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Ping Pong's Puppet Workshop

August 7, 2001

Well, almost two weeks have passed since the last page.
Yes, we attended another Renaissance Faire this past weekend -- The
Washington Renaissance Fantasy Faire in Gig Harbor, Washington. It's one of the biggest shows St. Wolfgang's Bavarian Guild does during the summer Renaissance Faire season, for it covers not just one, but two full weekends.

We were madly finishing repairs to some of our props and tents as July quickly turned into August, and we loaded the truck on Thursday (8/2) and left at 7:00 pm for the 150 mile drive to Gig Harbor. We were a convoy, actually, for we had the 17 foot Ryder truck, our van, and our vintage motorhome, all of which would be used during the run of the fair.

Friday (8/3) we spent all day setting up the equipment, finishing just before dark. We performed in the faire Saturday and Sunday, and then took down most of the props, leaving up the tents for the second weekend.

We'll drive back up on Friday next to set it all back up for the second weekend.

In the meantime, progress continues here on the Perseus puppets. The Graeae Sisters are the first to be mostly done, so let's focus on them. Many of the techniques we used on them will be repeated on the other puppets.

The Finished Graeae Sisters Mask & Puppets

1. The Graeae Sisters are an odd combination of a center mask and one puppet on the left and one on the right. The design called for them to be operated by one puppeteer, so the mask is placed over the puppeteer's face, and the puppets are operated one in each of the puppeteer's hands.

The Graeae Sisters Mask

2. The Graeae Sister's Mask with its adjustable head band. The whole center part of the puppet unit is suspended from the mask/headband combination. Since the puppeteer has only two hands (gosh, darn and drat) all of the movement of the two side puppets has to be generated by movement of the puppeteer's hand (think shaking, or bobbing and weaving). Therefore, the arms and heads are attached to the body with heavy-duty springs, which are strong enough to hold the head and hands in position, but to allow movement at the same time.

The upper arm attachment

3. The upper arm attachment springs. They are forced (and then epoxied into place)over pieces of CPVC plastic pipe, which goes up and into the body, where a hidden "T" allows the head to be attached down through the neck.

The insides of the head

4. The inside of the head also has a spring to allow its movement. It is attached to another "T" which is embedded in hot glue inside the head. The end of the pipe closest to us is what gets glued into the body of the puppet.

The hands

5. Now we need some hands, with the now familiar spring. The end of the pipe inside the hands was attached with hot glue -- in fact, most of the inside of the hand is filled with hot glue to create enough weight to get the lower arm assembly moving.

The Legs

6. The legs are an entirely different affair. They are made of cloth, and feature a modified version of the Steve Overton knee joint. They are stuffed with polyester fluffy stuff, and are hot glued into the feet and glued and sewn in place on the torso.

The Handle

7. The handle that the puppeteer holds is also made of plastic pipe. Inside the puppet, two wooden dowels, the same thickness as the plastic pipe, are glued into the 90 degree bends and are screwed to the front on the puppet from the outsideand glued on the inside to provide maximum strength.

The final assembly

8. The final assembly of the pieces. The arms are wrapped with the same fabric as the legs, stuffed with fluff, and sewn together. The arms and legs are then painted to match the rest of the body -- and voila -- she's ready for her costume.

Costuming begins

9. The costuming begins to take shape. There will be a large piece of fabric on the back side of the puppets and mask to join them all together.

I hope this gave you an idea of how this rather different puppet went together. This week, we're making lots of fabric arms and legs. They'll be sewn together, stuffed and then painted in the same flesh tones as their puppets.

The puppets will start going together in a rush now. Which is good, for Tears of Joy is getting close to needing them for rehearsals. (Thank goodness, way back in April, I made those foamcore standins for the puppeteers to rehearse with).

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All text and photos © 2001 Olde World Puppet Theatre

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