Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Load-in, Lights, Live

Load-In: Yesterday we loaded our show into the Dougherty Arts Theater in preparation for our upcoming show Trash, which premieres this coming Fourth of July weekend. We ran into a bit of trouble when I realized that the set pieces were slightly too big for our transportation vehicle, so we are having to break them down so we can get them to the theater. This is a good lesson for us as the intention is to make the set portable and easy to load-in and load-out.

Lighting: Though we couldn't do much with the set, we did get all our lights hung and focused, in large part due to Sam Schak! our tech for the show.
Sam pointed out that every good theater tech carries around the following essential tools:
  • wrench
  • pencil
  • permanent marker
  • tape (measuring tape, gaff tape, glow tape)
  • multi-tool (screwdriver, pocket knife, pliers, scissors)
  • flashlight
I brought a ton of puppet building tools, but forgot the most important -- the wrench. Luckily I had a vice grip and Sam made do with that. The puppets look great on stage in the lights we hung, and we can't wait to see everything in action tonight at our Tech run through.

Live: And, thanks to Austin  YNN, Joel Ausanka and I got the chance early this morning to briefly show off our "Trash" puppets during their LIVE morning show. Unfortunately, there was some breaking news, so the news team had to cut our coverage short. However, we got a bit of exposure and we hope people will see it and be inspired to come see the whole show.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Meet the Neighbors

A big "hip-hip-hooray" and a hearty "THANK YOU" to Jennifer Bateman for her help on our Glen Park Neighbors, and Fairview Citizens. A lot of her adorable self is in these guys. We can't wait to share them with you, so here is a sneak peek.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hey, Neighbor!

Jen helps bring life to the neighbor/citizen puppets, which are made from dowels pulled from a broken drying rack, cardboard rolls (paper towels, toilet paper, wrapping paper), acrylic paint and bits of yarn, feathers, and elastic.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Innovation is Messy

As I work on the giant "Heap" puppet for our show, Trash, I'm overwhelmed with how messy is the process of innovation. It is journey of trial and error, that leaves a slimy slug trail of failed attempts. It is plastic shavings, sawdust, spilled glue, scraps of wood, bits of foam, lengths of pipe cut too long, or too short, or from the wrong material. It is the remains of a botched attempt to build something, or the implementation of an idea that just didn't work in the physical world. Ideas are great in your head, and they may compute on paper, but until you try it out and put it to a physical test, you won't know if it works.

Without a mentor to guide me, I'm learning through my own mistakes. The entire Puppet Improv Project is exactly that. Saying "yes" to ideas, trying them out, and building on them. Experience tells me that every botched implementation, or idea that falls flat, is leading me towards a lucky strike. So knowing that the only way out of UNknowing is through experimentation, I wade through this creative mess.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Alex! The Glorified Sock Puppet

Here are some shots of "Alex", the hero of "Trash". He's built using Project Puppet's "Glorified Sock Puppet" pattern. He's smaller than the Forma series puppets (the adults), but he looks great in proportion to them. Elizabeth Buchanan will be voicing and giving life to this cute little guy.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Wrapping Up the Forma Series

 Couldn't do all this without a little help from my friends.

Cutting steel music wire for arm rods

Final arm rods with pose-able hands ready to be sewn up into the Forma puppets

Thursday, June 13, 2013

UTIC "Puppet Performance" Puppet Arsenal

I'm so excited for the progress my students are making in the University of Texas Informal Class "Puppet Performance". I have yet to snap a photo of the class (I keep getting wrapped up in the performances and forgetting), but here is an shot of the extensive puppet arsenal we get to play with. :-)

"Trash" Puppet Bonding

This week the fleece cast was introduced to their human cast and we spent some time bonding by singing and playing together. The show is starting to take shape! Pictured below (from left to right) are Carla with Jen, Phil with Chad, Mrs. Green with Joel (Mayor Smiley below them), and Ms. Stephie Great with Elizabeth.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Trash" More Puppet Building

To finish off the base puppet, we add in a posable hand and arm rod. Here is a shot sequence of how we prep the hand with wire so you can bend and pose it. In the first image, we cut the wire to fit the foam glove -- one wire for each finger. We then curl the ends so they don't poke through the ends of the finger (ouch!). Next we curl and interlock the ends that come together. This forms the base of the hand and keeps the finger wires from sliding around too much.  Not shown is the arm rod. To seat this into the palm, we insert 2 palm sized pieces of fun foam that sandwich both the finger wires and a control rod for the arm. Last photo is of my kitchen table during this final puppet building phase -- a lovely, creative mess of wire, rods, foam, bits of fabric and fur, tools, and the original sketch.

Once the base puppets are finished, its time to customize each one with facial features -- hair, eyes, noses, lips and/or teeth. We use "wig tape" to tape down the hair/features first. This lets us try out the type, size, and position of the facial features before committing to gluing them down. I'm noticiing that Officer Phil's pupils are a little off. They actually should be crossed a little, but I'll probably go back and line them up better. Next... costumes!!

"Trash" Sing It!

The cast of "Trash" (the puppet musical) learn and practice the show's songs in a music rehearsal lead by composer and musical director, Ammon Taylor. Also pictured are Chad Wellington, Elizabeth Buchanan and Jennifer Bateman.

Monday, June 3, 2013

"Trash" Puppet Building

There are roughly 18 puppets in the "Trash" show. Seven (7) are human looking characters. For these we are using Project Puppet's "Forma" pattern series, and their "Glorified Sock" pattern. For the "Neighbors", we will be using TP rolls and creating several rod puppets, hopefully that can either be operated as one unit, or separately. For the "Heap", we will be using a "hoop-skirt" type of design (design posted in earlier blog post [here] )

 Making a prototype for our "Neighbor" characters.
Mouth closed
Mouth open

And here are some photos showing progress being made on the Forma puppets.

The pattern cutting table

Pinning felt scraps over foam head to find the pattern

Cutting and laying out the felt

The Project Puppet "Rotondo" pattern

This shows the crazy way the seams need to be aligned to make the fleece covering work
Here are the parts all laid out before assembly
The body foam tube slips over the fleece
The fleece wraps up over the foam body.

Gluing the fleece to the mouth plate

Gluing the mouth fleece into the mouth

Anyone need a hand?

The "scrap" bin -- a great resource for eyelids, noses, ears, etc

Some base puppets

Early iteration of the Policeman's jacket

Wigs and fur for puppet hair

"Trash" Songs

Super exciting news! Our songs are now finished. The cast is working on learning them now, on top of both learning lines for the show, and new puppet skills! These guys are AWESOME!!

Ammon & Jennifer
 Jennifer and Joel

Elizabeth and Chad

Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Trash" Color Comp

Here is a color comp created to make sure the seven main character puppets fit into and are balanced across the chosen color palette for the show.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Trash" -- Heap Design Sketches

Sketching out how the Heap might be built. Challenge?? We want it to be BIG and able to GROW BIGGER, yet only require one (1) puppeteer to manipulate it.

Solutions? Height gained with internal, bendable spinal support. And when we can't make it any bigger, use forced perspective on the set to make everything else feel smaller.

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Trash" Cast Announcement

Today was our first go at the script with our new CAST! Our objective? Get a sense for how a musical FULL of characters could be handled by just 4 puppeteers -- at least vocally. Thankfully, we can already see that -- though it will be challenging -- we should be able to pull it off!!

AND on top of that, it was amazing hearing the cast bring the story and characters to life. We are trying to create the show to be self-sufficient with just 4 actors, and are designing the lighting and music so it can be run from within the show.

SO! even though we don't have our promo shots ready, we wanted to introduce these fun loving people. We are thrilled and delighted to have in our cast (pictured below, with place holder puppets): Joel Ausanka, Jennifer Bateman, Elizabeth Buchanan, and Chad Wellington.
The talented Ammon Taylor is writing our music (of which we got a taste tonight) and Producing Artistic Director Sara Farr is directing.  ;-)