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

Marionette Workshop (Beginning): Weeks 6, 7

In week 6, we added more elements to the practices we regularly do. This time, in addition to the walking, turning, looking, sitting stuff, we also added some kneeling and jumping onto a bench. For the kneeling stuff, you really need to get a feel for the weight distribution of the puppet in that particular posture. This is because you most likely need to let go of the tension in the leg string if you want to do any hand gestures. At that point, you are going to want to have left the puppet in a way that it’s propping itself up. Jumping onto a bench is tricky too. You want to jump just high enough so that the feet don’t get caught, but you don’t want to jump too high either since that will most likely prevent you from landing its feet at the right spot. Tricky, but fun stuff.

The day before the week 7 (and final Beginning level) class, one of the knee joints fell apart so I had to give it a knee surgery (with duct tape!) The shoulder strings went out of alignment during the process, somehow, so I cut the strings and redid them. Not sure if I did the repair correctly, probably not since the way the new strings were felt different. I wasn’t using the right strings either so it would be a temporary fix that just need to last one day.

In week 7, we had the final exam (of sorts). Basically we did a random drawing of who would be doing which homework assignment (each a short choreography) in front of everyone. It is hard to wade through Hollywood traffic during those hours and make it to class on time so I am often late. When I walked in, everyone else had just finished theirs so I was told which one was left as soon as I walked in. And then I just did it. It was the one that was just assigned last week so it was the one I had the least practice in. I did pretty well, I thought. Maybe it helped that I did not have time to over-think the performance.

Afterwards, it was more of a Q & A, where we got to ask whatever we wanted. We got the opportunity to learn more about the way it was behind the scenes since our classes had been more focused on techniques and drills. I was also able to ask about how to string the puppet. For this kind of puppet, the shoulder strings should be the primary ones supporting the weight. The head strings should not be totally tight, like mine are right now. However, they cannot be too loose either since that would make the neck twist incorrectly. So it will be a tricky thing to do. I am basically doing the shoulder strings last while they should be done first. With that in mind, I shall think about how to do the strings again.

A few more weeks until the intermediate class starts!

IMDB Credit #2

Happy World Puppetry Day!

It’s a good day to see another IMDB credit under my name! This time it’s for Being Doug, a Chapman film school thesis project that I helped out with last year. Looking forward to seeing the finished product sometime this year!


Harlem Shake

It seems to me, that the entire Youtube is doing the Harlem Shake.

So, I guess it’s time for us to do one:

Starring Derek Lux, Christian Anderson, Ray Busmann, Ethan Cushing, Rachel Herrick, Kelvin Kao, Todd. G. Levin, Todd McClain, Keith Reay, and Tilt Tyree. It was nice to go play with puppets with friends before heading over to work.

Oh, I am the blue one and the orange one in the middle.

Of course, there are plenty of puppets doing the Harlem Shake on the internet. Here’s one from the Bob and Angus show:

And here’s one from Puppet School:

Until the next internet fad…

Marionette Workshop (Beginning): Weeks 3, 4, 5

Been pretty swamped with work the entire February. That should get better in March. If it isn’t so, I shall make it so. Now, onto the puppet stuff…

In week 3, we went over some theater basics. The upstage, downstage, stage left, stage right, opening stance, cheating out, entering, exiting stuff is nothing new to me, since I’ve done my share of theater. This is with a twist, though. Since it’s with puppets, you want to take both the puppet and the puppeteer into consideration. Of course, the puppet is the main star. It should enter first and exit last. The puppeteers should do their best to get out of the way. We also went over some exercises with eye focus and breath, two very important things to bring puppets to life no matter which kind of puppets you are working with.

In week 4, we did more exercises combining walking (one of the most difficult thing to get right with marionettes, apparently) and looking at each other (eye focus). It’s one thing when we are looking at the puppet; it’s another when two puppets are actually looking at (and interacting with) each other. That’s when I felt like the puppets have come to life!

Each week, we also have homework, which is a short choreography. This time, in addition to taking turns doing it in front of the class, we were also divided into two groups of three to perform the choreography in sync. Our group went first. It was fun to figure out how to do things in sync with others. It was actually even more fun to watch the other group. At first, they were rehearsing it facing the mirror and away from the audience. When they turned around to give the “performance”, I actually felt quite giddy. For some reason, though our group had just done the same choreography and I have just watched the other group rehearse in the mirror, I was so excited when they turned around to present the choreography. I was thinking “Yay! We are going to watch a puppet show!” And somehow seeing three puppets do the same choreography made me feel like they are so alive. I think it’s because one, it’s as if the puppets decided to join one another and do this dance together, and two, they were doing the same dance, but each with their own quirk, unlike robots. The performance, though far from perfect, reminded me of how magical puppetry can be.

In week 5, we did the good old puppet walks across the stage, puppet takes a look at the bench, and puppet sits down exercise. I’ve taken a one-day workshop before, where we pretty much took turns doing exactly that. It’s tricky. Walking is always tricky, more so if you want to make turns and hit exact marks. Turning to look at something and sitting can be tricky too, if you are trying to do the motions in precise manners. Nevertheless, it was a lot of do-overs but also a lot of fun.

Got to find more time to practice. And, yes, I will definitely show you guys some videos when I find time to shoot them. :-)