- Business and Employment
How to make money doing puppet shows
Use your creative or dramatic ability to become a professional puppeteer.
Have you ever been accused of being a drama queen or a drama king? Don't protest! Cash in on that ability by becoming the director of your very own puppet theater. There are lots of venues for your talent as this article will explain.
How to get started
If you have a creative or a dramatic flair, consider becoming a puppeteer. Children's entertainers are in demand at birthday parties, festivals, company picnics, promotions, library programs and many other events. Depending on your determination and level of skill, you can create a career, or just earn some extra money.
First, you will need some puppets and a stage. I suggest hand or glove puppets, as they are much easier to operate than marionettes or string puppets. You can buy them at toy stores, thrift stores, garage sales, online, or you can make your own. There are many good books on puppet- making.
There are also different types of stages. You can construct a stage out of wood, PVC pipe, or even a cardboard appliance box. Again, a good book on puppetry can help you decide what kind of stage to choose and provide building instructions. Be sure to make your stage colorful and attractive, but not so busy that it distracts from the action onstage.
Next, you will need a script. You will want to have your dialog in writing. If you are really creative, you can wing it, but it's better to have a guideline and when you are more experienced, you can ad-lib and interact with your audience. That's a lot of fun, since you never know what children are going to say!
You might want to choose a well-known fairy tale or folk tale to start with. A good example would be "The Little Red Hen." It's short and repetitive, so it's easy to learn, and it only has four characters. Create different voices for your characters. Practice deep voices, high voices, scary voices, scratchy and nasal voices, different accents. See how many you can come up with. After you have put a little show together, try it out on a group of kids. Most day care centers would love to have a free puppet show. Practice and gain confidence before you turn pro.
(Check out my puppetry lenses, which are listed at the end of this lens. You'll find a script for an interactive puppet show and some other ideas for puppet dialog.)
Promoting your business:
Decide on your fee. Do some online research to see what other puppeteers are charging. Then take some photos of your puppets and your stage and create a flier. Have some business cards made up as well. Post your fliers on as many community bulletin boards as you can find. Give a free show at a street festival , farmer's market, or arts and crafts show and give out your cards. Get free advertising whenever you can. Later you might want to pay for advertising in a parenting magazine or you could create a website.
Start small and build up gradually and network, network, network! Keep creating new puppets and shows until you have a great repertoire. But above all, have fun. Being a puppeteer is a blast!
Carol Brooks is a former children's librarian, teacher and puppeteer.
Find a puppet play
Find books to help you design and make puppets, find puppet plays, and make your puppet show venture a roaring success!
The Banana Thief - A Popular Interactive Puppet Show
I used to do this show frequently when I had a puppet show business. This poor shopkeeper can't figure out where all his bananas are going. Every time he turns his back, this monkey comes in and steals another banana. Finally the zookeeper comes in and asks him if he has seen a monkey which has escaped from the zoo. Now Mr. Shopkeeper knows where the bananas are going and he enlists the help of the kids in the audience. The next time he turns his back, the kids will let him know the monkey is up to his tricks again.
To add to the hilarity, make sure Mr. Shopkeeper doesn't catch the culprit right away. Each time the children alert him, he thinks he has caught the thief, but the monkey gets away. Eventually, the monkey gets caught and the shopkeeper has to take him back to the zoo, but promises to visit and bring him a banana.
Write your own script, or just improvise. You will have fun with this one!
When I went to drama school, puppetry classes weren't on the curriculum. Now, at some schools, they are!
The University of Connecticut has a puppetry arts program.
Go to www.uconn.edu
There is also a puppet school in Sherman Oaks, California. Go to www.puppetschool.com
They are also on Facebook under Puppet School
The Center for the Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia has puppetry workshops. I have been there and it is an amazing place. You can see puppet performances from all over the world, walk through the puppetry museum, attend classes, and much more. They even have a distance learning program!
There are other schools as well. Do some research and see what puppetry courses you can find.
Photo from Wikipedia Public Domain Images
My best advice on starting up in the business of puppet shows is to see what other puppeteers are doing. Go to the public library when they are having a puppet show, watch YouTube clips or old Muppet Show videos. Get as much much education as possible on the subject.
You can do your show from behind a curtain, or, if you're doing a show for very young childrens, simply hold the puppet up and talk to the audience, talk to the puppet, and let the puppet talk to the audience. Don't worry about moving your lips. The kids will be focusing on the puppet and won't even notice that you are doing the talking.
Go to as many professional puppeteer's sites as you can. You will be able to see the type of shows people do to make money. Some puppeteers, like Steve Petra (petrapuppets.com) are ventriloquists, but that's only one type. Some people stand up in front of an audience and operate a puppet. I saw one puppeteer who had large marionettes (string puppets). She kept them in a large trunk and for each segment of the show, she took out a different marionette, which then performed for the audience in some way - dancing, singing - sort of like a puppet variety show. It was very creative.
Find a great puppet that you love and give it a quirky personality.
Give it a name and a voice. Think of a person you think is funny and give your puppet some of his or her personality traits. You can give your puppet a British, French or Mexican accent. Ham it up! Don't be shy.
The puppet in the picture is Stanley. He tells really dumb jokes, but kids love him and he gets a lot of laughs.
If you really want to be a puppeteer, this is a great place to start your education.
Links for Puppeteers
If you love the Muppets, check out this website!
Fun and educational website about how to become a professional puppeteer.
Puppeteers of America. The national association for puppeteers. It's a wonderful resource for professionals and ameteurs alike.
Steve Petra is a professional puppeteer who does puppet shows in schools.
Build a great puppet
Sometimes the best way to get a puppet people will remember is to make your own.
Puppets on Amazon
If you don't feel confident about making your own puppets, there are some great puppets for sale and they are easy to order online.
Start your puppet collection today!
Puppeteers of America
A great resource for puppeteers
If you plan on going professional in the puppetry business, it would be a good idea to join Puppeteers of America. (www.puppeteers.org)
It's the organization for professional puppeteers. You can find out about festivals and go to one. They are a blast. See short videos of puppet shows, read "Puppetry Journal", check out the Bulletin Board for jobs, puppets for sale, etc., find a puppetry group in your area.
Puppet show music
Add some music to your puppet shows
Jeff Dunham Talking Dolls
You can buy Jeff Dunham puppets on Amazon! Who knew?
Amazon Spotlight Personal Review
This biography of Jim Henson is by award-winning author of books for young readers, Kathleen Krull. If you have a child who wants to be a puppeteer, or even if you want to be one yourself, this is a must read. Jim Henson was the Ultimate puppeteer!
Puppet Shows at the Market
I have to admit that I haven't tried this venue yet, but I think it might work, at least with getting yourself out there and being seen.
I will soon be selling plants at the farmers market with my boyfriend/partner. We are buying a canopy tent this weekend and plan to get started early next year. In Florida, farmers markets and craft shows run almost year-round. Some actually shut down in the summer because of the heat, so the winter, spring and fall are actually the best time for outdoor performances.
I plan to make a marquee and post the times I will be performing puppet shows. I won't make a lot of money, but it gets me free publicity. Who knows, someone might come along and take our picture or record the show. Who knows what will happen after that?
Don't forget the tip jar!
The photo is from Wikipedia Public Domain Images. It shows a Punch and Judy show being performed on the beach at Swanage in England.
Lights, Action! - Shine some light on your show!
A good clip-on lamp will shed some light on your set.
Books on Small Businesses - How to Start a Small Business
I love the "Dummies" series. The books are so straightforward and easy to follow.