Designing a marionette: the first steps

step one

    What kind of show are you designing the puppet for?
  • The dramaturgy of the performance should have a strong influence on the puppet design. Puppets for a comedy, for example, or a street theatre performance should be different from those for a poetic text-based performance.
  • Are performers skilled?
  • It is definitely not a good idea to create complicated puppets for beginners. Marionettes on wires are easier to manipulate, than marionettes on strings, which can even sometimes require two actors to manipulate one puppet.
  • How many people are performing?
  • If there are only one, or two puppeteers doing the performance, it is necessary to reduce the number of puppets onstage. If the marionettes are on wires the situation is easier because the puppets can sit, or kneel on the stage on their own while the puppeteer manipulates other puppets. If you are using marionettes on strings, it isn't possible for one actor to manipulate more than one puppet at a time. Puppets on strings also need more room around the controller so the puppet can move around the stage.
  • Where - what kind of space will be used for performing?
  • When deciding the form, weight, and type of materials used for the puppet (e.g. for costume), you must consider where you will be performing. For example, puppets made for schools performances must be simple and tough. Puppets for street theatre performances must be light and protected against rain and dirt.
  • How big is the audience? Some general guidelines:
  • You will make different kinds of puppets for a performance intended for a large theatre space vs. ones for a street performance.
  • For a small space (i.e. kindergarten), the puppets can be around 30-35 cm.
  • For a space with an audience of around 50-100, the puppet can be 45-60 cm.
  • For performance on a large stage in a large theatre, the puppet needs to be 50-85 cm.
  • A larger puppet is very heavy! (if the puppet is larger than 60 cm, it is good to hollow out the inside of the body and the head).
  • How much time do you have to make the puppets?
  • Construction of a marionette can take from five days to a week. Then come the final stages of finishing the puppet, such as painting and making a costume. While deciding the deadine, think about technological limitations - for example if the paints take a long time to fully dry, etc.
  • What's the budget?
  • It is best to decide on the cost of the puppet/scenery in advance. You should divide the work into stages and after each stage meet have the person who ordered the puppets approve and pay for that part of the work. It is necessary to decide in advance what will happen if the puppets break, what will happen to the puppet after the performance, and what the conditions are if the puppet is photographed and used for publicity materials.

zdar table

Before you start designing, Think about what you are going to make. Before you start, you need to have answers to this questions. Thinking about these questions will help you decide the size and technology of your puppet.