I'm a puppet maker with a degree in theatre. A former lighting techie, stage manager and producer. And I like to think that with puppetry, the only limit is your imagination. More...
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A rod puppet can include a range of things, but generally speaking, it is inclusive of any puppet that uses rods as the sole mechanism for operation. Rod puppets can include other puppet types, like muppet-type puppets, marottes, and the Japanese art of bunraku, or the more bastardised Western version of bunraku, known as table-top puppetry.
However, rod puppets can be made out of anything and everything - household items, clothes, toys… The list goes on. Additionally, more complicated rod puppets use ‘cable-control’, a wire or string which, when pulled by a trigger, moves the puppet in a certain way.
Rod puppets are most frequently used in productions using blacklight theatre and productions that use a light curtain. This is a special lighting effect, where the puppet is visible, but the puppeteer is not. Rods are particularly used in this situation because the puppeteer is required to perform from behind the puppet at all times, making rods an easy, efficient and precise method of manipulation.
The title image is of a very crude fish rod puppet I made for a university performance. The jaw is a separate piece of foam, hinged to the body of the puppet. A hidden elastic attached to the jaw is tied to fishing line, which runs down the black rod. Pulling the fishing line pulls the elastic, which closes the puppet’s mouth.
Rod puppets can of course be used in a variety of theatrical situations, including ‘white light’ theatre (where the puppeteers can be seen), outdoor events, ‘normal’ theatre performances, and so on. This is why rod puppets can be difficult to define, as they are extremely versatile, and don’t require a lot of previous puppetry experience in order to be performed well. A child can very easily pick up the concepts of using a rod puppet, and so they also make good starting points for learning about puppetry and puppet-making. Rod puppets are also best used in small to medium venues, although if you create very large rod puppets, they can also be used suitably in outdoor events. Many of these puppets can also be used ‘table-top’ style.
More on making these types of puppets can be found here [link to be added]. Read more about using a light curtain. Read more on blacklight puppetry. Read more on table-top puppetry. Read more on wayang golek. Read more about marottes.send feedback / have a question?
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.