A puppet may be defined simply as an inanimate figure which is articulated by
human agency. Thus it is different from dolls which are children's play
things and also from automata which are moved mechanically. It is,however, not
easy to define the art of puppetry. Generally, puppetry is included among
theatre arts next to drama, ballet, pantomime and opera. Henryk Jurkowski, an
eminent contemporary puppet theatre in his well writen article. The Language
of the Contemporary Puppet Theatre,writes, "this is not right, as the puppet
theatre stands in opposition to the theatre art, performed by live actors,
singers, dancers etc. The puppet stands in opposition to the man".Neverthless
accepting the well-established stereo type he defines puppetry as "a theatre
art, the main and basic feature differentiating it from the live theatre
being the fact that the speaking and performing object makes temporal use of
the physical sources of the vocal and motor powers, which are present outside
the object. The relation between the object(the puppet) and the power sources
change all the time and their variations are of great semiological and aesth-
etical significance". Considering difference in design, mode of manipulation
and presentational techniques, puppets are basically of four types: glove-pup-
pet, rod-puppet, string-puppet and shadow-puppet. Glove-puppets, also known as
hand-puppets, are the simplest,but that does not mean they are less fascina-
ting. Generally, glove-puppet is a miniature figure having a movable head and
arms with a long flowing skirt as a part of its costume. The puppeteer wears
the puppet like a glove and while his index finger manipulates the head, his
thumb and middle finger control the arms. The mode of manipulation and con-
struction of the puppet will differ if the glove-puppet is intended to repre-
sent an animal. For instance, if it is required to represent a frog the pup-
pet figure may be conceived in such a way that for articulation only its jaws
will move. In that case the figure will be so constructed that while the
thumb moves the lower jaw, the other four fingers together move the upper
jaw. The puppeteers manipulating glove-puppets usually hide behind a head-
high screen and push up their hands to manipulate the puppets so that the aud-
ience see only the puppets, however, do not hide themselves behind a screen.
They squat on the ground and manipulate the puppets in full view of the audi-
ence. Rod-puppet is an extension of glove-puppet, but often much larger with
a full-length rounded figure supported and manipulated by concealed rods from
below. Its movements are sometimes limited as compared to string-puppets, but
control is absolute and broad gestures of rare beauty can be obtained. In
India traditional rod-puppeteers, however, hide behind a head-high screen and
push up the puppets they manipulate. In Japan there is a kind of traditional
rpd-puppet, known as Bunraku. The Bunraku puppeteers do not hide behind a
screen and like Indian glove-puppeteers manipulate their puppets in full view
of the audience. Nowadays, in different parts of the world, many puppets are
found which admirably combine the techniques of both rod and glove puppets.
gloving-puppets are also known as marionettes. Recently there is a trend of
using the word 'marionette' as a synonym of puppet and not limit it only to
string puppets. Although some scholars are of the opinion that string-puppets
are the most ancient, others say shadow-puppets originated earlier. Of course,
sufficient evidence of historic development of puppets has not yet been gathe-
red and ascertain their origin, but from what is available the former opinion
seems to be most probable. string-puppets with a complete figure and jointed
limbs manipulated by strings from above allow a far greater flexibility for
body and head movements. Originally perhaps they were controlled by one rod
or stout wire for the head, and strings for the hand. Later the general
method of manpulating string-puppets came to be by strings alone. In recent
years manipulation technique of string-puppets, especially in European coun-
tries,has become quite complicated so as to obtain a high degree of naturalism
and perfection. The performance of shadow-puppets is known as shadow play or
shadow-theatre. Some scholars believe that this kind of puppetry flat figures,
usually made of leather, are passed on a translucent screen and manipulated
with a strong source of light behind.The audience sitting on the other side of
the screen does not see the puppets but their moving shadows on the screen. If
the flat figures are made of translucent coloured material then they throw
beautifully coloured shadows on the scren. Limited of necessity to a highly
stylized convertion,the shadow theatre has proved itself an artistic medium of
rare and delicate charm. The jointed limbs of the flat figures are moved by
horizontal rods and the light source is so placed that the shadows of the
manipulating puppeteers do not fall on the screen.


Guest Author: Vishal K.06 Jan 2013

I have heard about Puppets and not experienced it as sports, this article gives little bit indepth knowledge on Puppets and its various types. Good

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