1 a small figure of a person operated from above with strings by a puppeteer [syn: marionette]
2 a person who is controlled by others and is used to perform unpleasant or dishonest tasks for someone else [syn: creature, tool]
3 a doll with a hollow head of a person or animal and a cloth body; intended to fit over the hand and be manipulated with the fingers
- pŭpʹĭt, /ˈpʌpɪt/, /"pVpIt/
- Rhymes: -ʌpɪt
- glove puppet
- hand puppet
- puppet government
- puppet regime
- shadow puppet
- sock puppet
model of a person or animal
- Chinese: 木偶
- Czech: loutka
- Danish: marionet
- Dutch: marionet
- Finnish: käsinukke (in glove form), marionetti (moved with strings)
- French: marionnette
- German: Handpuppe (in glove form), Marionette (moved with strings)
- Greek: μαριονέτα (marionéta)
- Japanese: パペット (papetto), 操り人形 (ayatsuri ningyou)
- Italian: marionetta
- Korean: 괴뢰
- Portuguese: fantoche
- Spanish: marioneta
- Slovak: maňuška
- Swedish: marionett
person or country controlled by another
- Of, pertaining to or featuring puppets.
- puppet theatre
Of, pertaining to or featuring puppets
A puppet is a representational figure manipulated by a puppeteer. It is usually but not always a depiction of a human character and is used in a play or a presentation. The puppet undergoes a process of transformation through being animated, and is normally manipulated by one, or sometimes more than one, puppeteer. Some puppets can be moved electronically. There are lots of different things that puppets are used for. Some for entertainment, some for Politics and some for Culture.
Puppets are made of a wide range of materials, depending on the effect required and the amount of usage intended. They can be extremely complex or very simple in their construction. There are many different varieties of puppets. Oscar Wilde wrote about puppetry, "There are many advantages in puppets. They never argue. They have no crude views about art. They have no private lives."
Puppeteers on puppets and puppetry
"A puppet is not an actor and a puppet theatre is not human theatre in miniature, because when an actor 'represents', a puppet 'is'." David Currell .
"Through puppetry we accept the outrageous, the absurd or even the impossible, and will permit puppets to say and do things no human could. We allow a puppet to talk to us when no one else can get us to speak. We allow a puppet to smile at us even when we have not been introduced. We also allow a puppet to touch us when a person would lose an arm for the same offence." Anita Sinclair
"Puppetry is a highly effective and dynamically creative means of exploring the richness of interpersonal communication. By its very nature, puppetry concentrates on the puppet rather than the puppeteer. This provides a safety zone for the puppeteer and allows for exploration of unlimited themes through a safe and non-threatening environment for communication." He adds, "Designing a puppet involves the same processes that a performer uses in building a character. A puppet must always have a valid reason for being. The marvellous thrill of puppetry is that puppets by their very nature do things that are not humanly possible. This allows for the imagination to explore countless different possibilities." David Logan
History of the puppet
Puppetry is a very ancient art form, probably first originating about 30,000 years ago . Puppets have been used since the earliest times to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies. Some historians claim that they pre-date actors in theatre. There is evidence that they were used in Egypt as early as 2000 BC when string-operated figures of wood were manipulated to perform the action of kneading bread. Wire controlled, articulated puppets made of clay and ivory have also been found in Egyptian tombs. Hieroglyphs also describe 'walking statues' being used in Ancient Egyptian religious dramas.
Some scholars trace the origin of puppets to India 4000 years ago, where the main character in Sanskrit plays was known as sutradhara 'the holder of strings'.
China has had a flourishing history of puppetry for 2000 years, originally in pi-ying xi, the "theatre of the lantern shadows", or, as it is more commonly known today, Chinese shadow theatre. By the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), puppets played to all social classes including the courts, yet puppeteers (as in Europe) were considered from a lower social strata. By 1730 it required three puppeteers to operate each puppet in full view of the audience. In Korean, the word for puppet is "ggogdu gagsi" Javanese rod puppets are also particularly beautiful and have a long history. They are elaborately carved and painted and used to tell fables from Javanese history.
Middle EastMiddle Eastern puppetry, like its other theatre forms, should be seen in the context of its Islamic culture. Karagoz, the Turkish Shadow Theatre has influenced puppetry widely in the region. It is thought to have passed from China by way of India. Later it was taken by the Mongols from the Chinese and transmitted to the Turkish peoples of Central Asia. Thus the art of Shadow Theater was brought to Anatolia by the Turkish people emigrating from Central Asia. Other scholars claim that shadow theater came to Anatolia in the 16th century from Egypt. The advocates of this view claim that when Yavuz Sultan Selim conquered Egypt in 1517, he saw shadow theatre performed during a party put on in his honour. Yavuz Sultan Selim was so impressed with it that he took the puppeteer back to his palace in Istanbul. There his 21 year old son, later Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, developed an interest in the plays and watched them a great deal. Thus shadow theatre found its way into the Ottoman palaces.
In other areas the style of shadow puppetry known as khayal al-zill – an intentionally metaphorical term whose meaning is best translated as ‘shadows of the imagination’ or ‘shadow of fancy' survives. This is a shadow play with live music ..”the accompaniment of drums, tambourines and flutes...also...“special effects” – smoke, fire, thunder, rattles, squeaks, thumps, and whatever else might elicit a laugh or a shudder from his audience”
In Iran puppets are known to have existed much earlier than 1000 CE, but initially only glove and string puppets were popular in Iran. Other genres of puppetry emerged during the Qajar era (18th-19th century BCE) as influences from Turkey spead to the region. Kheimeh Shab-Bazi is a Persian traditional puppet show which is performed in a small chamber by a musical performer and a storyteller called a morshed or naghal. These shows often take place alongside storytelling in traditional tea and coffee-houses (Ghahve-Khave). The dialogue takes place between the morshed and the puppets. Puppetry remains very popular in Iran, the touring opera Rostam and Sohrab puppet opera being a recent example.
Ancient Greece and RomeThere are few remaining examples of puppets from ancient Greece. History reveals through literature that puppetry was important. The Greek word usually translated as "puppets" is neurospasta, which literally means "string-pulling", from nervus, meaning either sinew, tendon, muscle, string, or wire, and span, to pull. Aristotle referenced pulling strings to control heads, hands and eyes, shoulders and legs. Archimedes is known to have worked with marionettes. Plato's work is full of references to puppeteering. The 'Iliad' and the 'Odyssey' were presented using puppetry. The roots of European puppetry probably extend back to the Greek plays with puppets played to the 'common people' in the 5th Century BC. By the third century BC these plays would appear in the Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis.
Italy - Middle Ages and RenaissanceItaly is considered by many to be the early home of the marionette thanks to the influence of Roman puppetry. Xenophon and Plutarch refer to them. The Christian church used marionettes to perform morality plays. Comedy sneaked into the plays as time went by and ultimately led to an edict banning puppetry from the church. Puppeteers responded by setting up stages outside cathedrals and became ever more ribald and slapstick. Out of this grew the Italian comedy called Commedia dell'Arte. Puppets were used at times in this form of theatre. Sometimes Shakespeare's plays were performed using marionettes instead of actors.
In Sicily, the sides of donkey carts are decorated with intricate, painted scenes from the Frankish romantic poems, such as The Song of Roland; these same tales are enacted in traditional puppet theatres featuring hand-made marionettes of wood, this art is called Opira dî pupi (Opera of the puppets) in Sicilian. The opera of the puppets and the Sicilian tradition of cantastorî (sing stories) are rooted in the Provençal troubadour tradition in Sicily during the reign of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, in the first half of the 13th century. A great place to see this marionette art is the puppet theatres of Palermo, Sicily.
Italy - 18th and 19th centuryThe strong Italian tradition of marionettes flourished in the 18th century, producing many skillful performances, including the tragedy Dr. Faust. Many of these marionettes survive to this day, and allow students of the art to marvel at their highly defined controls. In the 19th century, the marionettes of the master Pietro Radillo became even more complex. Instead of just the rod and two strings, Radillo's marionettes were controlled by as many as eight strings, thus increasing the control over the individual body parts of the marionettes.
Great BritainThe traditional British Punch and Judy puppetry traces its roots to the 16th century to the Italian commedia dell'arte. The figure of Punch derives from the stock character of Pulcinella, which was Anglicized to Punchinello. He is a manifestation of the Lord of Misrule and Trickster figures of deep-rooted mythologies. Punch's wife was originally "Joan". In the late 18th and early 19th Century the familiar Punch and Judy hand puppet show that existed in Britain was performed in an easily-transportable booth. A resurgence in Puppetry was pioneered by The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild in the early 20century, Two of the founders H. W. Whanslaw and Waldo Lanchester both pushed puppetry to the forefront of British consciousness with publications of books and literature mainly focussing on the art of the marionette, Lanchester had a touring theatre and a permanent venue in Malvern, Worcestershire regularly taking part in the Malvern Festival attracting the attention of George Bernard Shaw. One of Shaw's last plays Shakes Vs Shav was written for and first performed in 1949 by the company.
Current centres of British Puppetry include The Little Angel Theatre in Islington, London; Norwich Puppet Theatre; The Harlequin Puppet Theatre, Rhos on Sea, Wales; and the Biggar Puppet Theatre, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland. British puppetry now covers a wide range of styles and approaches. Don Austen is one of many British puppeteers who have extended British puppetry, and a number of theatre companies including Horse and Bamboo Theatre, Green Ginger, and Impossible integrate puppetry in their highly visual productions. Political satire was covered through the medium of the puppet in the ground breaking British television series Spitting Image from 1984 to 1996. Puppetry has also been influencing mainstream theatre. Several recent productions combine puppetry and live action; including 'Warhorse' National Theatre, 'Madam Butterfly' English National Opera.
Netherlands, Denmark, Romania, Russia and FranceMany regional variants of Pulcinella were developed as the character spread across Europe. In the Netherlands it is Jan Klaassen (and Judy is Katrijn); in Denmark Mester Jackel; in Russia Petrushka; in Romania Vasilache; and in France Polichinelle. Only during the French revolution were puppet booths closed. Those puppeteers who dared to take part in political criticism were imprisoned. In Russia, the Central Puppet Theatre in Moscow and its branches in every part of the country enhanced the reputation of the puppeteer and puppetry in general.
Germany and AustriaThere is a long tradition of puppetry in Germany and Austria. Much of it derives from the 16th century tradition of the Italian commedia dell'arte. de Falla and Respighi all composed adult operas for marionettes. In 1855, Count Franz Pocci founded the Munich Marionette Theatre. A German dramatist, poet, painter and composer, Pocci wrote a remarkable 40 puppet plays for his theatre. Albrecht Roser has made a considerable impact with his marionettes in Stuttgart. His characters Clown Gustaf and Grandmother are well-known. Grandmother, while outwardly charming, is savagely humorous in her observations about all aspects of society and the absurdities of life. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre was founded in 1913 by Professor Anton Aicher and is world famous. Today in Salzburg in Austria, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre still continues the tradition of presenting full length opera using marionettes in their own purpose built theatre under the direction of Gretl Aicher. It performs mainly operas such as Die Fledermaus and The Magic Flute and a small number of ballets such as The Nutcracker. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre productions are aimed for adults although children are of course welcome. There is also a marionette theatre at Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna. Queen of the Night from a production of Mozart's 'The Magic Flute' by the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, Austria.
The Czech RepublicMarionette puppet theatre has had a very long history in entertainment in Prague, and elsewhere in the Czech Republic. It can be traced deep into the early part of the Middle Ages. Marionettes first appeared around the time of the thirty years war. In 1930 he set up the first modern professional puppet theatre. An important puppet organisation is the National Marionette Theatre in Prague. Its repertoire mainly features a marionette production of Mozart's famous Don Giovanni. The production has period costumes and a beautifully designed eighteenth century setting. There are numerous other companies including, Buchty a Loutky ("Cakes and Puppets") founded by Marek Becka.
19th centuryThroughout this period puppetry developed separately from the emerging mainstream of actor theatres, and the 'ragged' puppeteers performed outside of theatre buildings at fairs, markets etc - continuing to be classified along with bandits and gypsies.
Some advances in 20th century puppetry have originated in the USA. Bil Baird did wonderful work revitalising marionette theatre and puppetry in the United States. He and his wife, Cora Eisenberg had their own marionette theatre in New York. Edgar Bergen also made a major contribution. In the 1960s Peter Schumann's Bread and Puppet Theater developed the political and artistic possibilities of puppet theatre in a distinctive, powerful and immediately recognizable way. At roughly the same time Jim Henson was creating a type of soft, foam-rubber and cloth puppet that became known as Muppets. Initially through children's television show Sesame Street, and later in The Muppet Show and on film, these inspired many imitators and are today are recognised almost everywhere. Wayland Flowers also made a major contribution to adult puppetry with his satirical puppet, Madame, an "outrageous old broad" who entertains with double entendres and witty comebacks. Bedecked in fabulous evening attire and summer diamonds ("Some are diamonds; some are not"), Madame's look is based on movie stars such as Gloria Swanson. Wayland's other puppets included Crazy Mary (an escapee from Bellevue mental hospital), Jiffy (a Harlem harlot with a heart of brass) and Machelheny (a retired Vaudeville comedian). His puppet Smedley worked with Marlo Thomas on Free to Be… You and Me. Puppets have been used most effectively in the Star Wars films. The character of Yoda is most effective. His voice and manipulation is provided by master puppeteer Frank Oz.
OceaniaThe aboriginal peoples in Australia have a long tradition of oral storytelling goes back many thousands of years. They used masks and other objects to convey deep and meaningful themes about morality and nature. There are links between as an early form of ritualistic human carnival puppetry. Masks were carved from wood and heavily decorated with paint and feathers. In many of the Pacific countries there has been a heavy emphasis on ritual.
With the arrival of European settlers, a different sort of puppetry took shape. In Australia in the 1960s, Peter Scriven founded the Marionette Theatre Company of Australia and had beautiful marionette productions such as The Tintookies, Little Fella Bindi. The Explorers and The Water Babies. Bilbar Puppet Theatre, established by Barbara Turnbull and her husband Bill Turnbull (puppeteer) toured Australia extensively under the auspices of the Queensland Arts Council in 1970s and 1980s. Their puppets are now held in the Moncrieff Library of the Performing Arts, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane.
There are a great many thriving puppet companies in Australia. Courses exist at tertiary level at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. Australian puppeteer Norman Hetherington was famous for his marionette, Mr. Squiggle who featured on an Australian Broadcasting Commission television program for many years from 1 July 1959. The last episode was on 9 July 1999. In every episode he would create several pictures from "squiggles" sent in by children from around the country. Richard Bradshaw OAM is another famous Australian puppeteer. He is currently President of UNIMA Australia, former artistic director of the Marionette Theatre Company of Australia and is renowned for his shadow puppetry and writing in the field. Rod Hull also made a contribution with his puppet Emu. In the 1960s, Hull presented a children's breakfast television programme in Australia. Snuff Puppets is one of Australia's modern puppet theatre troupes. Based in Melbourne, their work is full of wild black humour, political and sexual satire and a hand made visually aesthetic. Snuff Puppets has performed in over 15 countries, including tours to major festivals in Asia, South America and Europe. There is an annual winter festival of puppets at the City of Melbourne's ArtPlay and at Federation Square in Melbourne. In New Zealand a similar history has taken place.
Contemporary puppetryFrom early in the 19th century puppetry began to inspire artists from the 'high-art' traditions. In 1810 Heinrich von Kleist wrote an essay 'On the Marionette Theatre', admiring the "lack of self-consciousness" of the puppet.
Puppetry developed throughout the twentieth century in a variety of ways. Supported by the parallel development of cinema, television and other filmed media it now reaches a larger audience than ever. Another development, starting at the beginning of the century, was the belief that puppet theatre, despite its popular and folk roots, could speak to adult audiences with an adult, and experimental voice, and reinvigorate the high art tradition of actors' theatre.
Sergei Obraztsov explored the concept of kukolnost ('puppetness'), despite Stalin's instence on realism. Other pioneers, including Edward Gordon Craig and Erwin Piscator were influenced by puppetry in their crusade to regalvanise the mainstream. Maeterlinck, Shaw, Lorca and others wrote puppet plays, and artists such as Picasso, Jarry, and Leger began to work in theatre.
- Hand or glove puppet - this is a puppet controlled by one hand that occupies the interior of the puppet. Larger varieties of hand puppets place the puppeteer's hand in just the puppet's head, controlling the mouth and head, and the puppet's body then hangs over the entire arm; other parts of the puppet (mainly arms, but special variants exist with manipulatable eyelids, the mouth may also open and close); these are usually not much larger than the hand itself. A sock puppet is a particularly simple type of hand puppet made from a sock.
- Rod puppet - A puppet is constructed around a central rod secured to the head. A large glove covers the rod and is attached to the neck of the puppet. A rod puppet is controlled by the puppeteer moving the metal rods attached to the hands of the puppet and by turning the central rod secured to the head.
- Marionette or string - this is a puppet suspended and controlled by a number of strings plus sometimes a central rod attached to a control bar held from above by the puppeteer. The control bar can be either a horizontal or vertical one. Basic strings for operation are usually attached to the head, back, hands (to control the arms) and just above the knee (to control the legs) This form of puppetry requires greater manipulative control than a finger, glove or rod puppet.
- Shadow puppet - this is a cut-out figure held between a source of light and a translucent screen. It is different from other forms of puppetry as it is two dimensional in form. Shadow Puppets can form solid silhouettes or be decorated with various amounts of cut-out details. Colour can be introduced into the cut-out shapes to provide a different dimension. Javanese shadow puppets are the classic example of this.
- Human Carnival or Body puppet - designed to be part of a large spectacle. They are often used in parades (such as the Minneapolis, USA May Day Parade) and protests, these figures are at least the size of a human and often much larger. One or more performers are required to move the body and limbs. The appearance and personality of the person inside is not known and is totally irrelevant to the viewer. The puppeteer must never be revealed at performances. These puppets are particularly associated with large scale entertainment such as the nightly parades at the various Disney complexes around the world. Big Bird from Sesame Street is a classic example of a Human Carnival or Body Puppet. The puppeteer completely enclosed within the costume, and extends his right hand over his head to operate the head and neck of the puppet. The puppeteer's left hand serves as the Bird's left hand, while the right hand is stuffed and hangs loosely from a fishing line (which can occasionally be seen in closeup shots) that runs through a loop under the neck and attaches to the wrist of the left hand. The right hand thus does the opposite of the left hand: as the left hand goes down, the right hand is pulled up by the fishing line.
Variations on the main forms of puppetry
- Supermarionation - a method invented by Gerry Anderson which assisted in his television series Thunderbirds in electronically moving the mouths of marionettes to allow for lip synchronised speech. The marionettes were still controlled by human manipulators with strings.
- Marotte - A simplified rod puppet that is just a head and/or body on a stick. In a marotte à main prenante, the puppeteer's other arm emerges from the body (which is just a cloth drape) to act as the puppet's arm.
- Black light - a form of puppetry where the puppets are operated on stage lit only with ultraviolet lighting which both hides the puppeteer and accentuates the colours of the puppet. The puppeteers perform dressed in black on a stage with a black background. (Most commonly the background and the clothes are made of black velvet). The lighting is specially done so that there is essentially a line on the stage, where on one side there is light and on the other is darkness. The puppeteers manipulate the puppets over the line into the light, while the puppeteers are unseen because they blend into the black unlit background. Puppets of all sizes and types are able to be used. The original concept of this form of puppetry can be traced to Bunraku puppetry.
- Muppet - A term referring to some of the puppets constructed by the Jim Henson Company. Often erroneously used to refer to puppets that resemble those of The Muppet Show or built by the Henson Company. The main puppet forms used were glove or hand puppets and rod puppets.
- Ventriloquist dummy - A puppet operated by a ventriloquist performer to focus the audience's attention from the performer's activities and heighten the illusions. They are called dummies because they do not speak on their own. The ventriloquist dummy is controlled by the one hand of the ventriloquist.
- Push-in puppet - A puppet cut out of paper and stuck onto card. It is fixed at its base to a stick and operated by pushing it in from the side of the puppet theatre. Sheets were produced for puppets and scenery from the 19th century for children's use.
- Human-arm puppet - also called a two-man puppet, it is similar to a hand puppet but is larger and requires two puppeteers; one puppeteer places a hand inside the puppet's head and operates its head and mouth; the other puppeteer wears gloves and special sleeves attached to the puppet in order to become the puppet's arms, so that the puppet can perform arbitrary hand gestures. This is a form of glove or hand puppetry and rod puppetry.
- Digital puppet - Digitally animated figure that is performed by a puppeteer in real-time using a data input device and rendered by a computer using computer graphics software.
- Push puppet - A push puppet consists of a segmented character on a base that is kept under tension until the button on the bottom is pressed. The puppet wiggles, slumps and then collapses.
UNIMA - International Puppetry AssociationUNIMA , the International Puppetry Association, was founded in Prague in the 1920s. In 1981 Jacques Felix moved UNIMA's headquarters to Charleville-Mézières, France. There are national branches throughout the world. Examples are POA (Puppeteers of America), PUK (Puppetry UK) and UNIMA Australia which represent puppetry as an art form in their countries. The most recent UNIMA World Congress and International Puppetry Festival was held in Perth, Australia from 2-12 April, 2008.
Non-puppetry related usages of the wordThe word puppet can mean a political leader installed, supported and controlled by more powerful forces, with no legitimacy in the country itself. In modern times this usually means no democratic mandate from the country's electorate; in earlier times, it could have meant a monarch imposed from outside, who was not a member of a country's established ruling dynasty, and/or was not recognised by its nobility. "Puppet government", "puppet regime" and "puppet state" are derogatory terms for a government which is in charge of a region or country but only through being installed, supported and controlled by a more powerful government (see Quisling).
In a more general sense, a puppet is any person who is controlled by another by reason of undue influence, intellectual deficiency, or lack of character or charisma. Thus, drawing from the above meaning, it could be a political leader, who is a facade for more powerful forces working behind him, or it could be any person who is similarly doing what he is told to do.
Poppet, a word sounding similar to puppet, can also be a term of endearment, similar to "love" or "dearie". The word also came to have magical connotations, referring in folk-magic and witchcraft to a doll made to represent a person, for casting healing, fertility, or binding spells on that person.
Science Fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote The Puppet Masters, a novel depicting alien parasites who are capable of attaching themselves to a human being and completely controlling him or her.
Books and articles
puppet in Arabic: دمى متحركة
puppet in Czech: Loutkové divadlo
puppet in German: Puppentheater
puppet in Spanish: Marioneta
puppet in Esperanto: Pupo
puppet in Persian: خیمهشببازی
puppet in French: Marionnette
puppet in Ido: Marioneto
puppet in Italian: Marionetta
puppet in Norwegian: Marionett
puppet in Japanese: 傀儡
puppet in Hungarian: Báb (eszköz)
puppet in Hungarian: Bábszínház
puppet in Polish: Kukiełka
puppet in Portuguese: Marionete
puppet in Portuguese: Fantoche
puppet in Sinhala: Lutka
puppet in Slovak: Bábkové divadlo
puppet in Slovenian: Lutka
puppet in Finnish: Nukketeatteri
puppet in Turkish: Kukla
puppet in Chinese: 傀儡
puppet in Hebrew: בובה
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