As children many of us have played with finger and hand puppets in the home and at school. We made up stories and dialogue and had fun for an indoor activity. Punch and Judy hand puppets were very popular.
In the advanced grades we were exposed to stick puppets, ventriloquists and marionettes by watching a production in school, at the library, or during an exhibition at a museum or a children's theater.
I remember attending a television studio which housed the Howdy Doody program featuring the marionette puppet, Howdy Doody. On Saturdays many children watched Kukla, Fran and Ollie featuring their many funny antics.
Television introduced ventriloquist dolls most often operated by comedian style entertainers. In America one of the greatest was Edgar Bergen with his dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Another famous ventriloquist is Jeff Dunham with Achmed. Another famous and popular show then and now are Jim Henson's The Muppet Show which caters to adults, however; children enjoy the characters. The Muppets' cast has been featured in movies.
We are surrounded by puppets in many entertainment medias. Being a puppeteer has many employment opportunities. If you enjoy entertaining, you may wish to consider this arts and crafts opportunity as a career.
The two main requirements are a passion for puppets and story telling.
Types of Puppets
Full Body Puppet
Finger and Hand Puppet are used by both children and adults in story telling.
Rod Puppet and Shadow Puppet
A rod puppet is controlled with a rod made of wood or metal which is placed in the center of the body. There are attachments to the rod which connect to the arms. The operator is below stage level and moves the puppet with the rod from side to side or up and down. The operator moves the arms with strings connected to the arm controls.
Shadow puppets are constructed flat. Rods and strings are used to operate the characters. The actors are placed between a screen and a bright light which creates shadows on a screen.
The ventriloquist operates his doll with one hand causing the head or the mouth to move about naturally with words uttered by the ventriloquist. The object of this play acting is to direct attention to the doll, not the human being. The ventriloquist does his best to speak without moving his lips. The performer practices for many years speaking without moving their lips. One challenge is to speak while drinking a glass of water.
The operator for marionettes is known as a marionettist. He or she operates these figures by moving strings on a control unit. The strings may be made of strong threads or wire. The object is to move these figurines mimicking life's movements.
Full Body Puppet
There is a difference between dressing up as a character or dressing as a full body puppet. A character acts his character traits. A full body puppet is costumed as a character which is actively participating in a written story. In other words, there is an actor in a puppet costume and he or she has a role or a part in the story being told.
Would you like to become a Puppeteer?
Income is based on agreements or contracts. The highest paid puppeteers are in television and the movie industry.