My journey creating and producing puppetry... trials, tribulations, inspiration and contemplation.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gig Challenges and Quick Fixes

From the beginning, I found challenges at certain gigs and realized I couldn’t allow it to fluster me and to just roll with it as best I could. A recent gig reminded me of this and I thought it a good lesson to share with others. I always inform my clients that we’ll arrive an hour prior to our first show time in order to have ample time to set up. Normally, we need just 30-40 minutes so, it buys us some extra time. Back in 2012, we arrived at a gig at the specified time and they informed me that the room would be in use for another 15 minutes and we couldn’t set up until the kids cleared. It was my first lesson in not panicking. I realized if the client was going to delay us, they would have a delayed start time. We always try to set up as quickly as possible and try to start on time but, if we don’t, it’s normally ok. When a recent client hadn’t communicated an actual start time, I referred to their previous contract and used that start time to dictate my schedule. It seemed logical that’s when we’d begin this time and, as we were setting up, the client mentioned a start time that was 15 minutes earlier. Again, no big deal, as we set up rather quickly and I try to make the client happy as long as it can be accomplished sanely. I also learned pretty fast that “start time” to some clients means that the kids will be ready to have a show at that time while, other clients are in the middle of calling students to the performance space at the start time and the show actually starts 10-15 minutes later.

Photo by Jacob Graham

I also learned early on to carry a small emergency sewing kit which you can find cheap enough at a craft or fabric store. I also carry a small kit with epoxy, an X-acto knife, gaffer tape and a spool of stronger thread since the sewing kit just has basic, cheap thread. I’ve been trying different methods on mouth plate controls and was using a method of creating loops for my fingers with faux leather straps and adhering them together with contact cement. Barge cement may have been the better choice but, contact cement is what I had on hand which normally gets the job done. With enough sweat inside the puppet head, these straps started to come apart. In a couple puppets, I’ve been able to sew them together before they had to be used again. During the first show of a four show day, the bottom strap for one puppet had completely come undone. The puppet head was small enough to maintain control during the performance but, I had plenty of time at the lunch break to make a repair. One of the best lessons from puppeteer BJ Guyer is to build your puppets so that they come apart easily. My neck sleeves are pinned to the body with safety pins so the heads come off pretty easily. My puppet repair just required taking out a couple safety pins. The bottom mouth plate was easily accessible by rolling up the neck sleeve. Sitting in my car after lunch, I sewed the thumb loop back together and the repair was completed with time to spare. The final two shows were a breeze.