Puppet shows are great entertainment for children and all of us can remember seeing them at libraries and in schools. But puppet shows haven't always existed as we know them. They began as theatre for the general population and were entertainment for adults. Puppets were used to represent characters everyone could recognize as soon as each one appeared on stage. These characters have also been played by actors who would use masks to identify themselves. Punch and Judy are the two we still remember, but there were many more taken from the Italian Commedia dell'Arte. Punch and Judy also make a good example of puppets (and shows) that are more appropriate for adults than children. The violence in their shows is not what we generally associate with puppets. It may come as a surprise, but adult puppet shows are still alive and well. Modern puppet shows include black light shows, larger “Muppet” sized puppets, and puppet shows like “Terror”, a murder mystery based on “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe.
So how long have puppets been around?
Puppets have been around since at least 500 BCE. Which means people have been enjoying puppet shows for over 2,500 years. The influence of Commedia dell'Arte was seen in the characters and the farcical plots. Punch was originally Pulcinella and was neither a hunchback nor fond of fighting. These characteristics were added to him as he became Polichinelle in France and finally the Punch we know.
What kinds of puppets are there?
The two most popular types of puppets are marionettes and glove puppets, both of which have been around for as long as we have had puppets. Marionettes are the stringed puppets moved from above, while glove (or hand puppets) are the ones we use at the library with the performer's hand in the puppet's cloth body. Often glove puppets were held over the performers' heads on high stages.
Does the Library still have puppet shows?
Yes, we do! Brodie, Waverley, and Mary J.L. Black locations regularly put on puppet shows. The next ones are: March 3rd Red Riding Hood a new fangled fairy tale at Brodie, March 12th Rumpelstiltskin at Brodie, March 13th Princess Stinky Toes and the Brave Frog Robert at Mary J.L. Black, March 14th Dora the Explorer at Waverley, all of these shows are at 2:30pm. Our puppet shows are free, but the ones at Brodie and Waverley require tickets because of space limits, these tickets can be picked up at the branch two weeks before the show.
At the Library we see how much children (and their families and friends) enjoy puppet shows and playing with the puppets we have available. The following books were selected to help you put on puppet shows at home. They have information on making puppets and stages. You can adapt a favourite story or make up your own. And most importantly have fun!
I Can Make Puppets by Mary Wallace
This book features simple puppets that can be made out of all different kinds of materials. There are sock puppets, finger puppets, sponge puppets, and even chin puppets! It's as much fun as a craft book as an instructional book on how to make your own puppets.
Make Your Own Puppets & Puppet Theaters by Carolyn Carreiro
More great ideas including an octopus puppet and a firefly. Theatres included are made with brooms, doorways, and cardboard boxes.
The Most Excellent Book of How to be a Puppeteer by Roger Lade
This excellent book has ideas for practice puppets and has instructions for basic and more advanced puppets. There are also directions to create a shadow screen for shadow puppets.
This week's Library Detective was written by Ruth Hamlin-Douglas, Children's and Youth Librarian