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Dream Tale Puppets

Why Learn Acting with Tabletop Puppets

Jacek Zuzanski of Dream Tale Puppets and The Corner Loft invite you to the “Acting with Tabletop Puppets” workshop for grownups (15 yrs. and up), actors, and theatre arts lovers.


Time: Fridays, May 19, 26, June 2 and 9, 2023 6-8pm

Place: The Corner Loft, 153 Lovell’s Lane, Marstons Mills, MA 02648

Cost: $32 (all four sessions included)


This workshop will introduce participants to the secrets of giving life to an object and turning it into a character. We will explore the expressive principles and acting techniques of performing with the tabletop puppets that Dream Tale Puppets often use in their shows. The workshop could be interesting to actors, teachers, artists, and anyone who enjoys role or fantasy playing and expressing oneself.


We will examine, explain, and practice:

  • the significance of breath and keeping level;
  • ways of walking, principles of directing attention and eyesight;
  • using varieties of actions, gestures, and micro-actions;
  • awareness of the beginnings and ends of actions;
  • orientation and directions;
  • ways of using contra–actions;
  • other reinforcing expressiveness techniques, such as pause, impulse, and variety of speeds and dynamics of actions.


This will be followed by exercises focusing on:

  • text interpretation;
  • synchronization of speaking with actions;
  • dialog of actions between characters;
  • modes of collaborative acting.


Why learn acting with tabletop puppets? Acting with puppets is like a dance and offers similar challenges and benefits. You learn, and after enough practice, internalize specific expressive techniques and rules for giving life to a physical object. A puppet and its environment – a stage, require clear, precise expression. Learning these techniques develops mental discipline and body awareness. When some level of mastery is achieved it makes a practitioner not only able to turn an object into a character and create a strong illusion of its life, but also to express a broad range of emotional life.


Puppets can enrich teaching and learning processes. A simple puppet is easy to build. Actually, one can use almost any simple object or household item and turn it into a puppet and, furthermore, a character. Hands-on, manual, and creative activities for students – offer an opportunity to turn learning into creative play. Since acting with a puppet allows, at the same time, a connection and a distance to the character, it also inspires imagination, creativity, the power of observation, and even critical thinking.  This distance also helps to free even shy students from the self-judgment that often paralyzes spontaneous expression, improvisation, role-playing, and creativity.


Any parent or guardian who enjoys reading to a child, storytelling, or playing together would enjoy and benefit from knowing how to act with puppets. It is fun to create an illusion of the life of a character. Children enjoy witnessing the illusion and seeing how it is achieved. Participating in such playful activities brings joy and inspiration.


A puppet expresses itself very differently than a human being. Each gesture, even the smallest action, has to be meaningful. Yes, actors who use their bodies have to remember the same principle. But when you act with a puppet, you use a different body than the one you own as a human; acting with a puppet offers a sharpened perspective on expression. You, as an actor, are only partly a character, and the other part, the one that embodies and expresses the character is your puppet; you can see the expression of the character more clearly. Also, because a puppet has more limited expressive capabilities than the body of the live actor, the actor puppeteer has to be particularly aware of using these capabilities in a meaningful way. Learning to act with a puppet sharpens acting awareness. It is also interesting how a tabletop puppet speaks. It does not have movable lips. This means that to make it speak, to create this illusion, an actor puppeteer has to synchronize and coordinate gestures and actions with the ways she speaks and to develop an awareness of this expressive relationship and emerging dialect.


Learning to act with puppets is an enriching, creative experience. You may find that you could apply the knowledge and the skills developed during this workshop to many contexts and situations, no matter if you are an actor, artist, teacher, parent, or anyone else.


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