Design Projects: Puppets

That red tray on the new table’s lower deck holds eight pairs of wooden boots for some “Winkie” puppets for our school’s production of The Wizard of Oz.  Our theatrical program director had a lot of kids who had done well in her puppetry program a few years ago, and she wanted to reward them with roles in our big spring middle school musical.  As a result, I and a group of ten or so students have been building puppets every Monday afternoon since December.Wizard of Oz projects

Oh, right.

You may recall that, due to northeastern US storm coverage, there hasn’t been a Monday in school in all of January, and now the first half of February, too. This working group hasn’t worked in a month.  Today, we had a reschedule day, where we tried to make up for five missed Mondays with a working lunch.

We did all right.

Our goal was to produce eight puppets, so-called “Winkies” after the names of the soldiers of the Wicked Witch of the West.  These will perform in various scenes in the show, threatening Dorothy and her companions.  The costume crew has made uniforms for them, in gray and red and brown felts; the puppet bodies were produced in my workshop.

Four were made before New Year’s; the remaining four got finished today.  Additionally, we made eight sets of wooden boots (so the puppets can make an appropriately menacing clacking sound as they march across the stage); once they’re mounted on the puppets, and painted black, and the puppets themselves are dressed in their uniforms, I think they’ll be appropriately terrifying to our audience.
Wizard of Oz projects We are also building a Wizard of Oz head.  Lacking certain budgetary expansions, our head is not constructed elaborately of carved foam and elaborate airbrush painting jobs; we’ll be lucky to get the thing painted on time.

That said, the frame is made of flexible and rigid PVC pipe, married together with a combination of duct tape, wooden pins, glue, and — in more places than I’d care to admit, 1 5/8″ Philips-head screws.  There’s a muslin fabric that’s going to be assembled over the whole, and there’s a hinge on the jaw (front and center under the muslin) that’s going to open a shut and, again,  be appropriately scary to the audience.

We’ve gotten a fair bit of help and inspiration from this Instructables set. But we don’t have an enormous budget for the head, and I think that we’re already skirting the red-line on this project in terms of time. The thing has to be done before technical week starts; and really it should have been done last week, if not last month.

The things that we do for snow-days.

This is why it was so important to finish the Winkie puppets.  Because this monster, and working to make it look monstrous, is one of my big projects from now until Spring Equinox.

Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it.

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