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Friday, April 19, 2013

Easy one-person puppet storytelling

Have you ever wished  for storytelling help and didn't know where to turn?  There are three good online networking resources.  The oldest is the email list, Storytell , hosted on the National Storytelling Network's 's website.  It's slightly international, but Professional Storyteller, with well over 2000 members from around the world, is very international.  Facebook's group, Storytellers,  is the newest and the least likely to be searchable for past information.  Storytell has an archive since 2009 which goes back to moving to the NSN site + long-time list member Jackie Baldwin has been archiving citations, discussions and references on specified storytelling subjects, themes and motifs posted on Storytell since 2000 at her wonderful Story-Lovers site.  Beginning in January of 2008, Professional Storyteller combines the visual -- and even audio -- nature of Facebook with the depth of archiving and possibilities of Storytell  in Professional Storyteller's various groups and the more general Forum discussion.  It also is open to the world to add to the internet presence of its members who can post their information including blog, videos, photos, events, and the opportunity to network with all those members interested in storytelling.

Additionally I'm active on Puppet Hub with my own group Out Front with My Puppet for puppeteers who don't stay behind a stage. Whether storytelling, or performing music, or. . . it's just the puppet and their human performing directly to their audience.

Because puppetry is part of my storytelling, when Betty Diles, on the Forum for P.S. asked: I'm looking for some quick easy skits or stories that I can do with puppets for my Pre-K and Preschool classrooms.  Any suggestions, websites, books would be greatly appreciated. :)Thanks!!

Here is a slightly revised version of how I responded and hope it helps you, too, find "Easy one man puppet stories":
Hi Betty,
I'm not at home right now, but saw your request and did a quick search of an online library catalog for puppet plays that specifically mention being for one person. I also followed it up with a look in Amazon since it often gave more information. (There's always more than 1 way to separate a feline from its epidermal layer!)

Even if you were clear around the world in Australia, I'm sure these online resources will be especially helpful. If you go to my website at and go to the resources listed under Participatory, several sites may help you. The section called Puppets is right under that. I was surprised to see none specifically had on their sites what you need. They are worth your visiting, however, and I strongly recommend this Ning network, If you put this question on my group there, "Out Front with My Puppet", I'm sure you will get some great suggestions.

For books that came up:
I know I own and would recommend One-Person Puppet Plays by Denise Anton Wright
* also Storytelling Made Easy with Puppets by Jan M. VanSchuyver.
* There are puppet scripts and great ideas in Caroline Feller Bauer's Leading Kids to Books Through Puppets. While I don't recall if they are suited to early childhood groups, her ideas are great and it is worth owning.
* I have Dee Anderson's Amazingly Easy Puppet Plays: 42 New Scripts for One-Person Puppetry, but don't recall if it works for the "littlies" as an Aussie storytelling friend, Mabel Kaplan, liked to put it. The summary says "Enough puppet programs for every week in the school year." That may mean it is meant for older children. It's hard to tell without the book in hand.
* Another good resource is Connie Champlin's Storytelling with Puppets and there are 2 editions. Get the 2d, more recent 1997 version. I don't recall it having scripts, but you'll definitely get other suggestions from it.
*Two books I don't own, but look promising are How to Do "the Three Bears" With Two Hands: Performing With Puppets by Walter Minkel and A Show of Hands: Using Puppets with Young Children by Ingrid Crepeau and M. Ann Richards. If you read their descriptions, it should help you decide if they're for you.

I don't tend to limit myself to existing scripts as so many folktales are simple enough to adapt. Another great thing is to be the narrator talking with another puppet or puppets as you tell the story.

Puppets are so great to use in so many ways. At the risk of once again leading you to my own site, many have found useful an alphabet I created of ways to use puppets in storytelling at Hope these suggestions help, Betty!

A bit later I added:
Here's another book you may like. Fun Puppet Skits for Schools and Libraries by Joanne F. Schroeder. The stories, songs, et cetera would all work with preschool through primary grades. Some are specifically for 1 person and there are ways like stick puppets to manage stories that require several characters quickly.

I'll keep looking as time permits. I have a workshop in Petoskey, MI specifically about using puppets specifically for this age group, so it will help me, too, to have additional resources. Glad to help us both!

and yet a bit more:
Hi Betty,
When I had a chance, I went hunting online to see if there are any sites you should visit. There are many for Biblical puppetry, but I only found for general purpose scripts specifically prepared for puppets. Some of them will work for solo puppetry. Of course your adapting folktales will still be the option I would recommend as it's the most flexible to meeting both thematic needs and your own.

I hope this month's blog, in honor of the National Day of Puppetry, which comes each year comes on the fourth Saturday of April, gives you some good resources both for puppetry and storytelling.

If you're looking for more puppet fun and are near the Detroit metro area, you can also go to my local guild, Detroit Puppeteers Guild.  If you are in the U.S. and seeking a guild, check with the Puppeteers of America to find your region and closest guild.


Cathy Mosley said...


Thanks for the great information. I love working with Folkmanis puppets for my nature programs. And am always looking to learn more.

Lois Sprengnether Keel said...

Thank you for the comment, Cathy. My only caution is their puppets always look great, but be sure to try on the puppet first as they may not work for your hands. I've had some I found needed more mobility. (Of course, adapting or "retrofitting" the puppet sometimes resolves this.)