Improvisation with Puppets

Yesterday, I participated in a Puppetry Improvisation Zoom call with a group of other puppeteers hosted by Paul Greggs. Improvisation has never come easily for me either in skits or music, but things tend to go a little better for me when I am performing with a puppet. There are still challenges, as the puppet limits what you can do as a part of your improvisational performance.

I have been watching a lot of puppet improv videos on YouTube lately, however. These come in the form of recordings of “Uncensored Puppets” that I’ve found online. They are very inappropriate for tender ears, but still very funny. As I understand it, the idea of doing improv with puppets is still relatively new, although I suppose puppeteers occasionally do this when they must go off script.

My son, Elijah, and I have done a lot of improvisation when we play around with the puppets. I will just launch into a scene or scenario and make everything up as I go along. This is improvisation, but not at the level of a performance that most people will appreciate.

Other times that I’ve attempted to improvise was when I’ve either recorded my puppet speaking off the cuff, or recorded live video feeds. I’ve found that these are very tricky, as you are constantly keeping track of what your puppet is doing while you’re thinking ahead to the next thing you want to do.

During the improv exercise, we were each given the chance to choose from six categories, such as Scene, Location, Character Flaw, etc. Then, you perform a quick skit with your puppet which encompasses these categories. My first one was cutting down a tree, location of neighborhood, and the character flaw of my puppet was unable to tell the truth. I had to come up with something fast before I got started, but I think I pulled these off.

We’re going to meet over Zoom calls every three months, I believe. I’m looking forward to the next session. This allows me to network with other puppeteers, while practicing my skills and observing what they can do.

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