Last time we played a little game wherein I asked you to guess what was wrong with the puppet I was holding. Was your answer right? You’re about to find out …
The problem with the puppet wasn’t its looks. It wasn’t how he was made either.
The problem was he just sat there. He wasn’t alive. He made no motion and just stared steadily into space. That isn’t appropriate even for an alien.
One of the biggest problems I see with beginning ventriloquists and puppeteers is a failure to keep their puppets alive. Living creatures are never perfectly still. They breathe, they make subtle movements, and they react to what is going on.
When working with a puppet, especially when you’re onstage, this becomes difficult. You think about what you’re doing and tend to forget the puppet.
It’s at this point that many puppets lose life. This destroys the illusion you are trying to create.
Today’s tip is going to help you avoid this problem. Not only that, you get to play and watch TV and call it work. (You can thank me later.)
So, put on the puppet and practice moving it. Don’t do jerky motions. Instead, allow the puppet to look around the room. Let it focus on something. Have it lean in for a closer look or pull back to soak in the scene. Allow its body to slowly heave as if it were breathing. Make subtle motions designed to create movement that adds life.
Now start watching television. The puppet can watch too, but occasionally it needs to look around the room. If you notice the puppet isn’t moving, start over.
The goal is to keep the puppet in motion even when your attention is elsewhere. This will develop your muscle memory that will help keep your character alive.
Try doing this for thirty to sixty minutes a day. By the end of the week, every time that puppet goes on your hand, it will have a life of its own.