My Top Ten Puppet Festival Moments 2014

This past Sunday was my first time attending the Skirball’s annual Puppet Festival, and as soon as I reached the parking lot, it was obvious that everyone in attendance was filled with excitement and anticipation. Moms, dads, friends, and relatives were actively engaged in conversation while their children—many dressed in colorful costumes—were skipping with joy at the thought of seeing the myriad of puppets. Throughout the day, I observed many memorable moments; fortunately, talented photographer Peter Turman was there to capture some of them with his camera. The Puppet Festival was a full day of celebrating families, friends, and puppets! Click through the slideshow below to catch a glimpse of the day as seen through my favorite ten of Peter’s photographs.

1. My day at the Puppet Festival began in the craft room, where toilet paper and paper towel rolls were miraculously transformed into marionettes. The crafting materials afforded adults and children alike with a wide array of puppet possibilities, from a simple snake to a more complex elephant or giraffe. Most of the children designed their own imaginary creatures. The little girl in this photograph used buttons for eyes and an assortment of yarn for colorful hair. It is obvious from her mother’s expression that she is proud of her daughter’s original creation.

1. My day at the Puppet Festival began in the craft room, where toilet paper and paper towel rolls were miraculously transformed into marionettes. The crafting materials afforded adults and children alike with a wide array of puppet possibilities, from a simple snake to a more complex elephant or giraffe. Most of the children designed their own imaginary creatures. The little girl in this photograph used buttons for eyes and an assortment of yarn for colorful hair. It is obvious from her mother’s expression that she is proud of her daughter’s original creation.

2.	These puppets based on Stravinsky's ballet <i>The Firebird</i> were stunning. Their expressive, watercolored faces and colorful, billowing fabric bodies made their larger-than-life presence a true showstopper. I loved seeing the <i>Firebird</i> puppets interact with the children. Kids who were not intimidated by their giant stature would approach the puppets and then run away, giggling as if playing a game of tag.

2. These puppets based on Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird were stunning. Their expressive, watercolored faces and colorful, billowing fabric bodies made their larger-than-life presence a true showstopper. I loved seeing the Firebird puppets interact with the children. Kids who were not intimidated by their giant stature would approach the puppets and then run away, giggling as if playing a game of tag.

3.	Puppet Festival is for families! The event creates lifelong memories of spending time with little ones, listening to music, attending puppet shows, exploring Noah’s Ark, and catching up on the latest exhibitions at the Skirball. I particularly enjoyed watching the children munching on snacks as their faces lit up with awe. I haven’t seen so much kiddy food since grade school. Mini mac and cheese and granola bars for everyone!

3. Puppet Festival is for families! The event creates lifelong memories of spending time with little ones, listening to music, attending puppet shows, exploring Noah’s Ark, and catching up on the latest exhibitions at the Skirball. I particularly enjoyed watching the children munching on snacks as their faces lit up with awe. I haven’t seen so much kiddy food since grade school. Mini mac and cheese and granola bars for everyone!

4.	The expressions on the faces of the children in this photograph are absolutely priceless! There is something about puppets that keeps little ones completely engaged.

4. The expressions on the faces of the children in this photograph are absolutely priceless! There is something about puppets that keeps little ones completely engaged.

5.	The giant bird puppet created by Leslie K. Gray is always a real hit. Although it takes three people to guide the immense creature, the puppet appears to be almost weightless.

5. The giant bird puppet created by Leslie K. Gray is always a real hit. Although it takes three people to guide the immense creature, the puppet appears to be almost weightless.

6.	There’s something on your shoulder! At first I thought it was a parrot, but soon came to realize the object getting all the attention was a small puppet critter. The puppeteer laughed as visitors tried to interact with this strange yet absolutely adorable furry creation. All of the puppeteers at the event were enthusiastic about showing off their puppet friends.

6. There’s something on your shoulder! At first I thought it was a parrot, but soon came to realize the object getting all the attention was a small puppet critter. The puppeteer laughed as visitors tried to interact with this strange yet absolutely adorable furry creation. All of the puppeteers at the event were enthusiastic about showing off their puppet friends.

7.	This puppeteer on stilts, also known as Captain Tall Tale, navigated the Skirball grounds with ease. While his head seemed to reach the clouds, every now and then he would lean over to greet a much smaller visitor.

7. This puppeteer on stilts, also known as Captain Tall Tale, navigated the Skirball grounds with ease. While his head seemed to reach the clouds, every now and then he would lean over to greet a much smaller visitor.

8.	This drummer announced the entrance of the gigantic natural-elements puppets that gathered above the Taper Courtyard. Once they were in place, the puppets swayed to the beat of the drums as the audience joined in with the dance.

8. This drummer announced the entrance of the gigantic natural-elements puppets that gathered above the Taper Courtyard. Once they were in place, the puppets swayed to the beat of the drums as the audience joined in with the dance.

9.	In between shows, Captain Tall Tale and his friends brought out a jump rope. They were immediately swarmed by children who wanted to join in on the fun. This photograph captures a boy who appears to be part kangaroo!

9. In between shows, Captain Tall Tale and his friends brought out a jump rope. They were immediately swarmed by children who wanted to join in on the fun. This photograph captures a boy who appears to be part kangaroo!

10.	As the event neared an end, I looked around the crowd and it was obvious that the joy I had observed throughout the day had not diminished. Parents were still chatting, puppeteers continued to entertain, and children were happily playing. Suddenly, this small <i>Firebird</i> puppet whizzed over the children’s heads after the completion of its final performance. The children chased the puppet, reaching for the sky as if nothing could hold them down. The third annual Skirball Puppet Festival was indeed a day filled with laughter, excitement, and love.

10. As the event neared an end, I looked around the crowd and it was obvious that the joy I had observed throughout the day had not diminished. Parents were still chatting, puppeteers continued to entertain, and children were happily playing. Suddenly, this small Firebird puppet whizzed over the children’s heads after the completion of its final performance. The children chased the puppet, reaching for the sky as if nothing could hold them down. The third annual Skirball Puppet Festival was indeed a day filled with laughter, excitement, and love.

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1. My day at the Puppet Festival began in the craft room, where toilet paper and paper towel rolls were miraculously transformed into marionettes. The crafting materials afforded adults and children alike with a wide array of puppet possibilities, from a simple snake to a more complex elephant or giraffe. Most of the children designed their own imaginary creatures. The little girl in this photograph used buttons for eyes and an assortment of yarn for colorful hair. It is obvious from her mother’s expression that she is proud of her daughter’s original creation.2.	These puppets based on Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird were stunning. Their expressive, watercolored faces and colorful, billowing fabric bodies made their larger-than-life presence a true showstopper. I loved seeing the Firebird puppets interact with the children. Kids who were not intimidated by their giant stature would approach the puppets and then run away, giggling as if playing a game of tag.3.	Puppet Festival is for families! The event creates lifelong memories of spending time with little ones, listening to music, attending puppet shows, exploring Noah’s Ark, and catching up on the latest exhibitions at the Skirball. I particularly enjoyed watching the children munching on snacks as their faces lit up with awe. I haven’t seen so much kiddy food since grade school. Mini mac and cheese and granola bars for everyone!4.	The expressions on the faces of the children in this photograph are absolutely priceless! There is something about puppets that keeps little ones completely engaged.5.	The giant bird puppet created by Leslie K. Gray is always a real hit. Although it takes three people to guide the immense creature, the puppet appears to be almost weightless.6.	There’s something on your shoulder! At first I thought it was a parrot, but soon came to realize the object getting all the attention was a small puppet critter. The puppeteer laughed as visitors tried to interact with this strange yet absolutely adorable furry creation. All of the puppeteers at the event were enthusiastic about showing off their puppet friends.7.	This puppeteer on stilts, also known as Captain Tall Tale, navigated the Skirball grounds with ease. While his head seemed to reach the clouds, every now and then he would lean over to greet a much smaller visitor.8.	This drummer announced the entrance of the gigantic natural-elements puppets that gathered above the Taper Courtyard. Once they were in place, the puppets swayed to the beat of the drums as the audience joined in with the dance.9.	In between shows, Captain Tall Tale and his friends brought out a jump rope. They were immediately swarmed by children who wanted to join in on the fun. This photograph captures a boy who appears to be part kangaroo!.

All photos by Peter Turman

Marionettes: An Interview with René Zendejas

renes_marionettes The third annual Puppet Festival is this Sunday, April 13. From hand to shadow, marionette to pageant-size, all your favorites will be there! The Skirball is especially happy to welcome back puppeteer, storyteller, and puppet maker René Zendejas. René returns to wow families with a special animal puppet revue and performance, showcasing some of his best handmade animal puppets. I sat down with René as he was preparing for his appearance to ask him about his long career in the world of puppetry.

How did you get started in puppetry?
I started when I was in junior high school. My mother took me to see as many puppet shows as possible that were playing in L.A.

Which puppeteer captured your imagination when you were young?
I had already started in show business when I was five years old, so this wasn’t something totally new for me. One of the puppeteering teams that caught my eye was Walton and O’Rourke—the most fantastic puppeteers that I have ever seen. From then on, I was smitten. They’re long gone by now. They had the most beautiful marionettes and their manipulation was unsurpassable—except by me, of course.

How do you make your puppets?
First, the clay is sculpted using water-based or grease clay. Second, a plaster mold is made of the clay sculpture. Then you pour your final material into the mold, either plastic or latex. Then comes the finishing of the figure by sanding. Lastly, you animate it—if there is to be any animation in the eyes and the mouth—and paint it. Meanwhile, the body must be constructed and costumed. Continue reading