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This is a background article. For the use of puppets in education and clinical seettings see:
A puppet is an inanimate object, usually but not necessarily a character, used in play or a presentation. There are many kinds of puppet and they are usually sculpted or modelled, sometimes simple in the extreme, and sometimes highly sophisticated artifacts. A puppet may be operated directly by a puppeteer, or indirectly - by the use of strings, for example, or by other mechanical contrivance or even remotely by electronic guidance. Puppets moved by strings are also known as marionettes (from the medieval Passion play figure attributed to Marion or the young Mary, the mother of Jesus) or worn in costume. Puppets may also be animated by using stop motion animation.
A general distinction between a puppet and an automaton is the former is mostly operated live and the latter is mostly programmed (for example a coin-operated automata-show or piano-roll sideshow figure). during the 15th century puppets were called "lerthings"
History of the Puppet
Persian puppetryThere are two people involved in the performance: a musical performer and a person called morshed. The dialogue is between morshed and the puppets. The method of performance, its characters and the techniques used in writing the puppet show make it unique and distinguish it from other types of puppetry. Also, a new genre of Iranian puppetry emerged during Qajar era. Puppetry is still very common in Iran. Rostam and Sohrab puppet opera is an example of the most notable perfomance in modern day Iran.
India, Java, and Thailand also have a strong tradition of puppetry. In Thailand, Hun Krabok, rod-puppet theater, is the most popular form of puppetry. In Vietnam exists mua roi nuoc, a water puppetry unique to Vietnam. In Java, wayang kulit, a form of shadow puppetry, is popular.
The roots of European puppetry grew from the commedia dell'arte tradition. Travelling performers who practiced this "low culture" art often performed in half-masks, or with puppets.
The strong Italian tradition of marionettes flourished in the 18th century, producing many skillful performances, including the tragedy Dr. Faust. Many of these marionettes survive to this day, and allow students of the art to marvel at their highly defined controls.
In the 19th Century, the marionettes of the master Pietro Radillo became even more complex. Instead of just the rod and two strings, Radillo's marionettes are controlled by as many as eight strings. The control over the individual body parts of the marionettes was greatly increased.
Another grand tradition, growing from the 19th century, is that of the opera dei pupi. This form of puppetry, made popular in Sicily, used rod marionettes, operated from above by a combination of strings and metal rods. The subject matter drew from the medieval epics of the Charlemagne knights. These ongoing dramas unfolded over many performances.
Kinds of puppets
- Marionette - a puppet suspended and controlled by a number of strings held from above by a puppeteer. Strings are sometimes attached to rods above which the puppeteer can use to control various parts of the puppet's body.
- Supermarionation - an electronic variant with control wires substituted that connected internal mechanisms in the puppet.
- Supercrappymation - Dubbed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone as the type of Supermarionation used to film Team America: World Police. As it's name suggests, it is filmed in a way to make it look more intentionally cheap and rudimentary than is necessary.
- Hand puppet - a puppet controlled by one hand that occupies the interior of the puppet. Larger varieties of hand puppets place the puppeteer's hand in just the puppet's head, controlling the mouth and head, and the puppet's body then hangs over the entire arm; other parts of the puppet (mainly arms, but special variants exist with manipulable eyelids and other parts), may be controlled elsewise, e.g., by rods operated by the puppeteer's free hand, or strings or levers pulled from inside the head or body. Smaller hand puppets often have no significant manipulable parts at all (in particular, the mouth may not open and close); these are usually not much larger than the hand itself. A sock puppet is a particularly simple type of hand puppet made from a sock.
- Muppet - A term referring to some of the puppets constructed by the Jim Henson Company. Often erroneously used to refer to puppets that resemble those of the Muppet Show or built by the Henson Company.
- Black light puppet - a kind of puppet that is operated on a stage lit only with black lighting which both hides the puppeteer and accentuates the colours of the puppet. For origin of black light look at Bunraku Puppetry.
- Light curtain puppet - Puppetry is performed by puppeteers dressed all in black performing on a stage with a black background. (Most commonly the background and the clothes are made of black velvet). The lighting is specially done so that there is essentially a line on the stage, where on one side there is light and on the other is darkness. The puppeteers push the puppets over the line into the light, while they blend into the black unlit background. Puppets of all sizes and types may be categorized under this umbrella term since this form allows a wide range of puppets, controlled by one or many puppeteers. From a small bee controlled by one puppeteer to a majestic dragon controlled by ten. The original concept of this puppet form is traced to Bunraku puppetry where the light technique was first used.
- Bunraku - Originally developed in Japan over a thousand years ago, a form of puppetry where puppets are controlled by individuals dressed all in black. Originally, the puppeteers dressed all in black would become invisible when standing against a black background, while the torches illuminated only the wood carved puppets. While the traditional Bunraku theater is found mostly in Japan, the modern use of the Bunraku would be in black light or light curtain puppet theater.
- Ventriloquist dummy - A puppet operated by a ventriloquist performer to focus the audience's attention from the performer's activities and heighten the illusions. They are called dummies because they do not speak on their own.
- Rod puppet - A puppet with articulated joints, similar to a marionette, but operated from below by stiff rods, rather than from above by strings. "Punching Puppet" toys are rod puppets. Punching Puppet Trivia: the head of the Punching Puppet Nun (from Archie McPhee / Accoutrements and American Science and Surplus, primary Punching Puppet Nun suppliers) is the same head from the older Margaret Thatcher Punching Puppet, prompting a claim of Anti-Catholicism by the Catholic League (citation).
- Marotte - A simplified rod puppet that is just a head and/or body on a stick. In a marotte à main prenante, the puppeteer's other arm emerges from the body (which is just a cloth drape) to act as the puppet's arm.
- Shadow puppet - A (usually) 2-dimensional rod puppet that is operated behind a screen. A light source projected from the rear creates a shadow of the puppet on the screen that can be seen by the audience.
- Water puppetry - A puppet form almost exclusively done in Vietnam. The puppets are built out of wood and the shows are performed in a waist high pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers to control them. The appearance is of various puppets moving over water. The origin of this form dates back seven hundred years when the rice field would flood and the villagers would entertain each other. Eventually villages would compete against each other with their puppet shows. This lead puppet societies to be secretive and exclusive, including an initiation ceremony involving drinking rooster blood. Only recently were women allowed to join the puppet troops.
- Human-arm puppet - also called a two-man puppet, it is similar to a hand puppet but is larger and requires two puppeteers; one puppeteer places a hand inside the puppet's head and operates its head and mouth; the other puppeteer wears gloves and special sleeves attached to the puppet in order to become the puppet's arms, so that the puppet can perform arbitrary hand gestures.
- BuDaiXi - Chinese puppet show, somewhat similar to the Japanese ones, with people in the background (or underground) controlling the puppets. Some very experienced puppeteers can perform them with various stunts (e.g. somersault in the air).
- Digital puppet - Digitally animated figure that is performed by a puppeteer in real-time using a data input device and rendered by a computer using computer graphics software.
- Finger puppet - An extremely simple puppet variant that fits onto a single finger. Finger puppets normally have no moving parts and consist primarily of a hollow cylinder shape to cover the finger.
- Push puppet - A push puppet consists of a segmented character on a base that is kept under tension until the button on the bottom is pressed. The puppet wiggles, slumps and then collapses.
- Giant puppet - often used in parades and protests, these figures are at least the size of a human and often much larger. One or more performers are required to move the body and limbs.
- Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry
- Lübeck Museum of Theatre Puppets
- Meridith Bixby Exhibit Bixby Marionette Exhibit at Saline (Michigan) Chamber of Commerce.
- Paul McPharlin Puppetry Collectionat the Detroit Institute of Arts
- The Puppet Museum Wish Tower, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England
- Northwest Puppet Center Museum Seattle, Washington
- Living Loft Museum Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- International Mask and Puppet Museum Syracuse, New York
Other uses of the word "Puppet"
The word puppet can mean a political leader installed, supported and controlled by more powerful forces, with no democratic mandate. "Puppet government" and "puppet regime" and puppet state are derogatory terms for a government which in charge of a region or country but only through being installed, supported and controlled by a more powerful government. In a more general sense, a puppet is any person who is controlled by another by reason of undue influence, intellectual deficiency, or lack of character or charisma. Thus, drawing from the above meaning, it could be a political leader, who is a facade for more powerful forces working behind him, or it could be any person who is similarly doing what he is told to do.
Puppet can also be a term of endearment, similar to "love" or "dearie."
Another use of the word is on Internet message board communities, where puppet accounts are used for personal gain, such as on a forum game. An example is Anime Style Battling on many popular Pokémon websites.
Puppets can also be used to describe a small doll or toys commonly referred to as stuffed animals.
In a technical context, Puppet could mean this configuration managent tool.
- The Puppetry Homepage - Extensive, with links to information on all types of puppets and puppetry. After being static for awhile, it started being updated again in 2006.
- Union Internationale de la Marionnette - International organization of puppeteers and puppet enthusiasts
- Puppeteers of America - National non-profit organization devoted to promoting puppetry in the United States.
- Centre For Puppetry Arts - Largest organization in the United States devoted to the art of puppetry.
- PuppetVision Blog - Popular weblog about the role of puppets in film, television and digital media.
- Puppeteers Unite - A Weblog resource for puppet enthusiasts. Covers special interests and social events dealing in puppetry. Also has a very extensive LINKS library to sites all over the world.
- The Puppet Building Wiki - Wiki Project about all aspects of puppet construction.
- Wikia has a wiki about this topic: Puppetde:Puppentheater
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