What Is a Puppeteer?

One of our favorite classes at Huckleberry Fine Art is our kids art class. For the past few
months, students have been creating their own puppets with the help of our resident
instructor Rachel Gates. Not only a teacher, Rachel is also an artist. She’s worked in the
puppeteering industry for several years, making puppets for productions with Signal Light
Theatre and Tears of Joy.

So what is a puppeteer? Keep reading to find out!

Rachel with the cast of “The Secret Life of Rodents,” a show which she produced as artistic director of Signal Light Theatre.


1. What does a puppeteer do?
Rachel: A puppeteer creates the illusion of life.

2. What could a day in the life look like as a puppeteer?
R: The whole process can easily take a year before the show is ready to fly. There are full days of planning the script and many days of construction as characters, costumes, stage, set and props get sculpted painted built and found. Sound and lighting also need to be planned out. Then there are many days (more than a month) of rehearsal time. Finally one needs some high quality photos and public outreach. Some days may be made of travel to get to various venues.

Most puppeteers are people who are building a show from the ground up and then performing it themselves or in a small group. 2 puppeteers is a common team and their work days compliment each other. One may be covering publicity while the other is building. 4 puppeteers is a big professional puppet show that probably has a 5th person who is a director. More than 4 puppeteers and there is a decent chance that the show is here from outside the US.

3. How important is collaboration for a puppeteer?
R: Puppetry is a theater art. Like acting one can do it alone, but when performing with others it demands high levels of teamship. For example sometimes one puppet character takes 3 people to work it properly. The puppeteers must breathe together, it is like a dance.

4. How frequently do shows occur for a production?
R: Generally, once a show is created it is in one’s repertoire permanently.

There are theatrical puppet shows as well as shows performed at fairs, schools, private functions and other places.
How many shows depends on the venue: a fair may book 3 shows in a day, on the other hand a birthday party show is likely once.

5. What does it take to become a puppeteer?
R: To become a puppeteer it takes inspiration and hard work. Dexterity and a sense of timing help enormously. It’s all about story story story.


> Interested in learning more? Tune into the blog next week to read Rachel’s full story and find out how she got to where she is today!  


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