As a communication arts major, I often find my friends laughing at the classes I have to take. When I had to take Intro to Theatre last semester, my friends (who are mostly in health-related majors) could not stop laughing. This semester, when I told them I was taking Puppetry, I feared the mockery would never end. That is until I told them how important puppetry really is, not only to me but to our culture and the cultures of other societies.
Out of all the classes I am taking this semester, Puppetry is proving to be the most useful in my day to day routines. So far, we have built several puppets and I have gained very important life skills from their construction. Most puppets are not supposed to be unclothed, so it’s part of the project to sew a costume for them. It is during this that I learned a simple yet effective stitch for clothing: the whip stitch. Commonly used for mending rips or tears in clothing, the whip stitch can also be used for making a colorful poncho for a small hand puppet.
The sewing skills learned in class are not limited to hand sewing. Classmate and Junior Zach Hyman has gained comprehensive knowledge in sewing machine use.
“I happen to be a busy man, so I cannot sit around all day sewing things by hand,” Hyman says. A sewing machine comes in handy for the puppet maker with a hectic schedule. With the use of a sewing machine, one can sew two pieces of fabric together very quickly. This might come in handy while making a pair of pants for yourself or for a puppet.
“All I have to do is pin the fabric together and the machine does a lot of the work for me,” says Hyman.
For each puppet my fellow students and I construct in class, there is some presentation associated with it. The presentations can be purely visual, like the group dances choreographed for our Scarf Marionettes, or they can be more in depth by adding action, dialogue, comedy or drama into the mix as we did with the hand puppets we created. For each of these projects, there are several skills that are being strengthened. Each puppet takes some time to create and it can be very frustrating at times due to time restraints or the materials not cooperating. It is because of this that patience is tested and enhanced. Most of the projects are done in a group, so there is much compromising to be done as people often have opposing ideas. This strengthens the ability to work as a team.
Puppetry is not just a neat hobby you can pick up to learn how to master sewing; it is also one of the earliest forms of entertainment. While the exact origin of puppetry as an art is a bit murky, we can see it as a popular form of entertainment dating back to as early as 5th century BCE. There are written records of puppetry from almost every civilization. Puppetry served as a means of entertainment for a very wide variety of peoples. Old as it may be, puppetry is still popular in the 21st Century. Sesame Street, The Muppets and Star Wars are all prime examples of just how relevant this art form really is.
Chances are if there is a class being taught about it at a collegiate level, the subject is an important one. With every class, there is much valuable knowledge to be gained. The Puppetry course being taught by Professor Jax Vadney is no exception to either of these statements. Life skills and qualities that employers are looking for in an employee are being gained in this class under the guise of whimsical yet challenging puppet construction.