Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SPECIAL FIELD REPORT: No Strings Attached

Paul can't conceal his obvious delight at one of Mr. Huber's most charming puppets, Taffy the dog. Mr. Huber was extremely generous with his audience after the performance, bringing out several sensational puppets and describing their construction in detail.

Paul, being a great husband, (selflessly*) selected a life-enrichment adventure gift last Sunday for us. There was a very small puppetry festival in Santa Monica last week that ended with a live performance by renown marionette puppeteer, Philip Huber. (*Not entirely, Paul LOVES fine puppet work too! and as you can see he was delighted by the show!)

Paul had the master puppeteer on his radar since he'd first seen his incredible work in the film Being John Malkovich:



The audience of about 50 people gathered in a well kept theater in a park by the beach. We all sat enraptured by Mr. Huber's mind-bending skill as a puppeteer. My jaw was open the whole time. He brought so much animation to his self-made characters it was astounding. He designs and makes all his own puppets (Celastic heads), including the highly creative and detailed costuming.

There were about 20 puppet acts in an original caberet musical, Suspended Animation, that day, some were a bit, shall we say, gay? Said as a short-hand way to describe a certain typically associated aesthetic that favors glitz, torch song chantueses, Liza with a "Z", Bette, ice skating, sequins, loads of sequins, that sort of flavor of the business that is show. It all was in there. There were definitely shades of Liberace mixed with cirque du soleil. However--even if that's not your taste, if for some reason, Mr. Huber should be performing near you--I can't recommend going highly enough.

Behind the glare of ritzy spotlights, there was the rare pleasure of an artist, devoted to his art, so completely mastered, watching him share his talents transcends the matter style entirely. For an impromptu demonstration and discussion with Mr.Huber apr├ęs show, we learned he was given a hand puppet as a small child of three, given a marionette bought with green stamps at age 8, making his own and performing with them by 10, and announced it would be his life by 13.

As with Stop Motion animation, there is an entire universe of people deeply involved in marionette puppetry. There's a bit of cross over between the two arts. I defy any stop mo head to not be excited by this little 8 minute mini doc of a John Roberts' marionette carving workshop given last year at the Little Angel Puppet Theatre in Islington, London.

15 comments:

  1. *sigh* You're so lucky! *sigh* Huber is a master indeed. There's certainly no doubt that marionettes are the hardest form of live action puppetry. We don't really get anything like that down here. There's lots of stuff on the web but it never really translates a live performance. *sigh*

    On a completely different and less sighful note, apparently the Director (Set designer by love) of the last stop motion I was involved with is going to be in LA. I think she would be in awe of your set. Maybe you should press her into service for an afternoon?

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  2. Yeah, but at least you lot had the amazing Richard Bradshaw! I just discovered his masterful shadow puppetry whilst exploring!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzDov1dBrLk


    [blink] Wha? Are you kidding? A professional experienced director/set designer! a friend of yours! might want to fricking come here and look at this mess! HELL YEAH!!!!

    HumninnaHumninnaHumninna, yeah!

    Eeeenytyme! When? When? When?

    [omgomgomg]

    Having such a guest would get this place cleaned up in a hurry. hang on, Paul!!! Shame Cleaning to the rescue!

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  3. Ha! Relaaaaax. She's an newly graduated student director/set designer (albeit award winning) from the second most relaxed country, Australia, in the world after Jamaica. Relaaaax mon!

    She's also worked in the art dept on a new feature stop-mo film here in Oz.

    But if you could use an extra pair of hands and a brain to bounce ideas off for an afternoon then I'm sure she'd love to slap paint (or whatever) on such a brilliant set. I owe her an email I'll run it past her.

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  4. Oh, as in I could hire her possibly for a day while she's in town? That would be great. Although, the budget is $24.95 total, not for per diem, for the whole picture! hee.

    Lemme know, I'll make her lunch!

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  5. (^ hey, shelly. I was talking to Doug B. today. he's just finished up some work on Pulse3: and after a few days required rest, will maybe be calling me back.
    ....(^ perhaps its time to drag HIM over to your place as well?

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  6. Hire? What?

    I think you underestimate the lure your giant magic tree has on us mere mortals from across the pond... and a free lunch ;)

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  7. What a cool fun trip!.....I would love to have seen him perform.

    There is definately life in some of those puppets!

    jriggity

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  8. @Rich and Prosser, if you think that your friends would be at all interested in coming here by some misguided impulse--they are more than welcome! I'd be thrilled and delighted. Lunch for everyone!

    Drag 'em ring 'em email 'em, yeah.


    @Justin! Aedon especially would have really really loved it. (Just tell them she's 9) I just checked his touring schedule in case you can grab a show before he leaves for Japan and Brazil:

    Oct 13-19
    "Suspended Animation"
    Magic Castle
    Hollywood, CA


    Oct 17
    "Behind The Strings" lecture and demo
    Walt Disney Animation Studios
    Burbank, CA
    For animators and their guests (if you can get in with a colleague there?!)

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  9. Wow I wish I was a member of the Magic Castle so I could see this but you have to be a free mason or something. He portrays such great human movement, realistic body weight is not easy to show on something so light, but he also knows how to caricature movement in a cartoonish way that is good to learn. This reminds me, Spike Jonze hasn't released a movie in years, IMDB says hes working on Where the Wild Things Are for a release next year and then Ripley's Believe It or Not! in 2010. Anyway Thanks for the field report Shelly!

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  10. Hi Melvyn, if you know anyone with a membership to the Castle, you're in! All you need is a coat, a tie, and a member's guest card.

    After I gave Justin the dates, I realized he loves magic! Maybe he's been there, maybe not? (No kids allowed I read though.:()

    Huber's acts are even better than the movie clip in that they have more things that are animated and their movements are contextual to the song they sing or the instruments they play. Some moments are astounding.

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  11. Nick H9:38 PM

    Hey Shel, nice to see you taking a break from your sky-wrangling, and giving your brain a bit of cross fertilization from our puppetty cousins.

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  12. HI Nick! I'm going at it again tomorrow. I got all inspired by talking it over, over lunch with... Shel Rasch today! yay!

    Puppetty cousins, you funny!

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  13. Coat,tie, knowing other actual humans? This is all way out of my league. Besides I'm terrible with secret handshakes:,<

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  14. Inspiring pup vid, Ms. Shellopolis. :)

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  15. Hey, Melvyn, you are doing great online!

    Hi Sven! You mean the carving workshop vid? Yeah, I keep watching it. Something so satisfying about watching the process of people crafting a figure by hand.

    I looked up the people in the workshop too. The woman, Tinka, looked like an interesting person. She and a partner put on educational puppet workshops and shows for kids all over the UK. Hats off to them.

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