Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Frame Puppet Stage

Frame Stage

After using PVC pipe to make a puppet stage, we wanted to something sturdier, and easier to set up. A couple of puppeteers in the San Francisco Bay Area Puppeteers Guild were using frame stages, so we gave it a try.

The frame stage was made from redwood panels that hinged and latched together. It was easy to set up, stable, and worked great for a while. With repeated use however some of the corners came undone, and we had to re-wood glue and staple them. Eventually, we added plywood corners to the frames, which made them stronger and heaver. The major drawback was this stage was its substantial foot print when it wasn’t set up - it took up a lot of space. On top of that, the hinged together wooden frames were cumbersome and brittle, and if we dropped the stack accidentally they would break.

Towards the end, the hinges came apart, the latches broke, and the screws were loose - the only thing holding it together was the curtain. Once we stared brining wood glue, staples and screws to each show, we new it was time for a new stage.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My First PVC Puppet Stage

PVC Pipe Stage

My brother and I first started performing puppet shows professionally after attending the 1993 Puppeteers of America National Festival in San Francisco. We worked under the name The Johnson Brothers Puppets, and our first puppet show was The Wizard of Oz.

One of our early public performances was at the San Francisco Bay Area Puppeteers Guild annual Day of Puppetry in Children’s Fairyland, Oakland. At this event, Patrick and I debuted our brand new puppet stage. It was made from PVC pipe, and based on a design published in the puppetry festival hand book.

All of the pipes were measured and cut based on the specifications, and placed in a sturdy fabric sack. When show time rolled around, Patrick and I dumped out the poles and realized that we had insufficiently labeled them. We were faced with a pile of about twenty or so nearly identical white PVC pipes that could be assembled any number of ways - it looked like an over sized version of Pick Up Sticks.

It took a long time, but we managed to piece the stage together. After that show, we marked each pipe and connector with spray paint - red with a yellow dot, green with a red dot, etc. It was still complicated.

After doing a fair number of shows, we got pretty fast at setting up the stage - especially considering it’s complexity. That stage served us well, but we were ready to move on to something more streamlined and structurally sound.