Marionettes, Jim Henson Muppets, shadow puppets or even water puppetry are some of the types of puppets professor Vandy Wood teaches her theatre for young audiences graduate students every Wednesday in a large design studio room inside the theatre building.
Aptly named “Puppetry,” this course teaches different kinds of puppets, their history and how to build them. For this semester’s class, students spent their second week of November adding a few new pieces to their own puppets.
Their final isn’t considered a final, according to Wood, but more of a puppet production where the students feature their creations in action working together to make one cohesive story.
Brittany Caine, a graduate student studying theatre for young audiences, decided to construct her puppet from a plastic doll by adding hooks where the doll's joints used to be. The puppet will resemble a 9-year-old girl who goes on an adventure using different objects to discover what her history is, Caine said.
“I’m really interested in the idea that you are defined by what you wear and what you carry around; that we associate certain professions and skills and traits by different kinds of objects,” Caine said.
This year materials such as wood, foam, plastic, paper and other textured puppets will create one big narrative. The production will feature a forest goddess, a coquí frog, a meerkat, a pirate and other puppets -- but the class still hasn’t worked out the kinks quite yet as to how the story will go.
Wood said she actually started pretty late in her life doing puppetry. Around her mid-40s she picked up the art form and started going from there.
“I just started doing it. It’s a growing part of theater, and it’s something I have interest and skill in,” Wood said.
Caine, however, feels like she is puppet-apprehensive and only took the class because it’s required. As the curriculum continued, she became more aware as to how and why puppets are utilized.
“I was super apprehensive and I’m still super apprehensive about the class, but I'm enjoying learning the concepts I can be a part of. I’m not super artistically inclined,” Caine said.
According to Wood, puppetry isn’t a dying art form, and these students will utilize this class for their future in teaching children at public schools and theaters. One thing the students say they have discussed while building their puppets is that making them is quite enlightening. In just takes a few weeks they’ll be pulling some strings.