One Planet, Many Puppets: Rod Puppets

by Vicky on June 29, 2011

The third workshop in the One Planet, Many Puppets series focused on rod puppets.  We looked at examples of the Japanese Bunraku tradition and American styles derived from it, as well as rod puppets operated by a single puppeteer.

Although I chose examples to show the kids that they would enjoy (like John Kennedy’s Mummy rod puppet and Unraku’s puppet performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”), I found myself being taken to a whole new place when I discovered clips from Dan Hurlin’s “Disfarmer.”  A serious work of puppet theater, “Disfarmer” is inspired by the 1915-1959 career of Mike Disfarmer, a reclusive Arkansas photographer whose works somehow captured the essence of the American people of the heartland. 

I was trying to describe this work-in-progress excerpt to Stuart, who hadn’t seen it yet, as we were driving to the library for the workshop.  As I told him about the vulnerability and frailty and isolation conveyed by the elderly Disfarmer puppet, I got choked up. I’m still haunted by it.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that I ran across this quotation in one of the puppetry books I was reading recently:

“The nature and the task of the puppet theater is to do and say things that the real theater cannot do or say.” –Fred Schneckenburger

I was glad to see the kids using their notebooks!  Here is a Koala puppet being designed and built.

With simple and fairly limited materials, the kids made full use of their imaginations and came up with many different creative solutions.

And here are just some of the fabulous results!

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