Over the past two weekends in March, I have had the chance to learn from Smoking Apples Theatre Company and Norbert Götz.
Smoking Apples Theatre Company
I had a wonderful time learning more about Puppetry. Molly and Matt were lovely and had fantastic handmade puppets that we got the opportunity to work with. A lot of the work focused on the anatomy of the human body and how we can convey naturalism and emotions in the movement of the puppet. For a show I am in the process of creating, this was an excellent workshop to know how the body moves, and the difference between how muscles move in comparison to the skeleton.
We worked with methods of the Bunraku Puppet – a Japanese traditional puppet theatre using half-life size puppet dolls, created in the 17th century in Osaka. This is where three puppeteers operate one puppet. One person operates the feet (pulling down to give the illusion of gravity), one person holds the bottom of the back (pulling up the give structure in the legs) and the right arm, and the third puppeteer gives movement to the head and left arm.
After walking around the room portraying different emotions, we used a tea towel and a mug to create little puppets. Although simple, the illusion is very powerful when the puppeteers work with great focus to bring the puppet to life – when the puppeteers invest in the puppet, the audience do too.
Having done a bit of puppetry before, with Tom Pringle, I felt more comfortable making smaller movements and taking my time with the puppet (who we named Richard!). I received feedback that my face was too expressive – as I get told all the time! –, Which I am really trying to control. When I give the puppet a voice, it is so hard to not let my face react to the grumbles or giggles I give the puppet.
Overall, this was an excellent workshop that I learned so much from. I have been looking at gender in Mask, and looking at the differences between “feminine” gestures and “masculine” gestures, the way the skeleton makes the man and woman walk slightly differently due to the size of hips and where weight/gravity sits in the two genders. I do not want to do any stereotypes in my Mask work, so it was great to learn about the skeleton to use in art.
Shadow Theatre and Moving Image – Norbert Götz
I had a fantastic time with Norbert learning about Shadow Theatre and Light Images. From researching a lot about Shadow Theatre for a Solo production I am creating, I knew a lot about the differences of Shadow Theatre and Shadow Play – but Norbert gave me a lot more knowledge! There are so many more risks that can be taken in Shadow Theatre that I was not aware of. I connected a lot more to this way of learning Physics than I did in High School.
I signed up for the two-day workshop because I wanted to learn how to create emotion through light and shadow – I did not expect to learn so much! I had no idea how light reflection and distortion could be emotional and tell so many stories. I felt so proud that I was able to manipulate the light into shapes that I thought would only be possible from projections – which makes budgeting a lot easier! There were many techniques I learned such as fading and using the light as a camera. It was an incredibly beneficial workshop to work with 2D and 3D puppets, as well as the body.
The material you use for the shadows must “nurture the eyes”. The smallest details are the best; like the bird in a tree, the curve of a cat’s tail, the different sizes of planks of wood on the picket fence, and random lights on in a house rather than every light on. It really helps the eyes believe what they see rather than a perfect cartoon/toy like setting just shown as a shadow. Even down to the material of the sheet you use to cast your shadows, some fabrics are too thick, some the creases are difficult to smooth out, so it is very important to find the best screen for your show.
Overall, my expectations of this workshops were exceeded!! I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with Norbert Götz and am truly inspired.