Sunday, February 8, 2009

What We Eat: Theatre on a Tabletop

Welcome to What We Eat where we take a look at the books, movies, and plays that have influenced the direction of Playlab NYC.

Theatre on a Tabletop: Puppetry for Small Spaces
by Kuang-Yu Fong and Stephen Kaplin

“We do small shows because it gives us the chance to pursue our wildest ideas free from the costs and constraints of big-scale, big-budget theatre production without the burden of having to coordinate dozens of production, crew, and cast people. Using tabletop theatre techniques professionally give us the means to administer, produce, create, and perform a show within our own small organization”

The above excerpt from Kuang-Yu Fong and Stephen Kaplin’s book Theatre on a Tabletop serves a permission slip for Playlab NYC to explore big ideas within our own small company. It is a needed spark of inspiration to carry us forward into our second year.

Using the term “Tabletop Theater” allows the authors to explore three different types of puppetry: toy theatre (a popular Victorian era children’s entertainment), found object theatre, and overhead projection theatre (a type of shadow puppetry). For each of the three forms, they provide a brief history, offer directions and diagrams for building puppets and theaters. Finally each section includes an excerpt of a script the authors have produced.

Theatre on a Tabletop: Puppetry for Small Spaces contains not only inspiration, but practical lessons informed by years of tabletop puppetry work by Fong and Kapin. There are diagrams, photographs, supply lists, eight “Basic Laws of Puppetry,” and a useful bibliography.

With a constant eye toward the classroom, the final third of the book shows what a powerful teaching tool tabletop puppetry can be. It includes outlines for workshops of varying length from two hours to two weeks, offering advice for each step of the development of a workshop production including: story boarding, design, rehearsals and presentations. There is also a short coda for puppeteers interested in creating professional tabletop productions.

It is safe to say that Playlab NYC will be taking some time to apply the lessons that Kuang-Yu Fong and Stephen Kaplin provide. More importantly it is their inspiration that we will take to heart.

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