Puppetry Tech Notes


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Tuesday, January 31, 2006


"One piece" Puppet Stage

Jan. 2006

     This design is based on one originated for touring by Paul      Vincent-Davis, the longtime Artist-in-Residence at the Puppet Showplace Theatre in Brookline MA. It's been used by all and sundry in programs there for the last quarter century or so. The fitup was even used as PVD's main stage for a production of "Punch & Judy" and as one of the three stages for his more recent "Puss-in-Boots." The main unit fold down flat to a compact 3'x4' package      about 5" thick. This puppet stage was designed to be used by a standing puppeteer      but a tall stool of the right height will allow the operator to sit and perform.

          His original is made from good 1x2 common stock which has stood up remarkably well. The design could also be realized using aluminum framing and has been adapted using tri-wall cardboard as well as "Gator" board. The main folding unit has five panels (A, B1&2, C, D1&2) carefully hinged together with the playboard permanently hinged on as well. A bar (SB) for the scrim, which hides the standing puppeteer, and a propshelf (PS) are separate. These strap onto the main unit when it's folded for transportation and storage. (See Plan#1 below)

     The largest panel (A), the lower front, is 4'x3'. Both dimensions can be adjusted to fit the puppeteer and how the fit-up will be transported or stored. A cross bar parallel to the floor can be optionally added to get the height of the prop shelf just right. Incidentally, the propshelf holds the whole setup square. The lower side panels (B1 & B2) are 2'x3' or the same height as (a) and half its width. This matched pair are permanently hinged onto the back of the main panel (A). (Piano hinge may be used.) If a cross bar is set it's at the same height as the one on (A).

     The top panels, (C), which sit on (A), and (D1 & D2) which are left and right "handed" are dimensioned to achieve the ideal playboard height. I use 54" inches, so my C panel is 4'x'18". This unit is permanently front panel A. The playboard (PB), made from furniture grade 1/2" ply covered with muslin, is permanently back hinged onto C. There's a loose pin hinge on the front to keep PB from tipping. (See note below about loose pins)

     top side panels (D1 & D2) are L-shaped mirror images of each other with 2' bottoms matching C1 and C2. Their lower front section is the same height as C. Mine are 18". The inset of the "L" can be adjusted to accommodate the depth of the playboard and the position of the scrim. Mine are set back 9". thus the top of the L is 15". Both are permanently front hinged like C. Each has a loose pin hinge on the front corner which secures then to the top front panel C. We've outgrown bent finishing nails and use "hitch" pins from the hardware store in all our stages.

     There are two pieces for this fitup which are not permanently attached. The most important "loose" piece is the propshelf (PS), which rests either on the inside of units C and D1&D2 just above the fold or on the optional cross bar. The fitup is sturdier in the former configuration. The front corners of PS are carefully notched to match the right angle fold at each corner. The shelf is help in place by two velcro straps which wrap around it and either the fold or the cross bar. Additionally, loose pin hinges on the back corners or "T" pins into the frame will help keep the self in place. I usually just tie the propshelf down using black line permanently knotted through holes in the rear corners. The straps and ties also secure the playboard and the scrim bar onto the folded fit-up for transportation or storage. Nylon buckle straps can also be used but velcro is quicker.(See Plan#2 below)

     The scrim bar (SB) rest atop D1 & D2. It is secured to the outer top corners by loose pin hinges. The scrim can be rolled around it permanently or velcroed on just for performance. If more height is needed (primarily to hide the puppeteer) a light weight pediment (TP) can be set on the scrim bar and pinch clamped in place. Since this fitup is shallow, sightlines can be improved by pivoting thin aluminum or wood curtain bars (CB) off the top back corners of D1 & D2. The masking curtain can be separate or incorporated into the side drapes. Use "T" pins through the frame to support these bars when in position or perhaps pinch clamps.

     Paul Vincent-Davis' original stage is covered in black cloth, with loose spots where the playboard is secured. Decorative curtains are velcroed on the outside for various performances. The main front drape wraps around the corner fold to line up with the uprights of D1 & D2 "L"s. The longer side curtains overlap slightly and can be wide enough to extend back onto the pivoting curtain bars. An opaque under covering means that these "show" curtains can be light weight. We tend to use wrinkle resistant polyester. Some visiting school groups have use painted paper scenes.

     When the main unit is carefully folded--the hitch pins can even be kept inside of their hinges--the prop shelf and the scrim bar are strapped on top for the center fold using the velcro straps used to hold the propshelf. Slots in the pediment will allow it to be strapped on also. PVD has a giant canvas "tote" bag to store his in. A 6' x 8' "tarp" works as well, held on with bungee cords.


Will Stackman, Master of Motions

posted by will 3:58 PM

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