11 Jun Week 8
Day 43: Talking with the Hands
Today we had Iestyn Evans showing us moving mouth puppetry; specifically in relation to television/film. Iestyn has been a puppeteer for over twenty years working in TV and film; he also happens to be one of our Curious school class mates. Firstly we begin by thinking about our own mouths, over exaggerated lip syncing to “Bohemian Rhapsody” warms us up. We spend time examining our hands and the shapes that they can make. Iestyn talks us through the process of a child’s speech development from ages 0-8yrs with us using our hands, this is a great process and our hands/Fingers begin to get their “lips” round words. Using “Frere Jacque” we look closer at our pacing of the opening and closing of the mouth to get it in sync with what is coming out of our mouths; first you break down the text to its syllables, and find where you naturally open and close your own mouth, the bigger the mouth opening can reflect the volume or intensity, the mouth naturally closes on B and M. There are mirrors around the room and we use these to examine each other’s technique, there is also a camera hooked up to a projector and one hooked up to a lap top (the lap top has a 2-3 second delay in its relay, which is annoying but Iestyn says he finds this quite a common thing when he is working on set and we just have to slow down our speech to get the effect of being able to read live what we are doing). Then we create a little singing skit, performing for the camera and projecting it on to a screen, which is a strange experience. We play around with voices, we are given a list of voice character traits to consider such as pace, pitch, where the voice is placed in the body and such. We write down two different voices using the check list of traits. Starting from our own voice with a partner we read a bit of text, as we do our partner asks us to change individual characteristics of it gradually building all the elements we have written down into the voice; it’s a great technique which is helpful, instead of just being asked to put on a voice we take our time and create some much more interesting sounds. Then we move on to using puppets, all of which have been made by Iestyn and his company; they are beautiful and we need to wash our hands before we can touch them. We each go up individually and select a puppet and bring it into view of the camera, so we can see it onscreen, and then we begin an individual improvised scene where we are applicants on a dating site, with Iestyn as the interviewer. A very interesting day, I’ve never experienced working to camera like this before and it’s really useful as a puppeteer to have an understanding of how it all works. The highlight for me today though was us all mucking about with the puppets at the end of the day and doing a lip sync puppet choir to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, great fun.
Day 44: Choruses and Kennings.
Today we were working with writer Anna Murphy. We began the day by looking at different ways into stories; playing physical improve and storytelling games. It was nice to free up telling a story, you didn’t have to come up with a good idea, there was no pressure to create something interesting and exciting, which in itself is exciting. We moved on to some writing exercises. We were each given a postcard from it we were to select a colour, and then wrote anything that came to mind about that colour, a story, a string of words, whatever. We then moved on to looking at one object in the postcard and wrote from the objects perspective. The image I had was of a man all very yellow wearing a purple tie, I wrote from the ties perspective. The tie felt the man in the postcard didn’t care for him. We explored sound as an inspiration for story, with our eyes closed we listened as Anna manipulated a piece of newspaper, we then described all the images we could see from the sounds; a heartbeat, bird wings, soldiers marching and again Anna would ask us questions about the image and full stories would be conjured from one image. We then wrote quick one page stories from an image or idea that we had from the sound effects and discussed the images and puppets we could see in the stories produced. We were given photographs of faces and in groups we wrote a shopping list for that character; which revealed things about their status, relationships and interests. This was a nice way to flesh out a character, we also had to decide on a secret the character has (Our character had a very interesting secret, but I can’t tell you it). We began to explore groups/crowds/choruses first physically in our own bodies, then outwardly seeking them to examine. We were taken to the park where we watched a chorus of pigeons and quickly wrote the things we thought they might be saying, as they pecked around and flew this way and that. We were given the task of exploring Bethnal Green High-street to find other choruses and to take not of them and write things they said movements and the like. With all this information gathered, back at school we got to work on creating some of these choruses using puppets, which we made on the spot. While I was out, I watched a group of school children with their teacher cycle round and round the park, every time they passed me I heard a new bit of conversation; competitions between the kids, complaints about how fast/slow they were going. They made quite a successful chorus. Anna taught us about Kennings; they are kind of poems, every line starts with “I am a” and ends in a word finishing with “er”, and it describes a character or object without saying what it is. And is a technique she used in the “Very old man with enormous wings”. This technique I think is going to be very useful for me as a puppeteer; the Kenning can inform not only the character of something but its movement, for example Anna said a Kenning about a Cat “a street creeper, wall jumper, mouse worrier, lap sitter” in my mind this made the movement of this cat very clear not a generic cat, but that cat and would inform how I approached the manipulation of that character.
Day 45: Confessions and Small Worlds.
This is our second and last day with Anna; short but very fruitful. Continuing with our story improve games from yesterday we played a game of picking up an imaginary item; you make a shape with your hands and you just say what it is and gift it to your partner, if you can’t think of what it is your partner offers suggestions, and you take the third offer. From there we then became more specific, picking up an item connected to an idea of image we have. My image was a human thighbone with human teeth marks on it; I like to keep things light. In all seriousness there is a story that links to this image that I have tried to tell before in another medium, and think perhaps puppets might have an edge on it that other mediums don’t. We were then all asked, using our own puppets to write a confessional for them to say to a priest, and script it. We then loosely presented these first starting as individuals confessing then with a bus que confessing, and establishing choruses. Anna gave us a number of different texts, and gave us the challenge of using one of the texts to create a small world from, like a little instillation. We used “Timothy Winters” a story about a boy with holes in his clothes, nothing to eat and is neglected. We created walls from fabric, which we slashed to expose light, we used some staging stacked on top of each other to create a tower block which was decorated with graffiti and bottles of beer. We were trying to create a cold environment, and lit “Timothy’s” bedsit with small led lights that give off that cold white/almost blue light. We were quite happy with the effect we had created from just a few pieces of material.
Day 46: Projects
We spent this morning reflecting on everything we have done so far at the Curious School of puppetry; trying to create a gigantic diary of everything; exercises, quotes from tutors, specific techniques we have learnt everything and anything we could remember, referring to our note books; no one was allowed to read the blog. We then began discussing the final week of the course; we will be doing a soup night sharing of work (nothing too formal). For this we had to decide individually on three areas that we would like to focus on numbering them of importance; we will have two projects one will be a big group (three of more) and another will be a small group (could be solo) and then everyone will be involved in a third whole group project. There were many options to choose from but I have chosen to work as a solo performer performing a two in one performance with a puppet; where the focus will shift between us both, I want to be able to show my manipulation skill, but also for me this project is very important as I don’t live in London, and am likely to be far away from most of my class mates once we finish school. I want to have something I can take home with me and develop further, take to scratch nights and festivals etc. not relying on others. The other project I have chosen is Shadows, with all the equipment and support at our fingertips here I feel we could create something very strong, and I would like to use some of these techniques again when I get home, and to do this on a large scale in group will be exciting.
Day 47: Big group projects
We had our last voice session with Lucy today; we recapped all the work we have done with her, and spent some time finding ways to use your voice safely. Lucy focussed on our natural sounds and how we can use them in performance “if you want to go high cry”, we can actually hit much higher notes than we think we just have to think of them differently. You need to be aware of the body, feet planted, going down to go up (physically) We sang a lot which was great.
We’ve started on our Shadow project today; it’s all very exciting, we are very fortunate also that we have Stephen Tiplady on hand to advise us on shadow work as we go along. After some discussion on ideas; Greek myths and transformation at its core, we discuss the elements and how they fit in with these ideas (very well is the answer). We set up the shadow screen and corner off an area of the rehearsal room, we gather all the pieces we need and begin to play with ideas, using some pieces we created when playing with the shadows previously but also exploring other ways to create and overlap the different shadow techniques, I think we are going to make something quite awesome!
Day 48: Lighting for Puppetry.
After some more project work, Marty Langthorne came to give us a workshop on lighting for puppetry. Marty is a lighting designer and light artist and has worked a lot with puppets in performances. He understands the relationship between puppet and puppeteer and the necessity for the puppet to be in the light but the puppeteer not so much (depending on the role of the puppeteer). He showed us a number of different lights and their uses, and explained some of the different techniques and qualities of light we can get. And then let us play and explore with the light sources. This was so useful, he explained the basics of what you would need in terms of rigging a show on a budget and gave us a clear explanation of each light, which were best for puppetry. Just being given the vocabulary of the lamps was useful in itself, so we know exactly what to ask for when doing a Tech, such a little thing but it saves so much time if you are able to speak the same language as your lighting designer.