November 4, 2012
These video clips are from a course on Objects For Actors that I recently taught at the Kultuuriakadeemia, Viljandi, Estonia.
This session explored how to stage altered realities – wind, water and low gravity – by animating props. The task involved analysing how materials are affected by natural forces and re-creating the movement through object manipulation.
In the discussion afterwards one of the actors said “so to be a puppeteer you need to know the laws of physics”. It was a bit shocking to hear the word “physics” linked to puppetry – it makes me think of science labs and numerical equations – but then I realised he meant the same as what I call the “laws of nature”.
Bringing objects and puppets to life involves knowing how things move. It means being able to show the difference between floating in the air or floating underwater or floating on the water. Four sticks can become a cat, a dog or a horse just by changing the rhythm of how they walk. Change the rhythm again and the sticks may be curious, proud or depressed.
To understand what makes wind wind, water water and a cat a cat we eventually arrive at the essences of movement and the effects of impulse, weight, force, flow, resistance …
All movement is governed by these natural laws but fortunately we don’t need to know any physics before becoming a puppeteer. We can learn it from observing falling leaves and watching a beer bottle floating down the river.