Sunday, June 8, 2008

I've Got No Strings to Hold Me Down

When we began talking with Kyle Grant about directing out production of The Tempest one of his ideas was to use puppets in the roles of Ariel and Caliban. Kevin and i had been talking about exploring puppetry as a part of or vision of Playlab NYC, and this gave us a chance to dive into it with our first show.

We found Ariel at an antique store disguised as a carpet beater. Caliban grew from a couple of puppetry books including The Complete Book of Puppetry by George Latshaw and 101 Hand Puppets: A Beginner's Guide to Puppeteering by Richard Cummings. The real breakthrough for us in creating Caliban was a picture of a death puppet found in Eileen Blumenthal's Puppetry: A World History.

David Ledoux with the mockup of Caliban is in the middle working with Kyle, our director. One of the challenges in designing Caliban is that he needs to be able to use props, lugging wood and drinking from a jug. In the left photo, Molly Garber holds Ariel. You can see that at this stage Ariel's wire frame tends to disappear into her surroundings.

In the pictures below Caliban starts to take shape. We created him using a couple commedia dell arte masks and paper mache. Kevin worked on the head. I'll be working on the costume over the next couple of days. I have the perfect fabric for him. It flows great; it's light and it's just the right length. I'm eager to get it finished for David when we begin dress rehearsals on Wednesday. He's grown skilled at using the prototype and I want to give him as much time with the finished puppet as I can.

Below is Ariel again with Molly. the challenge with Ariel is that since she is a found object and not a traditional puppet how do we make her expressive. We've added some colored ribbon and fabric to the wings to improve her visibility for the audience and to give the wire frame some life. The puppet is quite beautiful with all the bead work. It's as if she was washed up on shore and Prospero created this creature out of polished stones and wire.

Working on this puppets continues to be quite a task. This has got to be one of the most ambitious projects I've ever done. I've never built puppets before, so I hope that this first endeavor goes over well. The show is next weekend and Ariel is nearly done, but we really need to get in gear on Caliban. I look forward to sharing the production shots next week to show the final results.

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