So...you have puppets, they look alive and you have tons of ideas for using them.
What's the next step? Here are a few facts, opinions and reminders about puppet
plays and puppet playwriting that might help.
1. Good Puppetry is Good Entertainment.
2. Good Entertainment is a situation that has a beginning, middle and end.
3. Good Entertainment is fast-moving, to the point, and is as long as it needs to be.
Good entertainment incorporates the 4 "W":
Who, What, Where and WRONG.
WHO is the main character?
WHAT is the play about?
WHERE is it happening?
WRONG. What's wrong? Something is making life difficult for the main
character. And only through intelligence, cleverness and a few setbacks does our
hero resolve the WRONG...just in time for the happy ending.
Even if your puppet is only coming out to give a lesson in conjugation you
should incorporate the 4"W" The Who, What and Where parts are easy.
The WRONG is the fun part...for you and your audience.
Look through some
children's or adult's fiction stories and identify each of the 4 "W".
They will be there every time.
When you write your own puppet plays establish the
four "W"right away in the beginning. Devote the middle section of
the play to the activities the puppets take to resolve the WRONG. The end comes when
everything gets back to normal (happily ever after).
Events & Characters
The series of EVENTS your CHARACTERS become involved in
makes up your play. List them out. Your next job as puppet bard is to carry the
CHARACTERS through the EVENTS in the most goofily believable way possible. Remember
these are puppets you are writing for....they demand to be outrageous.
All actors need characterization, especially those made of fabric, fluff and
stuff. In other words, CHARACTERS need to be distinctive in some way: smart, dumb,
superhuman, barely human, or bloomin' human.
Each EVENT encountered by the CHARACTERS should be dealt with within their own
distinctive framework. So Sneezy always sneezes the answers, Bellowin' Billy always yells
out replies (even when he is being sweet or tender.) Shy Sal....(well you get the picture).
The most important thing to remember is to have
Puppets ought not be preachy or boring (like adults) or long
winded. They are meant to faint and snort and fall over again and again. After all, Burt
and Ernie didn't get where they are today by being Jerry the Janitor.
(Ya, Jerry the Janitor, I can see it now. He is working late, on a darkened, rainy,
starless eve (sound effect..water...thunder), in the Betterworld Elementary School basement
when the dreaded Slime Spitting Swiper Spider climbs out of the furnace........)