Saturday, 27 October 2007

Making masks and puppets

The photographs on Carmen’s look amazing and I think it is quite fascinating how something that is merely cardboard can look so intimidating. I wonder if anyone else agrees? Or
disagrees maybe?

I also wanted to post my research as part of the puppet and mask making
group from the lesson on Monday.

Obviously the main criteria of the Bread and Puppet theatre is the
ethic of "cheap art". Their creations made from recyclable rubbish or
natural products that they come across.

Another main ethos of Bread and Puppet is that "from death comes life"
which reinforces the importance of the recycled materials they use. It
is also worth noting that many people have likened Peter Schumann’s
creative process to that of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster as he
makes them from raw elements. The puppets themselves are meant to be
very human in appearance or be reflective of human qualities which is
why sometimes only an ear or a nose will be used.

Bread and Puppet create many different types of characters as well as
using different styles and in a single summer can make hundreds of
puppets. They can include "gorgeous Vietnamese women masks, repulsive
butchers or suits, giant historical figures or gods, tiny table
puppets, cardboard cutouts, prophets, disciples, green men and gray
ladies" (Rehearsing With Gods, 82). They also make use of huge
processional puppets that will often take on a character role
explicitly linked directly to the themes of their piece of theatre.
They will also have "population puppets" which never stand alone yet
are used in conjunction with many others to create a defenceless and
faceless weak mass.

The making process itself is very simple. To begin, clay will be dug
from the riverbanks which will then have straw added to it. Following
on from that, sculptures will be created with plastic covering it on
top. They will then paper mache on top of that before being allowed to
dry. When dry they will be taken out of their moulds and painted with
an overcoat of white.

In our own making process during the lesson we adopted a similar
technique but instead of clay used a stuffed plastic bag as the means
of creating our sculpture before covering it in newspaper and paper
macheing the facial features onto the shapes to create specific facial

It is worth noting that in terms of deciding on the puppets we will
want to use during our own performance that we will first want to
consider the message and themes we want to address. From that discovery
we will then need to create puppets that act as visual (not conceptual)
metaphors for the piece and then work in groups to create and bring
these puppets to life.

-Sheryl Hill

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