Puppetry Tech Notes


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Saturday, April 01, 2006


- this list will be updated and reposted periodically

White Shadows- 05/09/02, Wire Marionette Controls -05/07/02, TableTop HandPuppets- 06/01/02, BottleBased Rods-07/07/02,Sok Sekrts07/07/02 Solo Booth- 09/08/02, Paper Bag Stage- 09/08/02, Quik StyroHead -08/07/02, Bigger Booth -24/08/02, Curtain o' Light-23/08/02, Rolling Racks-19/08/02, PortaBridge- 12/01/02, Plastic Canvas Masks - 12/03/02, Ladder Based Stage- 1/01/03, MANIPULATUION 7/28/04, Panto Horse - 4/18/05, STYROGOYLES - 4/19/05, "One Piece"Stage- 1.31/06, Open Toy Thtr - 2/01/06


Feb. 2006

The traditional British Toy Theatre is a replica of the Victorian stages on which the plays published were produced. The form has a great deal of antiquarian charm and limited sightlines, suitable for the nursery but not for public performances of any size. This updated version, which offers the option of using continental slots as well as British slides can be used for small audiences of about 60 in a flat floor room with a low platform. A steep rake is not appropriate and while sightlines have been improved, a frieze stage isn't advisable.

The base box which support the slotted toy theatre floor sits on a standard 3' square card table and can extend slightly beyond it in front.
The main operator, hidden by the backdrops sits behind the table and manipulates those figures used in the slots. Since a script can be mounted on the back of the theatre, this person is the primary reader.The theatre works best with two more operators, one on each side, dressed in black. Two TV tables behind each of them hold the figures they'll move. They should learn their parts if possible, but cue sheets can be mounted on the back of the wings if needed. A black curtain behind everything is desirable. (See rough sketches Floorplan & View)

To open the show, a proscenium with a lowered curtain stands at the front of the stage. The "orchestra" in the pit can be raised from behind by a simple lever inside and lowered after the overture and any announcements at the start of the show. The two side operators lift the proscenium and curtain unit and pass it over the backdrop to the person behind the scenes. Or they may place it on the floor in front of the stage out of the stage lighting. This reveals a trapezoidal stage with free standing wings and the first backdrop visible. There may be a figure or two already onstage. The lights mounted on stands off stage left and right not so far forward as to interfere with the sightlines come up.

The box under the stage floor should be high enough to raise the surface to at least 44" from the actual stage. The length of the seated operators arms determines how far a figure can be pushed forward in the downstage slot. Lighting and sound controls should not be in the box but rather to either side of the operator. Foot controls are also possible. Controls may also be placed under the back corners of the table where they can be reached by the side operators if necessary.

The slides for figures which enter from the wings need to have a slight turn-up at their tips so they won't catch in the slots. A higher turn-up will allow the operator on one side use a wire with a loop in the end to capture and pull a figure off on the side opposite from where it entered. If it's two-sided, the character can then reenter from that side and be similarly pulled back from whence it came--with practice. If the scenery is made 30" inches high, figures up to 15" inches can be used for interior scenes. For exteriors or large spaces, 10" to 12" figures can be used. providing the scale of the scenery is properly adjusted. In some cases, a greenery teaser or a ceiling piece can be put across the back wings to force the perspective.

Scenes within an act can be stacked in order and changed a vista by dimming the lights. For more elaborate changes between acts, the proscenium and curtain should be put back in place, and entre'act music played. The length of the performance will determine which practice is appropriate. A minimum of four front lights are required, gelled warm and cool. By dimming out the warm circuit, night effects are possible. A row of nightlight bulbs in reflectors can function as "footlights". These can be standard fixtures plugged into a row of outlets at the back of the "orchestra" on their own dimmable circuit. Two circuits, one white and one colored using Xmas lights can be used for effect. The side operators may use flashlights from the wings for special effects. Also consider illuminating some backdrops from behind.

Floorplan & View

Email:Will Stackman, Master of Motions

posted by will 1:44 PM

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