Saturday, May 31, 2008

Boo for dead batteries

I'm in California again, but this time on vacation. Hooray! Yesterday we headed into Oakland to visit Children's Fairyland, a small theme-park built in 1950 (pre-Disneyland). They house the oldest continuously running puppet theater in the country. It's full of adorably dated rides and sets and wonderfully updated rides and sets. This was the place that I saw my very first puppet show in either 81 or 82. This was also the place the left me terrified of twisty slides for the rest of my life. My shoe got caught in the tower. The dreaded tower of doom. This dreaded tower of doom is the tower to which they send the kids under 4 years of age because they're too little to go down the big-kid dragon slide of not-getting-your-shoe-stuck.

So at one point we had to take the wee one to the wee-wee room & I saw that the side door was open to the puppet theater...a Yoda poster hung on the wall inside (adorable since Frank Oz used to work there). I saw a man eating a hot-pocket (ohhh delicious hot I miss your cheese-goo) & I decided to muster my woman-balls and ask if he was the resident puppeteer. Indeed it was puppeteer, Randal Metz. He invited me in and we talked about puppetry and building and marionettes and shows and well..puppetry for a good hour until it was time for him to start the show. We geeked out so hard that Todd & the boy-child had to leave to do less geeky things.

Their audio is all prerecorded, so he invited me to watch the show from backstage if I wanted to. I wanted to. I brought my mom back (she adores puppets) & we watched Pinocchio. It was an interesting thing to watch. His partner for the show had only done the show with him 3 times, so she was fairly fresh. But the idea of having prerecorded dialog and music meant that he could give her instructions during the show without missing a beat. He also carried on a fairly uninterrupted conversation with us during the show without missing things. It's so ingrained.

I've stolen some video from etsy seller, headexplodie, for you. Go buy stuff from her out of guilt for having watched stolen video.

Then we got to play with the puppets. That was good fun! Lewis Mahlmann made the puppets years and years ago (I don't want to be specific because I don't remember exactly, but Randal did tell me) and some of the costumes (in the show) were made by Frances Oznowicz. It was really an awesome theater to visit. And the park is pretty lovely as well. It's getting refurbished and there is fresh paint everywhere! (Even on the boy's shirt...whoopsiedoodle)

We head back into town tomorrow morning, so if you plan on stealing something from my house, now is the time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's a long one...sorry.

This month has been insane! Maker Faire, Mother's Day, last month of teaching, first trip to Chicago, music video, 8-year anniversary and Hobo Soup! Crazy.

I've been meaning to post about the Maker Faire since it happened! I asked permission to use this photo, but for some reason its not uploading to Blogger or downloading to my computer. SO, you'll have to click the link to see me in action at the Maker Faire. I was a very busy girl. I auditioned for Make:TV and did a demo/talk on the Craft:magazine stage and spent hours upon hours showing kids and grown-ups alike how to backstitch and whip-stitch their way into a finger puppet.
See that pile of puppets there on the workbench? Four of them were taken right out from under my nose! Isn't that terrible? If I believed in karma I'd say it'd one day bite them in the tuchus, but since I don't, they'll probably just play with the puppets for a little while, and enjoy the fact that they stole my hard work without me ever noticing. I guess it affirms that people like what I do. It also affirms that the bunny & carrot set are more popular than the steak & dog set, as the bunny/carrot set were swiped twice. Someone also took a Sakura tool-belt full of awesome pens & markers AND a few puppets, but at least I was off doing something else so it was left unattended. That's enough lamenting, I suppose. Lesson learned: Trust no one.

The trip to Toronto was postponed, but I really didn't mind because it meant that I could spend Mother's Day at home with my family. It's also always nice to stay in Phoenix when it's not roasting-hot outside. I'll hopefully get away to Toronto when it's 118 here in the desert.

Last weekend I was in Chicago doing some puppetry on a music video, but I'm not sure how much I can share. I think I can share a production photo and if I can't, I'm sure the right people will contact me and ask me to take it down. The photo is courtesy of JP's cell phone. You can see me tucked underneath the table. I was puppeteering a butterfly that I had been asked to make about 10 minutes prior. I think I whipped it out in less than 5 minutes with only a t-shirt, wire, hot-glue & a marker. I felt like McGuyver.

In a way, that butterfly was very important. At least performing it was. As a kid I watched Sesame Street (of course I did) and in the Bert & Ernie segments especially, there seemed to always be a butterfly flitting around. I can't tell you how much I wanted to be that little butterfly. About 6 years ago I saw a purple Folkmanis butterfly puppet at the Great AZ Puppet Theater (my first trip there) & bought it right away only because it helped fulfill that little space in my dreams. So I made this puppet & went onto the set and basically said, "I'm performing it." There wasn't any way that anyone else was going to do it. A little dream was actually fulfilled with that t-shirt. Hooray for little dreams!

Doing that project was amazing. It was hard work, but I wouldn't mind more hard work like that at all! We got there at 8:30am and left at 3:30am. I'm really thankful that I was brought in for the it and I worked with some amazing puppeteers! This was my first professional video and my first experience with monitors. I was not only intimidated by just the project alone (and the monitors), but I was surrounded by experienced puppeteers. It really was an honor working with them & watching them perform. I'm sure my performance will be picked out easily as mine will be the puppet slowly sinking and hardly emoting.

It certainly pushes me to try to improve those skills. Not that I'll ever really have an opportunity like this again, but just in case I do, I want to be prepared.

I'm leaving with my family on Friday for a much-needed vacation together. We'll return home for 5 days and then leave again for another much-needed vacation together. I'm pretty excited & busy making puppets for people in the meantime. Tonight for dinner we're having Hobo Soup.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Maker Day!

So here I am in California. I was able to attend Maker Day for the Maker Faire yesterday, and met a LOT of wonderfully geeky guys and gals. Mostly guys! The makers are into programming and hacking into things, making things with gears, soldering, and dremeling which is lovely. Someone had a machine that was a tongue to lick a lollipop with the turn of a crank. A gentleman who goes by the name of Doc was telling me about his boy on a bicycle and his next goal being to animate his face. The boy's, not his own.
Another guy I met, Simran, has made (to the best of me being able to describe things) an application that uses the wonder of virtual gravity and boxes and things crashing together in pretend-space to create a symphony of music. It's a very cool app & reminds me a lot of Electroplankton by Nintendo. (Which is a lovely little "game")

When I talk to most any of the makers--especially the ones who make baby arms move by sensors in the feet, or people who are exploring using ventriloquist dummy parts to create robots-- I think about how these things can merge in the world of puppetry. Puppetry overlaps to nearly every art-form. Hackers, programmers, visual artists, fiber artists, welders, woodworkers, actors and vocalists all have their important and vital roles in puppetry. WOW. I can't wait to talk about puppetry on Sunday and how each and every person there should become involved with it in some way.

Want to see a picture of me at Maker? Yes. So silly I am. I took a trip to the Maker Shed to see my kits displayed and they were sitting right next to John Kennedy's Puppet Planet. That's pretty darn rad, if I do say.