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

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!