Causal-toastedflatbread

Puppets view the real world through a unique lens which allows them to communicate to real-world audiences about relatable topics. Puppets exist in an incredibly unique reality onstage, one more distinctive than any other actor, audience member, or subject engaged in the performance. Of course, puppets do not hold life by themselves; they require a human agent’s energy to animate them. That is exactly what is so impressive about the art of puppetry; it disconnects from the “living” world in which the audience exists in, but still beautifully communicates to this realm. Typically, puppets are believed to communicate light, fun topics, but more importantly, they hold this incredible ability to present heavy topics that allow us to gain access to scary parts of our emotional core. Consider this: you are safely sitting in the audience of a show about death, but you are not dying or watching anyone else die. You are still hoping to feel something frightful or heartbreaking-after all theatre exists to evoke emotions. Throughout the performance, you get to know a puppet character-you dig into its psyche and experience its highs, lows, and everything in between-you form a bond with this being. Then, the puppet dies. The puppeteer steps away from the puppet and suddenly, all that exists is an inanimate object, no longer a character. Everything you thought you knew about this being has been ripped away from you. It’s jarring, it’s tragic, and it’s magical. Miranda Wright describes her encounter with this when she saw “Famous Puppet Death Scenes” by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop of Canada. She describes her experience in the quote, “In order to make good on his promise, the puppet offered to provide a demonstration of death itself. He offered to die in front of us. When the moment came, I couldn’t breathe. As the puppeteer behind the curtain lifted his hands from the puppet’s body, I realized there truly was no life left in my new friend. I watched a life end, and sat in the theater crying.” This death landed so deeply with Wright because not only did the puppet die on a theatrical level, but it lost its life literally; it was merely a heap of materials, no longer a friend with a soul. Now, if this had been an actor portraying death, it would have still been compelling, but so much of our reaction is a critique of how well the actor mimicked death, so the performance aspect distracts us from our visceral reaction to the reality of death. When a puppet portrays death, it is raw, it is clumsy, and it allows us to supply the reality by ourselves-we feel the drama in our hearts and that is what makes puppets such an incredible vehicle for storytelling. They step away from the idea of performance and they just exist as they are and allow the audience to feel the emotions as they arise. Puppeteer Mark Down illustrated this idea beautifully when he stated, “it is not puppeteers who make puppets come alive. 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.” The world of the puppet exists in a space where there are no outside influences or distractions-it is 100% open to interpretation.

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