How to Make a Puppet Stage: PVC Puppet Stage Plans
Making a portable and inexpensive puppet stage is easy!
Kids love puppets! Maybe not all kids, but certainly lots of kids! How many puppet related kid shows do you remember through the years? Lamb Chop was a favorite! Mr. Rogers had a blast with his puppets. And who doesn't know Kermit the Frog and the Muppet Crew? There are varied approaches and interactive options, but there is something fun and enchanting about watching characters come to life!
For those that use puppets, there is the opportunity for teaching or inspiring, especially in educational and ministry settings. For kids, puppets are an exceptional way to promote use of the imagination. For me, it's a chance to be a part of kids' lives by teaching simple concepts. An informal puppeteer, I've written skits in both Spanish and English over the years. Sometimes I'm a puppeteer, sometimes I'm providing material for other amateur puppeteers. I don't intend to make the big time, but I love getting kids to laugh. Aside from that, I love developing a set of characters that can communicate a positive message. Whether you are teaching a Bible story or instructing your students in a foreign language, puppets can lighten the atmosphere while making an impression.
Puppet Show Needs:
One need, if you are a puppeteer, is puppets. They're easy to find, but I'll share my faves later in the lens. Another helpful tool is a puppet stage. As a former middle school teacher, though, I understand that supplies can tax an already tight budget. Frankly, the back of a chair and a sheet work well enough as a puppet stage. I used a bannister and a sheet for my Mom's 65th birthday/retirement party to put on a puppet toast. I used a blanket for my Dad's retirement! However, sometimes it's nice to have an actual stage. A cheap puppet stage made of PVC is perfect.
Image Credit: Vincelaconte at Flikr
There are lots of ways to make a puppet stage from the materials you have on hand. Improv is awesome and sparks creativity. I love the stage pictured here because it's bright and engaging!
PVC Puppet Stage
How to plan and make your puppet stage...
If you have some scrap PVC laying around, you may be able to construct a stage at little or no cost. However, PVC isn't all that expensive. The other advantage of PVC puppet stages is the fact that they can be disassembled. This limits storage problems. The size of PVC that you work with will determine the sturdiness of your stage, and the bigger your stage will be, the more sturdy you should make it.
Our ministry stage is constructed of 1 1/4" PVC pieces. We did a previous version years ago from smaller PVC, but it tended to be flimsy. In both cases, though, the ability to quickly assemble the stage and later break down was helpful. Our current stage is 3' tall, 3' deep and 4' wide. We comfortably seat 3 adults in the area for puppet shows. We can squeeze an extra character into a skit using one of the teenagers as an additional puppeteer. However, quarters are cramped.
For a PVC puppet stage for children, you can change the dimensions. Have your kids sit in chairs and extend their hands upward as if to work with puppets. The top of the stage should allow their hands to be several inches above without their heads showing. If multiple children will work with the stage, it's easy to stack chairs to increase a child's altitude.
You will need:4 legs: Straight pieces of PVC cut to the height you need. Accuracy is important. (3' each for an adult stage)2 straight side pieces: Connecting front to back, each supported by 2 legs. (3' each for an adult stage)1 straight front piece: Connecting sides and creating the main stage area to be viewed by spectators. (4' for our adult stage)2 elbows: These will connect the back legs to the side sections2 3-way elbows: Used to connect front, sides and front legs.
In all, you will need 22' of 1 1/4' PVC to recreate the stage that we use.
PVC Puppet Stage Dimensions
PVC Fittings for Making a Puppet Stage
These will be cheaper at your home improvement store, but to demonstrate the pieces you need, I've included them here.
Puppet Stage Tips
You can keep your stage completely ready to disassemble for storage or transport. However, if you need to be able to assemble quickly, it helps to secure the fittings to the side pieces with PVC Primer and Glue.
Covering the Puppet Stage
Your stage frame is made of PVC. The curtain to keep puppeteers hidden...easy! You need a fabric that is wide enough to drop all the way to the floor, but additionally you need some overlap. Our material is approximately 48" wide.
Your length needs to be sufficiently more than your sides and front combined (3+4+3 feet = 3 1/3 yards) to allow for some gathering. 2-3 feet extra, but you can round it off to 5 yards or 15 feet.
Your material can be playful or plain. We opt for a thick blue material that isn't see-through. This allows us to remain hidden behind the stage and perpetuates just a hint of mystery as to the identities of the characters.
No sewing necessary. Using two sided velcro and crazy glue, we attached 1" sections of velcro at 1' intervals. The curtain is attached over the front section of PVC and moved around the edges, unfastening and refastening velcro pieces as the material is pulled to either side. Even things out for a uniform appearance.
Puppet Curtain Illustrations
More about curtains...
Your puppet stage curtain can be as simple as an old sheet. It can be created in separate panels for each side. It can be sewn rather than velcroed. It can even be made of wrapping paper or butcher paper if you need something handy and temporary. You have the freedom to innovate because it's YOURS! Ours is adapted from a basic concept to suit our ministry needs (portability and quick assembly). Yours may be more about easy and quick breakdown or about clever design on your curtain.
Putting away a large single panel curtain is challenging...we end up folding it over much like a bolt of cloth. Separate panels are easier to manage in some respects, so consider your needs, and break your curtain into parts if needed. Allow some play in the front for draping around corners.
Getting Ready to Perform
Understudies Filling In...this is why we like a dark curtain!
Once You Make a Puppet Stage, You Need Puppets!
I can't recommend Folkmanis enough. If you've traveled to national park visitors' centers, you may have seen them. I met my first Folkmanis puppets at the Death Valley Visitor's Center, and fell in love with them. They are of high quality, reasonably priced given the quality, and fun for kids and adults. Check out a few right here!
Need a big and portable puppet stage that is already made?
I've had a request to provide some options to those looking for a full-sized puppet stage that is already together. If you have the resources or want to create something a bit more complex, there are some really nice stages available. Those featured here are examples.
Share your comments or ideas here!