The photograph of my mother was taken by an ex-boyfriend in Romania before her children, husband, and American life became matters of fact. The excerpt is from Mariana Zaharia’s “A Little Piece of Advice for Parents”. The pose is one which lies outside the realm of puppetry.
A special relation is born between the child and the puppet, when the latter is handled with love and passion. I remember the kids who came backstage at the end of a show to see the puppets close up, touch them, and talk to them. They were very surprised to learn that puppets don’t talk and move by themselves, and I’m not sure they believed me.
To us, puppet actors, this means a lot: the children’s reaction proved that we had done our jobs well, and our goal had been reached. The children joined in the game and experienced the same feelings.
In TV shows (such as ABC…Why? on TVR 2), children make phone calls and talk to the puppets on screen. What can a puppeteer wish for more?
It doesn’t matter if the puppet represents a human being, an animal or an object: if it is manipulated with passion, it gets life, and the child wants to have a talking puppet too, or at least be able to give life to one. I think a child feels like an older brother or sister to the puppet, which he senses it is his duty to protect and educate, and with which he will play and talk more than with an adult. The child listens and remembers better what a puppet says, because he feels it closer to his fantasies, understanding, and the games he is playing. A child learns faster and better when he plays. Norocel (Lucky), the puppy in the ABC…Why? show on TVR 2, is only a furry puppet, yet many children in their messages say they also want a little talking dog. What they want indeed is a relation like the one between Bobo (the boy-puppet) and Norocel, because Bobo teaches and educates Norocel like a real parent.
A child usually identifies himself with the hero he sees, and gets involved in the action like a true actor. Children are in fact actors by nature. When they play, they can be whatever they want, and they even emit specific sounds – cars, instruments, animals, people, etc. If you want to teach a child to brush his teeth, for instance, it is enough to make him love a puppet, and for the puppet to have a compulsion – to brush its teeth all the time: success is guaranteed. In conclusion: Parents, learn to handle puppets!