Week 1 - Intensive week with Little Angel
Updated: May 30
Monday 4th January
With some changes in plans due to the new restrictions and measures, we started the new term!
Tuesday 5th January
Our first day of an intensive week with Little Angel initiated with a presentation: our background, experience in puppetry and expectations of the project. Then we had a workshop with Alison, where she shared a couple of digital shows made during the first lockdown and of course the "behind the scenes". We also made our first puppet with a tin foil head, rolled paper arms and a plastic bag body!
In the afternoon, we learnt the principles of puppetry with Oliver: breath, focus, weight, micro-movement, senses, reaction and timing. We picked an object with a moving part and animated it bearing in mind what we just learnt. He made it seem so easy but it was really hard trying to focus on everything at the same time!
We got given the theme for the show we will performed at the end of the week: the alphabet and the restriction is to use a maximum of 26 words that start with each letter. I'm working with Victoria and we initiated by sharing some references that at first seemed very different, however, we found that they were both based on a conversation and the consequent reactions. That was our starting point and the reason why we chose to have two puppets. In order to respond to the restriction of not been able to performed in the same space but digitally, we thought about the show happening in two different scenarios. This means that we would both have the puppets to be able to make them jump from one to the other. We reflected on the use of words to tell a story which lead us to think about animating animals. We chose animals that belong to different ecosystems but still look very similar: a turtle and a tortoise. They have things in common as well as differences so we can talk about diversity using different letters from the alphabet. We started gathering common words and watched 'A Perfect Planet' documentary as part of our research.
Wednesday 6th January
We spent most the day with Alison designing the set and puppets for the show. We started by analysing the restrictions and possibilities, shared our ideas and Alison showed us different ways to achieve them. Then worked in pairs the rest of the day building our set and puppets from what we could find at home. We decided Victoria was going to do the sea and I would do the land set. I also did all the puppets which we decided will be tridimensional in order to study different possibilities of movement, focused in the legs and head of the two main characters. I built a tortoise, some fish and two turtles so it could travel from one screen to the other. Making the puppets was fun and I actually came with the best solutions through playing and experimenting with different materials, when I tried to plan and controlled the design I felt that it was harder and took longer. A note to take: puppetry is a playful media, so keep playing and have fun!
Before finishing the day, we had a meeting about safeguarding and community with some other staff from Little Angel. We need to decide as soon as possible the tittle of the show, a short description, the age group and ideally have an image, in order to start making contact with schools and community centres. We talked about some potential topics and we really liked the idea of missing friends as a starting point to open a conversation of how kids are dealing with the actual situation.
Thursday 7th January
I met Victoria to give her the puppets so we could start rehearsing in today's session. We worked on the narrative structure and the storyboard by breaking down the key things that happened in every stage. We wrote the script using the 26 letters from the alphabet and decided to record the dialogue to add it to the music that Victoria composed in order to avoid some technical sound issues. In the afternoon, we rehearsed one scene that we then shared with the group in order to receive feedback. I found really hard to puppeteer without having a good view of the stage, even though I used my phone as a second screen, nor any live reaction of the audience.
Friday 8th January
The day of the presentation arrived! We spent the day finishing the last details and mainly rehearsing. Alison and Oliver were around while we were practicing the movement and manipulation of the puppets. During rehearsal we realised that most all the dialogue took place in my screen and I found really hard to manipulate two puppets that had very different personalities, the tortoise was supposed to move and speak very slow while the young turtle had an active personality, we also reduced the dialogue to give the audience more time to process the information. A good note from Oliver made us add some micro movement to both puppets by building a mechanism that would pull their heads up by using a string attached to a ring in my finger in order to vocalize and indicate the audience who was speaking. Another challenge for me was trying to match the movement with the pre-recorded dialogue.
In the afternoon, we presented our shows to the group, Rhian and Susannah were also there. Victoria and I performed first, followed by Rebecca and Laura, and finally Manuela and Paris. I felt really nervous and having shaky hands made difficult the manipulation of the puppets, I also had a bad internet connection which cause a little delay in the action, however I really enjoyed the experience! I think the tree shows were very good and luckily we recorded them so we then had some time to watch them, have some feedback and also share our experience.
I have learnt the principles of puppetry to animate and object and the effectiveness of using text instead of dialogue to tell a story. I feel that communicating with my peers is much easier now that we know each other, this will definitely help us when collaborating in the distance for this project. I was really impressed with the shows we managed to create in a couple of days and I'm now feeling very excited about the project! I think the restriction of having to do the show on an online platform just brings different challenges but a great creative experience from which I'm ready to learn a lot!