The galleries in this post demonstrate a few ways to build a simple tabletop figure puppet. This is not a popular puppetry style; in fact, quite the opposite is true. In Dream Tale Puppets we introduced this type of puppet in our recent show “Alice, or the Red King’s Dream,” and we will continue exploring the expressive capabilities of this puppet in the upcoming production of “Fisherman and His Wife.”
The first gallery shows how to build this kind of simple training puppet out of cardboard. Advantages: simplicity, and apart from a glue gun and a knife, almost no tools are needed (well, clamps are helpful). Challenges: requires patience and about 6 or more hours, also this puppet is not very light.
The next gallery presents how to build this type of puppet using plastic bottles as a basic construction material. A wooden base gives the figure solid support and allows easy anchorage of the bungee cord that connects and fastens all elements of the central part of the construction. You may notice that I also used foam for a head or hat, nose, and hands. I used foam that is often used for packing, but any foam could work. I did not drill holes in the hands to insert the control rod attached to the rope that makes arms. Instead, I cut off the groove, inserted the dowel taped to the rope into the groove, and used the foam I cut off to fill in the depression. You can see black marks on the hands I drew before cutting the groove. I used hot glue to fasten these parts together. Be careful with hot glue if you are going to use Styrofoam, which melts very easily. You would need to dispense amount needed on a piece of wood and only after it cools down a little you could use it for Styrofoam. Experiment with small pieces of material before working on a part of your puppet.
The pictures below were taken during a workshop with children (thank you to Susan Moffat from Falmouth Academy). Participants created very simple tabletop figure puppets. The basic materials that formed a central part of the body and heads of the characters were pieces of paper tubes used for transporting carpets. They were a perfect, strong construction material, lightweight and easy to cut and drill.
The next four pictures show tabletop figures Dream Tale Puppets uses in “Alice, or the Red King’s Dream.”
The following picture shows a tabletop figure puppet built to try to see how this kind of puppet could be built out of driftwood and other objects collected on the beaches.