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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Puppetry Resources

LoiS with signing tiger puppet from workshop, A to Z  Puppets Are Easy
Puppetry will never be my main focus, but it is a great supplement for my storytelling work with children.  Prior to this the Puppets label has been here 21 times, so here's another.  Librarian William M. Painter wrote three books: Musical Story Hours: Using Music With Storytelling and Puppetry; Story Hours With Puppets and Other Props; and a third, combining the two and adding artwork, Storytelling with Music, Puppets, and Arts for Libraries and Classrooms.  I acquired that last book recently from another storyteller/teacher.  Published in 1994, it had been years since I read it and, at that time was working as a full-time librarian, just storytelling in my time off.  This book is indeed best suited to the library and teacher audience, but it still had some value for me.  (Must borrow again the one with specifically puppets and props.)

I confess that the music I use in my programs is usually live.  CDs too often seem to take my focus, whether I'm the one operating the player or somebody else is.  (His ideas are enticing, so maybe I shouldn't give up too easily.)  Painter's use of art prints, especially the Norman Rockwell or Winslow Homer works was a good reminder.  I liked also his reminder about how audience members could enjoy operating the puppets and props.   Audience participation is always worth considering.  Librarians and teachers can get more use from his picture book recommendations, but I still found a few stories beyond Picture Books since I don't have the same Fair Use exemptions.

The back of the book has a Resource Directory.  Thought I'd update my book with websites since they weren't available in 1994.  Several companies were merged in both the library and puppetry fields or their existence ended, including puppetry advocate, Nancy Renfro, but also Russ Berrie.  Some puppets, like Dakin, are now only found by sites like re-sellers on Etsy and Amazon.  That usually requires searching for something fairly specific, but gives 63 results currently for a company that was a long-time supplier.  The companies still around have mainly gone to fairly large sites and when searching you can try "puppet" for both finding puppets or puppet stages or "dramatic play":
Stepping into the library world the term changes to "supplies" and then use "puppet."  Amalgamation among library suppliers reduced the number of sites:
Looking further than the book I found two major craft sites include puppetry resources.  Again search "puppet."
Beyond that I was saddened to find that both the email list, Puptcrit, which is still listed on the Puppeteers of America site, and the independent network, Puppet Hub, have shut down.'s Wayback Machine lets you view the open discussions of Puppet Hub at*/ if that's any help to you.

The national organization, Puppeteers of America, produces its own quarterly journal and mentions the only comparable online resource, The Puppetry HomePage, saying it "is webmastered by Rose Sage and is one of the best for on-line puppetry resources."  The closest it comes to offering puppets is information on building them.  P.O.A. offers both regional and national festivals.  They also list what may be your best resource, Regions and guilds.  Getting together with other puppet enthusiasts can give you ideas beyond the pre-made resources here.  My own guild, Detroit Puppeteers Guild, is very welcoming and loaded with talented members of many kinds.

I also have some resources on my personal website: my handout, "An Alphabet of Puppets and Storytelling" which gives a wide variety of ways to use puppets, and on my page of Specialized Resources I have sections including Audience Participation and, of course, Puppets.  There you will find pattern sources and the commercial puppet manufacturers, Folkmanis and the team of Melissa and Doug.  Both companies are also sold by some of the suppliers above and in fine toy stores.

As almost a postscript, just today I received the National Storytelling Network's June edition of "Storytelling Magazine" and it has a Guest Editor's Section on Puppetry in Storytelling to take into even further possibilities.

I always remember the title of one puppet play collection:

Don't just stand there-jiggle!

May you and your audiences enjoy the jiggling!


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