Monster Intelligence has finally premiered. The baby is born and I feel like I may finally get my head above water. What a process! I wrote about the community surrounding this project in a recent post on Puppeteers Unite!
When I first began with Helping Drew, our half-hour anti-bullying show, there were moments in the show that fatigued me quick. The principal, Mrs. Tector, is a heavier puppet and enjoys a substantial amount of stage time. In the beginning, puppeteering her was a test of stamina. Each show, you feel that moment arrive but, over the years, I've been able to adjust and get through the show with relative ease. Helping Drew seems to be the perfect combination of performing and rests while the other puppeteer performs. It's my favorite show to perform. When we premiered Welcome Park last year, my hand went numb by the end of the first performance. The lead character was heavy and he stayed out on stage for something like 15 minutes in the beginning and 17 minutes in the end with a brief rest in the middle. We ended up splitting the lead character for future performances with the 2nd puppeteer on the lead in the opening and me on the lead in the final stretch. Splitting up the duties helped a lot.
With Monster Intelligence, there are regular breaks with the lead character being light and easy to operate but, the show runs about an hour which ends up being a test regardless of the breaks and weight of puppets. During one particularly arduous rehearsal, I was struck with panic that maybe this show was not meant to be performed by two puppeteers. It was then, I recalled a performance by David Stephens at the 2013 POA National Festival, where he held aloft two characters at a time in a multiple-character show making entrances and exits while performing all the voices for a 45 minute stretch. I can not fathom where he musters that strength or skill. He must have 4 extra arms hidden under his shirt. After a decent dress rehearsal, Monster Intelligence felt more attainable as a performer. It can be accomplished! The muscle memory seemed to kick in as it did for Helping Drew. On our premiere performance this past weekend, it was tiring but not impossible. Charlie Kanev performed the lead, Melvin (the purple guy above), while I performed the rest of the cast and shared performing one other character. Charlie's characterizations and reactions belied any fatigue he may have been feeling. It's always an inspiration to work with performers like that who elevate your own work.
I want to encourage other aspiring performers by saying that my puppet skills are always improving and the stamina you need will be there if you keep rehearsing.
Grab life by the puppet!