Why Puppetry

Performing a skit on kindness at a local Church.

Performing a skit on kindness at a local Church.

Recently, I’ve had a number of people ask me what I do. When I tell them about my passion for puppetry, they still often give me a funny look and ask, “Why puppetry?” So I thought it would be a great idea to hear other people’s stories from the world of puppetry because I’m sure they have been asked the same question as well. So I asked them, “Why puppetry?”

Here are their responses:

“I have tried a wide variety of art forms in my life, and puppetry is the most fun and mysterious I have ever worked with. Martin P. Robinson once said to a class, in summary, half of the soul of a puppet is what you put into it. The other half is given to you by the audience. I get so much joy from performing with puppets that is unlike any other. When the audience (no matter the number or age) believes that the inanimate object on my hand is in fact sentient, it brings joy to me and them. For a long time it was inexplicable to me. But after talking to other more experienced puppeteers, I’ve decided that it must come from the act of creating something together. Like a wordless collaboration. It’s fun and silly and sometimes serious, but making a thing come alive is joyful.”

Jennifer Himes
Puppeteer
Orlando, Florida

“Puppet’s can be made from anything, I get to experiment with both conventional and unconventional materials to make a character. Every puppet has its own construction and engineering problems to solve, and finding solutions to those problems is what makes Puppetry thrilling to me! It’s the challenge, the discovery of new technology that feeds my passion, followed by sharing my challenges and discoveries with the Puppetry community for the benefit of all that feeds my puppet soul.”

Katherine Hannaford
Puppetmaker
Sydney, Australia

“I do puppetry because I've always had a thing for puppets. They delight me. When they're funny, they're funny in a way that no other type of character is able to be, in my mind. I decided I wanted to bring characters to life with my hands so that I could experience the delight of puppetry from the other side of the puppet. I've been hooked ever since!”

Jessi Almstead
Puppetmaker
New York, New York

“I have always been fascinated by the Jim Henson/Muppet style of puppetry and started playing with puppets when I was three years old. I always wanted to be a puppeteer like them when I grew up. I spent my entire twenties and early thirties struggling in awful jobs, dealing with workplace bullying and trying hard to get into the performing arts scene. This is really hard in Australia because there's not a whole lot of respect or support for emerging artists here. But when opportunity didn't knock, I built a door. A bunch of things happened like unemployment, divorce and depression which lead to me being able to start my own business. Puppetry is pretty much the only thing I'm good at. It's the only thing I do that makes people smile and laugh. I love making people happy. I'm not an actor or a comedian. I am more comfortable being hidden and letting the puppets be the stars. I perform more confidently as puppet characters. I also enjoy bringing life to inanimate objects. I studied animation in my youth. Puppetry is like animation in real time. Whimsical, cartoon-like characters moving and talking in real life. It's fun and enjoyable for my audiences of all ages. I have found my one true skill, my one way to connect with people, and am finally living my dream. I'm happy now and so are the people I share my puppetry with.”

Brett Hansen
Larrikin Puppets
Queensland, Australia

I’ve always been fascinated by puppetry. Growing up, I always loved shows like the Muppets, Fraggle Rock, Bear in the Big Blue House, and Sesame Street, but I never thought of puppetry as something I could do until a few years ago. I came from work one day (as I did many days) feeling frustrated by my career and unfulfilled creatively and when I told my wife what was wrong she said, “Well, you’ve always loved puppets, why don’t you try building your own?” That’s when I thought, why not give it a try. So after doing some research, I found a site called Project Puppet and downloaded a pattern. After a quick trip to the local fabric store and a few hours of sewing I had my first puppet and myself quickly addicted to puppet building. A few months and many puppets later I heard of a workshop called Beyond the Sock, where you get to learn puppet building and performing from professionals who worked on some of the shows I loved growing up. So I signed up and later that year I was on the campus of UNT in Denton, Texas learning along with other people who were as passionate about puppetry as I was, many whom I became friends with through our love of puppetry. After the workshop, I found my interest of puppetry growing from just building puppets to performing with them as well. Unfortunately, being an introvert for most of my life made it difficult to commit to performing, but I quickly found that once a puppet is on, my mindset changes and it’s easy to interact with and perform for people. What started as a hobby quickly became something I hope to make a career out of.

Marlon Fernandes
Mr. Marlon’s Puppet Workshop
Fall River, Massachusetts