Spotlight: Penn’s Woods Puppet Theater

In our new play, Darkley Manor, the attempt to stage fast moving scenes using rod puppets was a disaster.

Besides having restricted range of motion, rod puppets have a support and two rods. It’s impossible to hold the puppet and at the same time move its arms in rapid succession. Furthermore, because of their size, there isn’t adequate performance space on stage to do a fistfight scene, for example.

The fallback became shadow puppets. A shadow puppet is nothing more than a flat silhouette attached to a stick.

This made them very appealing. The challenge of the shadow puppet idea, however, was providing a screen behind which they could perform, maybe a window, but where?

There was no available wall space on the main stage scenery. The decision was clear; Darkley Manor needed a second floor; it became the bedroom of Janis Darkley, site of a knockdown, drag-out fistfight, and a brutal murder.

Creating chaos in these scenes is achieved by keeping puppets an inch from the film, and producing shadows using multiple light sources. Next was finding audio. In the fistfight there are groans, wincing and the crush of fist meeting bone.

It comes off like a real fight. Expect to flinch. But it wasn’t easy for the murder scene.

The sounds made by one individual killing another didn’t come off so well. There was no tension or build up to what was about to happen.

After hours of listening to sound effects, Robin and I found what we were after: a dramatic orchestra score of suspense and climax. It isn’t Psycho, but it’s pretty good.

To book your event, please call Robin and Susan Tafel at 215-441-4154. You can find them on YouTube @PennsWoodsPuppets.

PHOTO CAP: Dramatic action using shadow puppets            

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