White Paper-toastedflatbread

Working Hypothesis 1

Allowing humans to observe life challenges through the lens of puppets would offer more sympathy, understanding, and rationality into their hearts and minds

Academic Sources

Source #1

Between Human and Object: Performing Artists on the Possibilities of Puppets. (2013, June 3). Creative Capital. https://creative-capital.org/2013/06/03/between-human-and-object/ 


“the audience “is willing to suspend disbelief, all the while being acutely aware of the mechanics behind everything.”

“the crucial point about puppets is that they are real and unreal at the same time.”

“‘The frailty and vulnerability of the illusion of a puppet communicates something of the frailty of the identities that we all construct and attempt to maintain. The obvious effort it takes to animate a puppet says something…about the difficulty of merely living.’”


 Puppeteering is an art that has constantly intrigued artists for centuries and proves to still reveal new discoveries to this day. One group of people who study puppeteering are grantees for the Creative Capital. Examining these entities through the eyes of a modern citizen provides a new perspective on their relationship with electronic avatars. This outlook adds another layer to the role that puppets play in human existence-do humans sympathize with avatars as much as they do with humans? How do avatars’ teaching abilities compare to physical puppets? The grantees also explore the point at which puppets are existing in the human world compared to their own world. That idea is something frequently explored by artists as it allows us to explore new artistic realms. An interesting aspect of puppetry explored in this article is the way it comments on the awkwardness of human existence-one of the grantees, Susan Simpson sees the fragility of a puppet as a reflection of the fragility humans often feel in their lives and she views the way in which a puppeteer controls a puppet as a comment on the effort it takes for humans to merely exist. These ideas provide insight into why spectators feel a connection to puppets and how it stems from a place of struggle. Another idea explored in the article suggests that puppets allow for greater experimentation in a theatre setting and the audience will feel safer witnessing new concepts through puppets rather than living human beings. Understanding this relationship allows not only performers but spectators also to experiment with new emotions and concepts in a safe setting.

Source #2

Wright, M., & Wright, M. (2016, August 3). Power in Puppetry. Getty Iris. https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/power-in-puppetry/


“We breathe life into the puppets, but they breathe life into us.”

“By concentrating on the life of the puppet, and the life of the other, we are able to temporarily forget our own struggles.”

“Word and image work in tandem, fall out of step, scrape against each other. Meaning is constructed through association; truth is elusive, and the questions are between the layers.”


Puppets hold an other-worldly power to embody life, death, and everything in between. Their breath comes from the puppeteer, however, somehow, these objects take on a life of their own, completely unknown to humans. This life has the ability to move spectators to laugh, cry, gasp, and feel various other emotions that human actors may convey in the same way. Their abilities are quite remarkable and often are not recognized to their fullest extent. Not only is the relationship between the puppet and the audience important, but the relationship between the puppet and the puppeteer is vital to tell a story. This connection is mutual and crafts careful, expressive stories. Puppets also act as therapeutic tools in a way for people, as the ability to breathe life into an inanimate object allows for the puppeteer to focus on a life other than their own. Puppets give the puppeteer permission to express all of their emotions into another being in a safe, artistic way and that is extraordinary. People feel a responsibility to puppets, especially when they have given them life-they have a responsibility to cradle the puppet’s story and tell it with love and care-this responsibility shapes the atmosphere of the theatre and creates bonds among the audience the performers, and of course the puppets, like no other performance.

Source #3

Cummings, S. T. (2019, December 30). Puppets: Still Very Much a Thing. AMERICAN THEATRE. https://www.americantheatre.org/2015/06/24/puppets-still-very-much-a-thing/ 


“If a performance is mediated by focus on an object and its manipulation,” Bell says, “then to my mind it is in the realm of the puppet.” 

“The puppet lives in the audience’s imagination. We try to steer that, and perhaps persuade it to go somewhere exciting, but to be honest we don’t have a huge amount of control over it.”

“Puppetry today is a mashup of work. The field has such plurality. And audiences love that.”

“They only exist in the present of performance. And that makes them agents of presence.”                                

Summary This article includes many examples of puppet festivals, which will be useful when providing examples of puppet performances that experimented. The article touches on the relationship between human and puppet, claiming that puppets can determine their own stories as long as the puppeteer lets them tell the story. In other words, puppets can teach humans a lot about real and inanimate life. Certain productions reveal different concepts about storytelling, masks, etc. The article also dives into the performance aspect of puppeteering and how the puppet shape’s the audience’s interpretation to be whatever they allow themselves to believe. There is a certain kind of magic that comes with a puppet performance because the puppets are alive at that moment, but do not continue to live afterward. They only perform when the puppeteer does and that makes them, as Dan Hurlin states, “agents of presence.” Additionally, puppet theatre allows for open interpretation, which is uniquely beautiful.

Source #4

Eprints.worc.ac.uk. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/5218/1/The%20Theatricality%20of%20Objects.pdf

Summary This article explores ‘object theatre’ and how artists can work with objects in a way that includes them as characters and important parts of the story, rather than just props. It digs deeper than puppetry theatre because it explores how seemingly dull objects can be utilized to tell intricate stories. The performer can work with the object as a co-actor of sorts rather than just using it as a concrete object. Objects can disrupt or transform a scene in ways that are withdrawn by humans-the interpretation of these objects is entirely up to the humans working with or watching them-that is what makes them so versatile and interesting. The article also urges audience members to view objects in theatre in a more inclusive and curious light, constantly wondering how they impact the show and what their relation to the characters is. Actors also must consider their relationship to the object that they interact with and how that may be made more personal or interesting. Ultimately, one must consider what separates a human from an object and what the line is between the real world and the inanimate world.

Source #5 UNIMA. (2018, September 17). Theatre of Objects. World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts. https://wepa.unima.org/en/theatre-of-objects/

Summary This article does a great job of giving examples of instances in history when puppetry or the use of inanimate objects has been used in theatre. It explains how inanimate objects have been used for symbolism, storytelling, and development throughout the history of theatre. Throughout those years puppetry has changed and formed into what it is now. 

Source #6

Epic Theatre of Brecht. Epic theatre of brecht. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://tinyurl.com/mrxp2emk 


This article provides detailed biographical information about Berthold Brecht and the development of “epic theatre” and how it influenced his work. It describes some of the tactics he used in the theatre to encourage his audiences to view his work critically rather than emotionally.

Source #7

Origins of the puppet. World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts. (2016, September 6). Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://wepa.unima.org/en/origins-of-the-puppet/ 


This article is a quick, but informative article about the origins of puppets. The article includes information about where puppets originated, how they were used, what form of puppet they were, and how those forms differ or compare to other puppet styles. 

Source #8

Woodruff, P. (1988). ENGAGING EMOTION IN THEATER: A BRECHTIAN MODEL IN THEATER HISTORY. The Monist, 71(2), 235–257. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27903080 


This article provides extensive information about Berthold Brecht and his theories regarding “epic theatre”. It also includes a strong argumentative statement against Brecht, like a rebuttal of its own. Brecht subscribed to many interesting and sometimes outlandish beliefs about how theatre should be performed and consumed. Theatre serves various purposes, but Brecht believed that his work specifically existed to intellectually challenge the audience and allow them to consume art without feeling strong emotions or empathy for the characters. Paul Woodruff, the author of this article goes into extensive detail about why Brecht’s theories were contradictory to the purpose of art and the numerous ways Brecht did not fulfill his goals in his work. He explains how emotions are a natural part of consuming art and they allow the experience to be more fulfilling and raw. 

Source #9

Roe, R. (2017, September 20). Mahna Mahna, yes… but why? Retrieved December 08, 2021, from https://toughpigs.com/mahna-mahna-yes-but-why/ 


The infamous “Mahna Mahna” video from the Muppet Show is a simple, fun video designed to entertain audiences of all ages. However, there is a deeper meaning behind the characters of this video. Viewers have found themselves drawn to either the pink “Snowths” or the “Mahna Mahna” puppet. Turns out there are reasons behind this favoritism. The puppet that people relate to reveals whether they are an organized, self-controlled personality or a free spirit, who lives life on the edge. This information reveals a lot about why humans find comfort and empathy with puppets and proves that although they are inanimate objects, puppets can be relatable.

Source #10

Yakubovskaya, I., Yakubovskaya, I., 12, H., 21, W., & 21, I. (2014, October 10). Emotion, brain, & behavior laboratory. Retrieved December 08, 2021, from https://sites.tufts.edu/emotiononthebrain/2014/10/10/82/ 


Emotion in a theatrical setting is an interesting vein of research because there are so many different ways in which emotions can be communicated, felt, and responded to. Actors use their bodies, voices, faces, etc. to convey emotion, but does this mean that those emotions are genuine? This question is explored deeply in this article, specifically in how it relates to neurological activity and embodied cognition. The importance of empathy and emotion is unmistakable; Aristotle explored this idea in his time and his many findings are explored in this article. The article praises emotion in the theatre and treats it as a necessity for successful art.

Current State

I am feeling fairly comfortable with the state of my paper-I am so excited to research this topic because I am so passionate about it! I think my hypothesis could do with more fine-tuning, but I know that will come with more time and research. I feel great about the sources I have found so far-they are strong and helpful. I am anticipating my final product to be well-researched and fascinating. I am eager to learn more about my topic and compile that information into a paper. I have already learned so many new things about puppetry and object theatre and I am sure there is still more to discover. I am looking forward to it! 🙂

This entry was posted in White Paper. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to White Paper-toastedflatbread

  1. davidbdale says:

    As promised, Flatbread, here’s a link to the live reading of “The Sentence,” a play with puppets by davidbdale. I look forward to working with (for) (alongside) you on this paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. davidbdale says:

    I love your use of quotes as a separate category of valuable resource, Flatbread. I’ve made substantial use of the technique in my own White Paper over the years, but I never suggested or required it in my students’ drafts. Apparently the idea came to you on its own, and it’s a dandy. The quotes, as a bonus, are brilliant. I can see why you took the time to record them.

    You mentioned your hypothesis could use some fine-tuning, and I agree, but let that happen naturally. For me, if it moves in the direction of more specificity, it could include the idea that theater uses puppets to give audiences access to deeply disturbing or dangerous subject matter that would be overwhelming to confront head-on.

    The White Paper is a work in progress, so this feedback loop will stay open for many weeks, Flatbread. I’ll expect you to respond often, starting right away, to demonstrate your respect for the process. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s