Monitor Puppetry Fun

13138838_692674444204547_5162928063159616197_nMonitor puppetry is the style of puppetry developed by Jim Henson for performance on film and television productions. Unlike traditional live performance puppetry, the puppeteers don’t look at their puppets. They perform their characters up high above their heads, and watch their puppetry in a TV monitor. This enables the puppeteer to see if the puppet has good eye focus, good lip sync, and is able to walk correctly into a frame, and perform many tasks within that frame without looking stupid.

13138825_692674597537865_4605362707860616108_nThis is why the puppetry on The Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and all associated TV shows and movies look so good on screen. It’s because the puppeteers are able to see exactly how their puppets will look to the viewer at home. This is a perk that most actors don’t get to enjoy. A human actor must perform their scenes without ever looking at themselves on any monitor. Whereas puppeteers are blind on set if they have to crouch and hide behind tables and props without being able to see what they’re doing. The puppet is the star, and so the puppet (like human actors) still performs its scenes as normal. But the hidden puppeteer is the one controlling the puppet. So the puppeteer is allowed to watch their puppets on the TV monitor to make sure the movements are perfect. It wouldn’t be fair to expect the puppeteer to perform blind.

Beyond the Sock Brett with Chicken1Monitor puppetry is a great way for puppeteers to practice their movements. From subtle facial emotions to wild arm movements, watching your puppetry skills on a monitor is a very good way to practice and improve.

 

 

BeyondTheSock_PerformanceBrett Hansen at Larrikin Puppets has been practicing and perfecting his puppetry skills since the age of three, and has taught many workshops in theatre, film and schools on the basic movements of Muppet-style puppetry. He even produced a live monitor puppetry improv show, where audiences could watch the cast of puppeteers at work, while also being able to watch a large screen displaying only the puppets being performed into the camera. This was a live example of how the puppeteers see their puppetry on the monitor, and then that performance is broadcast/displayed onto the screen for the audience to see.

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Puppet Workshop005But as there has never been any formal training in monitor puppetry in Australia, Brett’s only training has been both at The Puppet Kitchen in New York City (under Sesame Street’s Michael Schupbach), and at the advanced, intensive ‘Beyond the Sock’ puppetry workshop at the University of North Texas (under The Muppets and Sesame Street’s Marty Robinson and Noel MacNeal).

Brett now provides this kind of training through Larrikin Puppets for specially arranged class bookings.

Brett, Elissa, Michael SchupbachBrett’s wife and business partner Elissa Jenkins also received some training at The Puppet Kitchen in New York, and this was her first training. She has since continued to practice her skills and has also started joining Brett as a secondary puppeteer at some of the larger events (such as Woodford Folk Festival and Paradise Resort Gold Coast).

So here now is a hilarious outtake video where Brett (as Troggg) and Elissa (as Flossy) are practicing some monitor puppetry, and working on the challenges that arise, such as trying to avoid heads and arms appearing in shot. Lots of laughs during this quite challenging activity. It’s certainly not as easy as it looks. But it’s definitely as fun as it looks!

2016 Recap – A puppet filled year

larrkin puppets.jpg– 2016 started with a series of school holiday and vacation care puppet show performances.

– The Richard Bell film I performed puppetry in (“5 for 35”) screened all Summer at GOMA as part of the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8).

 

5 for 35 Richard Bell

– I provided puppetry training (and puppets) for ImproMafia’s “Not 4 Kidz” at the Brisbane Comedy Festival.

– A new puppet character, Frazzamatazz, joined the Larrikin Puppets cast in February.

– I began sewing lessons in preparation for the puppet building component of the upcoming intensive puppetry course I was enrolled in at the University of North Texas.

Interstate International Touring– I performed MC duties (hidden under a table – Troggg was the MC!) at the official Ipswich Festival media launch. Troggg got to introduce Mayor Paul Pisasale to the stage. I also performed puppet shows at the actual Ipswich Festival, and was informed by several friends in the lead up that they noticed big roadside billboards with Troggg on them!

 

 

Beyond the Sock Frazzamatazz on set

– I also performed puppet shows at the Paradise Resort in Surfers Paradise, the Redcliffe Sails Festival, a Bunnings store in Warwick, an Indian restaurant, a nursing home and several childcare centres, schools and birthday parties.

Brisbane Comedy Festival

– Elissa helped me run some puppetry workshops at a few schools, including a full week (three workshops a day) at Belmont State School.

 

 

 

Shannon, Troggg, Brett - The Puppet Workshop– We went down to Adelaide to visit Shannon Cooke at The Puppet Workshop.

– We lived in Brooklyn, New York for three months. We saw lots of live theatre in NYC – including many puppet shows for adults, improv comedy and “Avenue Q” off Broadway (with a backstage tour thanks to puppeteer contacts).

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– Much of my time overseas was spent networking with other puppeteers, which included frequent visits to The Puppet Kitchen for monitor puppetry sessions run by the awesome Michael Schupbach. Between there, several puppet shows/events and a few Muppet screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image it was really great to meet, perform and practice with so many great NYC puppeteers and fellow Muppet fans – including Marcelo Bottaro, Arlee Chadwick, Musa ‘Fuzzy Beard’ Bradley, David Bizzaro, Zach ‘Wackiman’ Woliner, Nicola ‘Callie & Izzy’ McEldowney, John Papovitch, Kevin Hale, Tau ‘Being Elmo’ Bennett, Christina Rodriguez Stone, Matthew Soberman, Sam ‘Mo Monster’, Tania Lopez, Tim Young, Erin Finnegan, Spencer Cohen, and so many more amazing people!

MoWallyTroggg– I performed my full puppet show at the Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn (yes, I transported my whole puppet stage and all the puppets to America).

– Troggg guest starred in an episode of The Fuzzy Beard Show.

– We attended a convention called “Morning with the Muppets” starring Steve Whitmire (with Kermit the Frog), Eric Jacobson (with Fozzie Bear and Animal) and Peter Linz (assisting). I asked a couple of questions during the Q&A, and was lucky enough to have a brief chat with Steve Whitmire afterwards. He fluffed up Troggg’s fur as he spoke to me about a trip to Australia they were taking soon.

Fuzzy Beard01– We spent a week in Los Angeles, staying just off Hollywood Boulevard. We walked to the Jim Henson Company and checked out the big Kermit statue out the front.

– We spent a day with Henson puppeteers Grant Baciocco (whom I’d met in Brisbane a couple of years earlier during “Puppet Up!” and stayed in contact with) and Russ Walko. Troggg of course came out on all of these puppet-related excursions in both New York and Los Angeles.

Jim Henson Company 1– We spent a week in Denton, North Texas where, at the University of North Texas, I received advanced, intensive, life changing training in film & TV monitor puppetry from Henson puppeteers Marty Robinson (Telly Monster, Mr. Snuffleupagus) and Noel MacNeal (Bear in the Big Blue House), and a puppet construction component lead by Pasha Romanowski (Project Puppet, The Moe Show). Elissa came with me to all the casual nights of drinking and chatting with the puppeteers. She also attended the special performance night we did on the final day. The whole thing was an unforgettable experience. This kind of training simply doesn’t exist in Australia. I was so happy to not only get some of my existing skills validated, but also to learn so many valuable new skills, and better ways to perform my craft from the best in the business – my heroes!

Grant and Russ 1– Since returning to Australia, I performed both puppet characters in a short comedy film called “Kev”, plus shows at schools, childcare centres, festivals and parties every week!

 

 

Marty Robinson, Pasha Romanowski, Noel MacNeal– There were more shows at the Gold Coast’s Paradise Resort, and even a few shows at New Farm Cinemas, which included some Larrikin Puppets cinema advertising before screenings of “Moana” and “Sing”. I even got to perform my first puppet show at the famous Brisbane Powerhouse!

Larrikin Puppets Deja Voodoo Woodford– And we spent the final week of the year performing three shows a day, every day at one of Australia’s biggest festivals – the Woodford Folk Festival.

It’s been an absolutely huge year! Here’s to more puppet fun in 2017!

Brett Hansen

Troggg in New York

New YorkOnly 24 hours after landing in New York, it was time for Brett, Elissa, Troggg and Frazzamatazz to visit ‘The Puppet Kitchen‘ in Manhattan! They’re a puppet construction workshop, as well as a training facility in the art of Henson-style TV puppetry using cameras and monitors. New York It was ‘Monitor Night’ on Tuesday. So Troggg and Frazzamatazz got to jam alongside various other visiting and in-house puppet characters. The instructor was Michael Shupbach (Jim Henson’s Muppet Workshop, Johnny and The Sprites, Little Shop of Horrors, Avenue Q puppet construction) who was very informative and fun! He’s one of the co-founders of The Puppet Kitchen.

New York

New York New YorkLots of other New York-based puppeteers and puppetry enthusiasts were part of the session too, including Erin Finnegan, Arlee Chadwick, Gillian “Gus” Andrews, Ivy Cohen, Bobby Dagger and his son Jude. All an absolute delight to practice and perform with! We felt very warm and welcome in the company of these amazing like-minded people.

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The New York adventures don’t stop there either. Lots more networking, some puppet shows at the Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn, a trip to Hollywood and a week in North Texas for the ‘Beyond the Sock’ Puppetry Workshop with Muppeteers Peter Linz and Noel MacNeal. There’s even been some talk of me performing some puppetry in an upcoming film project here in New York too, so hopefully we have some more developments on that in the near future.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Brett Hansen

New York