It's been a little over a week since my second and final puppetry workshop with John Tartaglia. I miss it already. It was so nice to hang out, learn, and have fun with such a talented and eclectic group of people. John's website refers to his classes as "a supportive and engaging environment." They truly are.
For the second class, we had to come prepared with a comedic or sad song to puppeteer through. I chose "Lonely Pew" from Reefer Madness. Jake Bazel chose a really sweet, sad song called "A Frog and His Boy" that Tom Smith wrote after Jim Henson passed away. John Cody did "Pukka Pukka Pukka Squeetily Boink" from Fraggle Rock, which was adorable. Peter Strecansky chose "Purpose" from Avenue Q and we all got to get up and be his background singers. John was laughing and saying it was one of the most surreal moments of his life to see us do that. It was a ton of fun.
For homework, we also had to familiarize ourselves with a scene from Fraggle Rock. I used to dance to the Fraggle Rock theme song every time it came on TV, so I was so excited until I read the scene and almost started crying! I don't remember Fraggle Rock ever being particularly sad, but this scene from "Marooned" was and is heartbreaking. Red and Boober are stuck in a tiny cave and afraid they're going to die in there. Heavy stuff. It's such a well written scene, though!
John brought up many times over the course of two classes how puppets can get away with things that humans can't. For example, when they talk directly to the camera it's completely normal, but if a person were to randomly check in with the camera it would be strange. Truth.
I've noticed that I have a problem with my puppets tilting their heads. I always feel like I'm holding everything straight, but I still end up with that confused puppy head tilt. I adjust and adjust, and it always slides right back. Frustrating. I really need to practice more with a monitor because it's still very jarring. I also need a puppet. Which brings me to the amazing Bonnie Erickson.
For the second half of class, Bonnie Erickson came as a special guest speaker. She is a wonderful lady and it was so nice to listen to her talk about how to create things, her own adventures and misadventures, and working on The Muppets (where she created Miss Piggy, Statler, and Waldorf - among others). We got to see some fantastic videos of Jim Henson's early work, commercial work, and bloopers. She also answered any questions that anyone had about building a puppet and went around to everyone that brought in puppets they had handmade, giving tips on what they could do to make their work ever better.
Some of the following may seem very elementary to some, but everything was important to me (having never built a puppet). Here is a list of things I learned from Bonnie Erickson:
Weston Long sent me some great sites to give me some guidance in building my own puppet. I'm super excited to get started when I save up some money to make sure do it right[ish] the first time.
I leave you with two of my favorite clips that Bonnie showed us. The first is the original pitch of The Muppet Show to CBS. The second is a [parody] bacon commercial.