Here in Australia vents are very light on the ground, because of the helium they sniff. So for blokes like me (heavier than air), this forum is just the best, for tips and product news. I have gained so much "how to do it" stuff from the contributors here that I thought maybe there are heaps of folks like me who owe their "originality" and methods to what they have read here.
My idea is to briefly tell the members what tips they have learned regarding story ideas, show formats etc. You know, the tips that become the mainstay of your show! As we are world-wide, there is bound to be some ideas to help someone improve their act.
For instance:- I bring on our croc Crikey in a large ornate box with a huge satin ribbon on the lid. I start by telling the folks I have a huge cream cake here, enough for everyone! And........ out comes gutzy Crikey, and of course the cake is gone! I learnt from one of Ax's posts to fit a pair of rabbit ears (Easter type) to the croc and have him pretend he is going to the rabbit hop to pick up a bunny! That goes over very well! Easy peazy!
Another entrance I picked up here is our ostrich, Bonza, who comes in neck outstretched chasing a carrot tied with string to a stick, an old wand, just out of his reach! Because the ostrich is fitted to my feet with slippers, which I fastened to the puppet's feet, I can run into the audience with him while the crazy bird "chases" the carrot. A real laugh generator! Both of those ideas I would never have thought of until I read it here. Then there are story ideas pouring out like an endless well. Mostly from our good friend, Tony Borders. Thanks Tony!
Our crazy bird, Seedy, Ax's Vern the bird, has benefited from the juggling, (sorta) balls, (we use those Christmas tree balls), bright colours and light weight and the sword (large plastic toy) trying to cut a carrot from his beak, with Seedy trying to get a new sane trainer. hehehe my wife works Seedy and she is a hard act to follow! People start to laugh as soon as she brings Seedy on! All these things go over so well, and learnt right here! So, maybe some of the readers could share their good experiences of routines learnt here! A distant relative of mine wrote, "Originality is nothing more or less than judicious imitation" Mostly true eh?
In rereading your post I thought I'd mention a tip on entrances. I used to carry the bear out and start right away, but I found that in MANY places, especially where I depend on someone else running the sound, my mic wasn't quite ready even after being tested earlier. So now I come out and greet the crowd and introduce the topic. This allows a "sound check" once again for myself or the sound man. I may even start with a magic trick and some background music. Then I can bring out the puppet.
For a preschool audience I start with cute and cuddly instead of with the bear. The bear has a friendly face, but he also has teeth. So I get them used to a smaller or less threatening puppet. I often start with the Axtell kangaroo for young audiences. Whatever would get an "aaaah" response from an audience.
One more entrance tip. This is an idea from Dennis Lee. He had a theme song for schools that would sing his company name. As you know, schools and libraries are always asking how you want to be introduced. Just say, "I have a taped introduction that the kids enjoy." It doesn't have to be a song. It could be a radio style announcement.
November 6 2009, 9:35 AM
Terry that was a very full and rich post. LOTS of good tips and ideas in there! Very much appreciated.
Hole in the seat of your pants
November 17 2009, 11:12 PM
Here's another tip. While performing pretend that you have a hole in the seat of your pants. As you move around the stage you don't want to turn your back on the audience. Some easy ways to do this are to plant hiding spots for your puppets on the stage. By now you've probably seen Terry Fator's new DVD "Live in Las Vegas". His hiding spot blends into the decor of the stage, but allows him to get puppets without turning his back. He also has beautiful girls bring puppets out to him or carry them away, so I think I'd like to try that!
I use a trash can for the bear, bulldog, or alley cat.
I use a colorful umbrella to hide a colorful bird puppet behind. The umbrella is open on its side as a stage decor. Packs small, plays big.
I use a clothes hamper shaped like a rocket for an astronaut puppet and a pop up castle tent for a Princess, Dragon, Knight, etc. to be pulled from.
You can throw a nice cloth on a tabletop and store puppets just under the back of the table, while putting props on top of the table. That works great at libraries. I usually put a suitcase on top of the table and a duffle bag beneath it and I have 5 puppets which are easy to get to!
November 17 2009, 11:19 PM
Magicians know the value of a trick that does not need to be "reset". Even better is a container (a dump) that holds your tricks when finished, but holds them in such a way that you are set to go at the end of the show. Consider that for your puppets as well.
As you finish with each puppet don't just throw it in a pile behind the stage. Pretend that there might be 20 kids running back there after the show. Okay, 30. And you want to have EVERYTHING in a closed container as you say, "Thank you for coming to the show!"
I even take the time to fold my silks before putting them away. To me, it does not take away from the show at all, it makes the silks less wrinkled the next time, and I don't have to pull out that "changed" silk at the end of the show to fold it.
I start with all of my magic placed inside of my ventriloquist stand. As I use each trick I put it back into the case which will carry it out. If I use a suitcase table (a special wooden stand that folds down into the shape of a suitcase but opens up to form a really nice table or vent stand) ... Where was I? Oh, yes. If I use a suitcase table then I put all the magic in order inside the table from left to right on the top shelf. As I use each trick I put it away in the bottom or middle section. (I actually removed the middle shelf so I could put bigger items below.) Then when I've done my last trick and puppet I can simply swing it shut.
Make an audio tape of yourself and listen to it. Many mp3 players have a built in mic, or at least an "in" port to make recording easy. Tape your show and listen for any annoying "ums, you knows, like, so..., etc." You may not realize how many you do. Also listen for long pauses during transitions.
You can fill pauses with the puppet talking as you put it away or the next one talking as you get it. I like to use a catch phrase that gets me into the next voice, takes up transition time, and establishes a bit of character for the puppet. Edgar Bergen used music to transition to Mortimer Snerd.
You may find yourself using incomplete sentences. My mind is always racing ahead to the next thing and I have trouble completing thoughts in front of the audience. I found that this went away the more I was prepared. It's like people who are telling you about their vacation and they transition from one story to another without making a smooth segway. (spelling?) This usually happens when you're talking so fast that people can't get a word in or that you are having trouble finding time to breathe. Just slow down! Outlines, or laying puppets, tricks, etc. out in order are very helpful in combating this.
Speaking of tricks...(nice segway, don't you think?) you can tell someone is a good magician when they have one trick whose finish is the beginning of another. That takes a lot of original thought, but makes for a smooth segway. You can do the same with ventriloquist skits. One puppet can make reference to an upcoming puppet.
Current Topic - Duh! I have an idea, maybe a good one?