marionettes and magic

Today, I finished the first day of a two-day marionette-making workshop. It began way too early on a Saturday morning, but definitely worth it. Of course, I was the only person of colour there, but hey, that almost goes without saying (if you’re an ethnic puppetmaker, I would love to hear from you!).

I had signed up for this workshop on a whim; I had emailed the organisers a random question about East African puppetry, and they responded by letting me know that a space had opened up in the workshop. I mailed the cheque to them the next day. I never really understood why I had done that – I mean, marionettes had been showing up repetitively in different ways throughout my entire life, but I had never been moved to make one. Today though, after the class, I understood why I needed to take the workshop.

I’ve been working on a particular piece of writing for over a year now, and had been having a lot of difficulty with one part of it. The scene was the suicide of the protagonist. When I can’t actually write something, I write around it, presenting it in different ways and voices. I don’t think I had ever used these writings for anything. One of the ways which I wrote around the suicide scene was to write it as if I was describing something that was going on on a screen, a removed, safe setting. The whole scene was pretty accurately described – ripe for shotlisting. I hadn’t thought about presenting it visually, but now I know that it’s perfect for a short film with a marionette. My knowledge is so lacking though, it might take years before I know enough to manifest this project.

Also, the world of marionettes is so crazy. Brief rundown of what I’ve learned so far:

  • You can make simple marionettes really easily.
  • Puppetmakers have a strange relationship to their puppets – I felt a really strange and unexpected discomfort when other people manipulated my marionette. I didn’t say anything at the time, but after I got my puppet back, I felt this unexplainable relief, which was really confusing. I brought it up in a discussion with the instructors, and while I still don’t know why I felt that way, I did find out that it’s not an unusual feeling. I’ve gotten over it now because it didn’t make sense to me, but it still was something that made me pause (and no, I didn’t name the marionette I made. I haven’t even given it a gender, and it’s too crude a thing to even assign it gender traits).
  • Marionettes can only be made to do a really small/limited number of actions.
  • Pinocchio (and the whole real boy/life exploration) now makes perfect sense.

UPDATE: March 2009

Finally, a photo of the marionette I made:

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