, the teacher tied the string to the puppet first, and then to the controller. This way, she could get a feel of what length the string should be and how much tension was proper. That was the opposite of what I did when I attempted the repair once. Maybe that was why I couldn’t get it quite right. Also, she was able to hold the puppet with one hand and tie the string using another hand. That was certainly a good skill to acquire. Also she knotted the string several times and looped the string in opposite directions each time. Whether that actually helped? Not sure.

Once the other classmates came, we started doing the dialogue piece again. Each run was filmed, so we watched it, critiqued ourselves, and did it again several times. (Isn’t technology awesome?) The same stuff again: be more specific and intentional with each movement. At the end, we also ran through the song and dance piece again, but since we have been working on the dialogue piece the past two weeks, there was definitely some rust.

That concluded the intermediate marionette class. There might be videos online in the future (… eventually) but I will leave you with a sneak peek from the song and dance piece (from Pinocchio):

pinocchio_marionette

And the dialogue piece (from Batman):

batman_marionette

Marionette Workshop (Intermediate): Weeks 3, 4

In Week 3, we worked on the same choreography that we were doing in the previous week. Since we already got the general structure down, we were working on polishing the moves some more. There were the usual things we were watching out for, such as maintaining the height of the puppet so it was more in a standing rather than a sitting position. We were also working on making the movements more precise. Having familiarity with the piece certainly helped, since we knew exactly how much time we had to get to the next movement. We could take our time and just flow into the next movement instead of grasping for a string in a hurry, causing jerky motions. We also made the choreography more in sync by paying attention to one another and by working out the exact counts.

Speaking of counts, we were also doing some formations, walking in circle, flower, and figure 8 patterns. I wonder if someone with marching band experience would have an natural edge for this. An additional thing (and important thing) to pay attention to was that there were puppets walking along with the humans. You would want your legs to block the puppet as little as possible while walking in various patterns. Those were things to watch out for as well.

In Week 4, we worked on another group scene. Instead of the singing and dancing stuff, which was heavy on movement, we got to work on a dialogue piece. Here we practiced making the puppets look like they were talking. At the same time, you don’t want to overdo it, either. The bigger movements should be reserved for stressing the important words of the dialogue.

At the end of each class, we filmed the scenes we were working on, so we could actually watch it from an audience member’s perspective. You can certainly see the improvements from one week to another. Now, I am not at liberty to post these rehearsal videos, so you’ll just have to take my words for it. :-)

Also, let me just briefly mention this: yesterday was this blog’s sixth year anniversary. The first post I’ve written for the blog was written back in 2007. At early stages of the blog, I actually tried to stick to a schedule and was trying to get more readers. Now I just don’t bother. That said, I’ll keep happily blogging even if not that many people are reading. To the few people reading (Sara? Raul? Michelle? Anyone else that don’t like to comment?), thank you for your continual support. :-)

Marionette Workshop (Intermediate): Weeks 1, 2

After completing the beginning classes, it’s time for intermediate classes. Whether it was the TV or theater puppetry workshops, I’ve always enjoyed the intermediate ones the most and I expect this to be no exception. What I like in general about intermediate classes:

1) The group work aspect:
When you are not the only performer on stage / screen, you get to play off of one another in a scene. Many interesting things happen when multiple people work together, each bringing his or her unique style and input.

2) Smaller class size:
Since not everyone that signed up for beginning class will sign up for the intermediate class, the intermediate class tend to be smaller. More individual attention!

3) You are always up:
This is the result of both 1 and 2. Since you are always doing group work instead of taking turns doing solo performances, and also because the class is smaller, it’s likely you are always doing a scene, whether you are the main character or a supporting character. Either way, you are constantly doing something instead of seated down watching the others.

4) You already have the beginning class materials down / out of the way (to some degree):
And you get to polish things some more and introduce more nuances.

5) You’ve had the same classmates for weeks already:
Most likely, you are a lot more comfortable with your classmates by this point. I think performances tend to be better when the performers are comfortable playing against one another.

In Week 1, we did a little review of the homework (yes, we have homework) from the beginning class. Basically, we were doing the short choreography together as a group instead of taking turns doing it individually. Then we went over some space work. The tricky part is that you need to be aware of the other puppeteers around you and not bump into them, and that sometimes how fast the puppet travels is based on how fast the puppeteers travel (even though technically the puppet’s legs aren’t as long and steps not as big, this works in group choreography).

In Week 2, we started on the group choreography for a song. The song has several characters in it and they are randomly assigned to us by drawing names out of a hat. So we all did the song together. Each character will have his/her turn as the star and do that one section while the other characters react to it, and finally they join together and dance synchronized steps. We were coming up with some of the choreography as we went. I was pretty impressed with what we ended up with in just three hours. Sure, we could use more polish, but I thought it was quite good for three hours. And you are just going to have to take my words for it.

We will continue to work on this in Week 3. Looking forward to it!

Text-Based Game

Before there were video games with fancy 3D graphics, there were 2D games like Super Mario Brothers. Before those 2D games, there were text-based games. How do you play those? Basically, the computer describes the settings you are in (instead of showing you graphics) and you type in your actions (instead of using a joystick).

Today, I read in this article that emacs, a text editor (available via Terminal on the Mac), contains such an Easter egg. So I gave the game a try.

It was amusing. See this transcript: (The lines that start with ‘>’ is what I typed in. The rest was provided by the game.)

kelvinkao$ emacs -batch -l dunnet

Dead end
You are at a dead end of a dirt road. The road goes to the east.
In the distance you can see that it will eventually fork off. The
trees here are very tall royal palms, and they are spaced equidistant
from each other.
There is a shovel here.
>pick up shovel
I don’t understand that.
>take shovel
Taken.
>walk
I don’t understand that.
>walk around
I don’t understand that.
>walk forward
I don’t understand that.
>dig with shovel
Digging here reveals nothing.
>go on dirt road
You can’t go that way.
>go east
E/W Dirt road
You are on the continuation of a dirt road. There are more trees on
both sides of you. The road continues to the east and west.
There is a large boulder here.
>climb tree
You manage to get about two feet up the tree and fall back down. You
notice that the tree is very unsteady.
>climb tree again
You manage to get about two feet up the tree and fall back down. You
notice that the tree is very unsteady.
>climb boulder
You can’t climb that.
>push boulder
You can’t push that.
>kick boulder
I don’t understand that.
>bomb boulder
I don’t understand that.
>go west
Dead end
>go east
E/W Dirt road
There is a large boulder here.
>use shovel
I don’t understand that.
>dig
Digging here reveals nothing.
>play piano
I don’t understand that.
>play flute
I don’t understand that.
>walk north
I don’t understand that.
>go north
You can’t go that way.
>go east
Fork
You are at a fork of two passages, one to the northeast, and one to the
southeast. The ground here seems very soft. You can also go back west.
>dig
I think you found something.
>pick up
I don’t understand that.
>take
You must supply an object.
>take thing
I don’t know what that is.
>dig
Digging here reveals nothing.
>take what i found
I don’t know what that is.
>take thing
I don’t know what that is.
>inventory
You currently have:
A lamp
A shovel
>use lamp
I don’t understand that.
>go northeast
NE/SW road
You are on a northeast/southwest road.
>walk
I don’t understand that.
>run
I don’t understand that.
>go northeast
Building front
You are at the end of the road. There is a building in front of you
to the northeast, and the road leads back to the southwest.
>enter building
You don’t have a key that can open this door.
>find key
I don’t understand that.
>dig
Digging here reveals nothing.
>knock
I don’t understand that.
>knock on door
I don’t understand that.
>find key
I don’t understand that.
>climb
There is nothing here to climb.
>climb building
I don’t know what that object is.
>ring doorbell
I don’t understand that.
>open door
I don’t understand that.
>open window
I don’t understand that.
>go back
I don’t understand where you want me to go.
>go southwest
NE/SW road
>go southwest
Fork
There is a CPU card here.
>take cpu card
Taken.
>use cpu card
I don’t understand that.
>go southwest
You can’t go that way.
>go northeast
NE/SW road
>go north
You can’t go that way.
>go northeast
Building front
>enter building
You don’t have a key that can open this door.
>use lamp
I don’t understand that.
>go southwest
NE/SW road
>go west
You can’t go that way.
>go north
You can’t go that way.
>where can i go?
I don’t understand that.
>go east
You can’t go that way.
>go south
You can’t go that way.
>go north
You can’t go that way.
>go west
You can’t go that way.
>go northwest
You can’t go that way.
>go northeast
Building front
>go southwest
NE/SW road
>go southwest
Fork
>take fork
I don’t know what that is.
>go fork
I don’t understand where you want me to go.
>go southeast
SE/NW road
You are on a southeast/northwest road.
There is some food here.
>take food
Taken.
>inventory
You currently have:
A lamp
A shovel
A computer board
Some food
>eat some food
I don’t know what that is.
>eat food
That tasted horrible.
>puke
I don’t understand that.
>throw up
I don’t know what that is.
>go southwest
You can’t go that way.
>go northeast
You can’t go that way.
>go southeast
Bear hangout
You are standing at the end of a road. A passage leads back to the
northwest.
There is a ferocious bear here!
>fight bear
I don’t understand that.
>punch bear
I don’t understand that.
>dig
Digging here reveals nothing.
>use shovel
I don’t understand that.
>hit bear
I don’t understand that.
>shoot bear
I don’t understand that.
>touch bear
I don’t understand that.
>look at bear
It looks like a grizzly to me.
>say hi
I don’t understand that.
>say hello
I don’t understand that.
>fight bear
I don’t understand that.
>punch bear
I don’t understand that.
>run away
I don’t understand that.
>inventory
You currently have:
A lamp
A shovel
A computer board
>use shovel
I don’t understand that.
>use lamp
I don’t understand that.
>start fire
I don’t understand that.
>look at bear
It looks like a grizzly to me.
>eat bear
You don’t have that.
>fight bear
I don’t understand that.
>take bear
You cannot take that.
>kick bear
I don’t understand that.
>hit bear
I don’t understand that.
>hunt bear
I don’t understand that.
>go southeast
The bear is very annoyed that you would be so presumptuous as to try
and walk right by it. He tells you so by tearing your head off.

You are dead.
You have scored 0 out of a possible 90 points.

New music video: Exit

Remember that I mentioned puppeteering in a video last July? Of course you don’t. Anyway, here’s the finished product. Enjoy!


http://youtu.be/4EiKRJG4D28

The music is by Replaced With Robots. I played the orange guy in most of the shots, with the great Heiko Obermöller performing the blue puppet. (And we were still using the lyrics as inside jokes this past weekend.) Kevin Burnstein and Diana King directed the video.

More behind the scenes stuff to come!

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