Friday, August 28, 2009

Henson Podcasts Give Punch to Lessons Learned on Tour

I subscribe to the podcasts, and in looking back over the past 3 years worth, found several centered around EXACTLY what I'm interested in these days...

Puppet Up! Uncensored - Backstage (06/15/09) -- Behind 4-5 years of magic? More magic!! And I saw these same performers in the August show! Allan Trautman (puppeteer-imp), Julianne Buescher (puppeteer-imp), Drew Massey (puppeteer-imp; friendly guy), Colleen Smith (improviser-pptr), Brian Clark (improviser-pptr) and Victor Yerrid (who taught Colleen & Brian puppetry -- met this nice guy, too)... Along with the show's Creative Director and Host Patrick Bristow and Music Director Willie Etra (GROUNDLINGS awesomeness!!!)

How hard is it for a puppeteer to get really good at improv? Allan feels his brain is divided into 2 parts - 50% for puppetry; 50% for improv. Thinks the improvisers have it harder. Probably bc some of the puppeteers have had equal years improv & puppet training.

Victor comments that for their KIDS shows, the kids aren't even slightly impressed that they were doing improv; really had to make a story, and make the characters fun... as you should do in all good improv.

Puppet challenges? You can do a lot with your puppet's body & arms, but need to boil it down... "Have to label stuff your puppet is grabbing, really telegraph things more, and be really specific with your movement -- be really simple and clear with your puppet movements."

AND, Puppet Up! on tour??? SOON, my friends, very soon!!!

Haunted Stories from the JHC Lot (09/29/08) -- Video!

Henson Digital Puppetry Studio (06/30/08) -- Misty Rosas and Drew Massey (saw this sweet puppeteer in Puppet Up when I was in LA) talking about how they create "Sid" from Henson's "Sid, the Science Kid" show.

Puppet Up! Uncensored (06/16/08) -- interesting to hear the show from a year ago

Jim Henson Company Lot Tour (02/26/08) -- Video! I so wanted to do this when in LA, but without the right connections, no go. Great to get a video tour. Could have watched this first and saved myself the sheepish pleading I did with the JHC security guard to let me in the gate.

Fun fact: the lot was built by Charlie Chaplin in 1917 and used for a lot of his films. It changed hands several times, and when Universal moved out in 1999, Brian Henson & Co. saw the potential, cleaned it up and moved in.

Puppet Up! Uncensored (01/29/07) -- Interesting to hear the show from 2 years ago and how it got started... Brian Henson wanted the art of IMPROV brought back into the company. Brought in Patrick Bristow (who was teaching at the Groundlings school) to teach a 1 day workshop... and they had such a blast they kept going at it!!! (Well, DUH!!!) Podcasts -- No iPod required!

And there is this interesting LOST VIDEO.

WCPIT - Sum up 9 days in 5 min? I don't think so!!

Tried a solo re-enactment of the WCPIT @ No Shame tonight - 9 days summed up in 5 min - but only made it to day 5 before I cracked myself up and my time ran out. There maybe something there worth keeping. Hm.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

WCPIT Finale

Well, it is the end of 9 days of traveling on the road talking to puppeteers & improvisers about puppet improv. I got a lot of great new info and inspiration.

The tour ended Saturday with the show "Puppet Up" put on by Henson Alternative.

The show is a mix of Henson puppeteers and Groundlings improvisers, under the direction of the very funny Patrick Bristow. They start with a Puppet Up theme song, play improv games and scenes, and end with a "naked" version of the theme song that was my favorite part!! (puppet faces made of hands). I only had an iPhone to take photos, but here's someone else's photos from the previous month's show.

The day before (on Friday) I got to tour the "Swazzle Workshop" in Glendale where I learned a few tricks about puppet building.

The guys were in the process of building a set of "Audrey II" puppets they're going to rent out to High Schools performing "Little Shop of Horrors".

The day before THAT (on Thursday), I'd arrived in LA just in time to see Swazzle co-founder, Sean Johnson, perform an amazing library show "Water Color" for the last time of the season. The show was a 1 man show, but it there were a lot of characters and it was easy to forget one guy was doing everything.

That night I went to see the Groundlings improv show -- "Cooking with Gas". It was really fun! A mix of games in Act I, then a narrative longform set in the style of Jane Austin after the intermission. Very fun! And they had a guest, Nichol Parker, who'd just finished a run on Broadway in the leading role of Elphaba -- which they had sing a lot. She'd also been on Mad TV and in the Groundlings Sunday show, so it was not surprising that she was not only a great singer, but a great improviser!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


OMG! Amy Gray, Rebecca Stockley, Mandy K, Pixar friends, Liebe Wetzel...

My brain is overloaded with interesting ideas, including...
- puppets as masks
- Commedia dell'Arte
- puppeteers performing with imps
- puppet dictating character
- imp "finding" character within puppet
- crossed graphite rods
- chopsticks as rods
- Eye, breath, consonant bounce
- rolling playboards
- multi-level set
- 3 puppeteers with 3 imps
- 4 shows a year (march, may, august, holidays)
- marketing
- $20 tickets; heavily discounted
- balance between stylized movement, and realistic movement
- stylized movement based on "basic shapes" (circle, square, triangle)
- camera
- "Why is That So Funny?" by John Wright
- Street performance
- Focus (eye darts = inhabited thought), Breath (purposeful; automatic), and Weight (grounded; playing on a table/surface)
- Marcel Marceau & his teacher... Etienne De Croux
- William Kentridge (Classic Clown); Avner Eisenburg; Charles Viles Meziner; Animo w/ Improbable Theatre
- silent performance
- performance with music
- "Face it, we're all reptiles; drawn to (or distracted by) visual movement"
- sketchbooks
- sunburn
- time-space continuum

Must rest.
Then process.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Off to see some Wizards!

Tomorrow I'm off on a tour of the western coast to seek out wisdom from some improvisers, puppeteers, & puppet improvisers! Four cities in nine days. My tour begins in Portland, pops up to Seattle, then trips down to San Francisco and Los Angeles. I'm planning on connecting with a lot of great artists -- some new friends, some old. I can't wait!! When I get back, I'm hoping to host another Puppet Improv Workshop and share what I've learned. In the meantime, I'll try to post updates about the trip here.

On a side note, I auditioned for a group shooting a puppet show pilot for a show on Nutrition... and got in!! Hope to share more on this next month, as things develop.

Also of note is the fast approaching Out of Bounds Improv Comedy Festival, happening right here in my very own home town of Austin, TX on Labor Day weekend! Get Up will be performing on Sunday, September 6th. There should be a ton of improv and sketch from around the United States, including the headlining troupe from Austrailia! However, as far as I know, there will be NO puppet imps. Check out the schedule HERE...

That is all.