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Join us for an imaginative puppetry lesson for elementary-aged students and their parents.
Before we begin, you can watch an Arden Children’s Theatre trailer for inspiration. See if you can spot the puppets!
Peter Pan (2017/18)
The Light Princess (2016/17)
Beauty and the Beast (2014/15)
Introduction to Puppets
Puppets are used to bring a story to life in fun and very creative ways! A PUPPET is any object that is controlled by a person, using their hands, arms, or attached tools such as strings or rods. They usually look like people or animals, but they can actually look like anything you can imagine. Let’s check out some of the puppets Arden Children’s Theatre has used over the years!
Since anything moved by a person can become a puppet, let’s explore taking some objects in your home for a walk! To give it a try, follow these steps:
- Find three objects in your home that you wouldn’t normally think of as a puppet. For example, you might find a FORK, a BOOK, and a SPONGE. Make sure you ask for an adult’s permission before you take anything to use as a puppet!
- One at a time, move each object with your hands, and make them walk across a table, countertop, your bed, or even the floor.
- Experiment by moving each object in different ways, and try to find a walk that matches the shape, flexibility, or traditional use of the object.
Need a challenge? Give the objects a personality or emotion that will change the way they walk. For example, your FORK might be shy, angry, or scared, which would change the way it moves.
Need to simplify? If you’re exploring with a younger student, choose an object to move that resembles a person or animal. For example, you could use a doll, action figure, or stuffed animal.
Becoming a Puppeteer
In addition to movement, the puppeteer can also bring an object to life by giving it a voice! PUPPETEER is another word for the person controlling the puppet. Speaking for a puppet is just like acting, and the voice should match the character’s traits and personality. For example, in the Arden’s production of Treasure Island in 2018/19, Captain Flint the parrot was a stuffed animal puppet. The actor serving as the puppeteer made sure to speak in a special parrot-voice when bringing him to life. Let’s watch some rehearsal footage!
Now it’s your turn to be a puppeteer! To practice, we’ll bring a stuffed animal to life by moving it and speaking for the character. Here are the instructions:
- Find a stuffed animal to use as your puppet.
- Explore moving your puppet. Try to make it walk like the animal it represents.
- Explore speaking for your puppet. Try to make its animal noise, and use that to help you decide what you want its voice to sound like.
- Pick a name for your puppet.
- Now, gather your audience! Invite other people in your home to watch. Once everybody is ready, walk your puppet out and have it introduce itself. If you would like to perform longer, you could put on a puppet show or even let the audience ask your puppet questions!
Need a challenge? Use two or more stuffed animals, and have them speak to each other to create your own mini-scene or full puppet show.
Need to simplify? If you’re puppeteering with a younger student, rather than speaking for the stuffed animal, focus on voicing its animal sound.
As we’ve been learning, puppets come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be made out of any material! Shadow puppets are one of the many varieties, and they have been used since ancient times. A SHADOW PUPPET is a flat, cut-out shape that is held between a light and a screen. When the puppet is in front of the light, it creates a shadow on the screen, and this shadow is used to tell a story to the audience. Shadow puppets can be made in the shape of people, animals, places, or even things.
Many Arden Children’s Theatre shows have included shadow puppetry over the years. For example, in Beauty and the Beast in 2014/15, shadows were used the entire play to create the environment and help set the mood. At the beginning of the story, Belle had a bad dream about a shipwreck before she woke up in her bedroom. Shadow puppets were used to create the dream, as well as the furniture in her home. Let’s watch some rehearsal footage!
Now, it’s time to create your own shadow puppet! Before we begin, you’ll need to look around your home to find some supplies. Make sure you ask an adult for help or permission to use these materials. You’ll need:
- Thick Paper – This can be cardstock, or you can use a cereal or other food storage box.
- Drawing Tool – You’ll need to draw the outline of your puppet, and you can use a pencil, pen, or marker.
- Scissors – Make sure you are careful with these! You’ll use them to cut out your puppet.
- Popsicle Stick or Pencil – This will be used as the rod you hold while you move your puppet.
- Tape – You will use the tape to attach the rod to your puppet.
To make your shadow puppet, follow these instructions:
- Draw the outline of your puppet on the paper. It can be whatever you would like!
- Cut the puppet out, following the outline you have drawn.
- Attach the popsicle stick or pencil that you will be using as the rod to the back of the puppet using your tape. This rod supports the puppet, but it also creates a handle for you to hold while you move it.
Bring your shadow puppet to life! Have fun by following these steps:
- Find a dark or dimly lit room in your home.
- Shine a flashlight against the wall. If you don’t have a flashlight, you can ask an adult to download an app to use onto their phone.
- Hold your puppet between the flashlight and the wall, and you’ll see the shadow! Explore by moving your puppet, and notice what happens to your puppet’s size when you move it closer or farther away from the light.
Need a challenge? Make your shadow puppet more detailed. For example, you could cut out eyes and a mouth.
Need to simplify? If you’re creating with a younger student, it may be helpful to cut out the shadow puppet and attach the rod yourself. Then, your student can have fun moving the puppet and bringing it to life.
Thank you for creating with us today!
We would love to see your shadow puppet or how you explored any of the other puppetry exercises! Tag us using @ArdenTheatreCo on Facebook or Instagram if you would like to share.
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