Week 4:
The (Rock) Spirit in the Sky

Karin L. Bostrom Fellow in Theatre Fabrication & Design

The Puppet Kitchen | New York City, New York

June 17, 2017

Each week at the Puppet Kitchen brings new challenges. Last weeks monster gives way to this weeks oranges. We started the week with tutorial on creating patterns. Sophia, my fellow apprentice, and I were each given a large orange. Chef Michael took us through the steps to cut apart the peel and make a pattern in paper to recreate the orange in foam. Then we had to adjust the pattern to alter the final shape.

My pattern to recreate an orange.

This lesson led straight into our work for the week. The Kitchen was working on two portrait puppets of a young boy. Sophia and I were each tasked with putting together the bodies of the puppets. The body parts of a puppet start as a flat sheet of foam that are glued into shapes using darts and folds. The Puppet Kitchen uses a strong shoe making glue called Barge to make most of its puppets. The bond the glue creates is so strong that after drying, the foam will rip before the glue will. It is fairly toxic so I have to wear gloves and a respirator and work under a ventilation hood when using it. It is exciting to expand my knowledge of construction materials. This is not a product I would have normally come across while working in the scene shop at Cornell.

The puppet body I barged that PK employee Laura assembled.

I continued work on my personal project this week as well. After some material testing and consideration I decided to go forward with my more abstract idea of a “rock spirit.” The puppet will be an abstract cloud of rocks that can suggest a human feature, but won’t create a human figure. I learned the best way to carve foam rocks is not with a box cutter (as I had assumed) but with a pair of scissors. With this in mind, I created seven rocks in the approximate shape and sizes I wanted out of yellow couch foam. I know very little about rigging marionettes, (the string structure the puppet hangs from,) so I started with simply tying all the strings together at the top and using my fingers to manipulate them. This model wasn’t great so I did some research on marionettes. I haven’t come to a firm conclusion yet, but I look forward to experimenting more.

My first pass at a rigging technique for my rock spirit.

Along with the physical work, I did research and developed some movement concepts for the puppet. I want to create a performance that shows a journey that these rocks can take. The idea that rocks experience a cycle inspired me to create a cycle for my performance. The cycle is awakening, to exploration, to discovery, to fatigue, to rest. My challenge now, is creating a rigging structure for the puppet that will allow all these kinds of movement.

The “rock moves” I came up with for the puppet’s performance.

While each new week is a challenge, I do feel like I am settling in here. I can navigate the subways to get pretty much anywhere I need, I’ve gotten groceries from Manhattan to the Bronx without a single cracked egg, and I have avoided being harassed by people handing out flyers on the sidewalk. Most of all, I’m having fun and learning to love this city.

The goofiest (grossest?) puppet I have: a prehensile tongue!
Story-related photo for post 19637_3037

Amanda Bentz '18

Amanda is a theatre fabrication major from Scio, Oregon.