White Paper-toastedflatbread

Working Hypothesis 1

Allowing humans to observe life challenges through the lens of puppets would offer more sympathy, understanding, and rationality their into 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 onto 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 effort it takes for humans to merely exist. These ideas provide insight into why spectators feel 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 pupper, 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 in that moment, but do not continue to live afterwards. 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 (need to figure out the citation for this one) 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. (THIS SUMMARY WILL GET BETTER, I’M PLANNING ON COMING BACK TO IT) 🙂

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! 🙂

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2 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.


  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!


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