Thursday, 25 December 2014

Marionette Gallery 22 - The ..??.. whatever he wants to be

Here is another character with a multitude of roles and sidekick appearances over the last .. forgot how many years. He was a priest and a museums curator and much more. Like a number of the characters I introduced, he is a marionette without legs. The shoulder piece of wood carries the costume, the hands are attached to the sleeves  and the head with a red cap on top. The index finger of the right hand shows slightly upward and gives caution. Of course like all of my Marionettes it is carved from linden wood.
Its a fun figure to bring out when he explained paintings and does not remember anything. These marionettes might be easy to assemble but harder to perform with. Keeping them on the same level so they do not float or drag their costume behind them takes skill. The Marionettes with legs always give you a clear reference when you perform.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Marionette Gallery 21 - The spy satelite

Part of Mustava and the Moon, it was inspired by the sputnik the russians send into space in 1957. That was a big thing back then when it released the little beeps from out of space. It was the cold war and well check it out on line. It certainly triggered the space race.

The marionette is created from laminated rings of plywood that I sanded once glued, to achieve alight and durable figure. The same technique I used for the Alien Alpha. You can see the mouth and by tilting the control the mouth opens and shuts. It had a broad american accent, well I can not do russian accents, sorry.

The whole show gave a lot of possibilities of follow up activities in schools. The set showed star constellations and had numerous reverences to spaceexploration. It does look like a simple marionette but as allways you have to come up with the idea and the first try does not work out many a times.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

touring diary 9 last for the year

Here we go! After on and off touring during the year and the start in Bluff so long ago, the theater has arrived in Kaitaia, the end of this years 30 years anniversary tour. Feels great and the audiences are as responsiv as everwhere.
Ahipara school is ready to watch the show.
After the show the classes can walk through the back of the stage.
They have a close up look at the marionettes and can ask me questions.

Packing up and the show will travel south. One day in Whangarei and two days in greater Auckland and the tour is over. Thank you to all my audiences it was a great year and hope to see you again. Underneath the view from Ahipara towards Cape Reinga.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

touring diary 8

Halfway up to Auckland having to get another tank full of Petrol. Great that I bought these magnetic stickers. Ordered six.....why? Surprise but one got stolen already. They are a great conversation starter too. People took photos of them and some are surprised that there is someone doing marionette shows in New Zealand.

Auckland, the land of busy motorways, unreal houseprices, a casino, beautiful beaches, extinged vulcanos and so much more. Here is a photo from Mt Eden. The central city at the back and all is half surrounded by water, just beautiful!!!!!
Shows are going very well and tomorrow am on my way to Kaitai, the last leg of my tour around New Zealand. It all started in the beginning of the year in Bluff, way way way down south. Having been to all provinces over the year was just great. Witnessing the changes due to the unreal expansion of dairying, the devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes, the decline of some small towns and the rocketing houseprices and migration to Auckland. My country changes in the fast lane. Hope we all can keep up with it. Cheers 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Let there be light - about my stagelights

Not that long ago in historic terms, electricity did not rate a mention. Nobody had a switch on the wall and if they had, nothing happened. The shows were done by candlelight or the old oillamps. Gas came later well and electricity is a recent arrival. Part of the stories about puppets coming alive, is in my opinion due to these live flames that flicker and move. Todays flicker is so short we do not notice it with the human eye. So what do I use to light up my stage? The shows I do tend to be in a darkened environment with my zoomspots ajusted on the stage.
For the last 25 plus years I used the selecon zoomspot 650. The company in those days was New Zealand owned and operated and is now part of Philips. They did and do a great service and are sturdy and reliable. Great choice all those years ago. Still going after all those years is without question a sign of great quality. And surving 25 plus years with a touring company is simply outstanding!
Here they are in the back of my Nissan Cefiro Stationwagon. They have seen the world and apart from the ocassional change of the light bulb and a broken cable, they are as good as they were on the first day. Yes scratches and marks are part of aging.
Here is an image of my standard setup during one of my shows on the Auckland/ Northland tour. The lights are on and the show starts. The beam is ajusted to a rectangle to fit the stage and not light up the surrroundings. Sometimes my marionettes should do a show by candlelight in a drafty tent. Just to hark back to the beginnings of our profession.

Just great light power and they use less energy. So happy with them! If they last as long as the first lot Iight actually be retired. :) Cheers and keep the lights on!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

touring diary 7 and a few things of interest

Yes the year is coming to and end and in mid November the last leg of the year around New Zealand will happen. Auckland and Northland for three weeks. Pretty excited about it. In the mean time it was shows around Wellington. Maybe I should write more about it. But its being home for me, sort of not touring. Here we are packing again and being on the road in my Nissan station wagon. Yes same thing as in the beginning of the year. Though different scenery ... I'll keep you updated.

October 2015 will see a  puppet festival in Wellington!!!!!!!!
Preparations are on the way for next years touring programme. Apart from New Zealand over the year 2015 with Beauty and the Beast, there is a good chance for Europe!!!! So if you are interested that we visit your country and do some performances, let me know. :-)

Thanks for the email asking about purchasing a puppet. Yes that's possible. I can even create a whole set for your theatre. Just get in contact.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Marionette Gallery 20 - Dog and Rat

Yeah a dog and a Rat. They did their appearance in numerous shows. Sometimes it is great to use them as a sidekick and interaction to lighten things up. Both have, as you see, no legs. Makes it a bit tricky to operate as you sort of have to glide them over the stage floor. You certainly do not want them to 'fly'. The dog is the more audience friendly of the two as you can imagine. Small fluffy dogs seem to have a universal appeal to audiences around the world!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Marionette Gallery 19 - Part of Beauty and the Beast

Fresh of the press.... no not really. Fresh from the workshop.  This creature is the little helper of the Beast from the well know story Beauty and the Beast. It will start touring in 2015.  The first time I made an unpainted figure. The wood is half rotten and worm eaten totara, a native timber of New Zealand. You can notice that nicely looking at the hands. In essence it is a shoulder piece with the two hands attached by strings. The head is free floating and can move up and down as well as sideways by manipulating the control. The idea was to have something a little bit scary. No reason to freak out your audience. This figure moves just brilliantly and expressively. It will be a real joy to work with. You might say it is just an elaborate 3 string marionette and you would be right. Why not try your own. Enjoy the process and the handling of such creatures. Cheers  Norbert

Monday, 20 October 2014

Puppet Collection 3 Turkey


Way back during the big Festival in India I met Hayali Torun Celebi the master shadow puppeteer from Turkey. We got on very well and he agreed to sell me the beautifully crafted puppets and story board. Coloured leather, they are a pleasure to look at and handle. There is so much one could write about shadow puppets and its history in these parts of the world. More than 300 years is a lot of history and under puppetry and politics there could be a lot to be said to. Karagoz and his friend did not hold back in comments to current developments. I wonder what they would have to say to the conflicts in the area in 2014. But here its just an introduction to maybe starting your own collection. Puppets of all shapes and kinds are an interesting part of world history. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Marionette Gallery 18 - City living

His latest position was as a security guard at the art gallery. He came in existence as I contemplated cities and what it does do to people. Well it drew a long bow in the development but this sort of cubist figure is a joy to get on stage in a variety of shows. It still surprises the audience as they might suddenly realize that everything is possible with those marionettes. At the end they are not real people but creations of our creativity and there are no limits to it.

Monday, 6 October 2014


It is nearly a year ago that I started this blog not knowing what to expect and where it might take me. So far it was and is rather enjoyable and its great to share. About my hometown, yes those brilliant days do happen here, though Wellington is very much known for being windy. No wonder as it is in the roaring forties. But as you know by now there are puppet activities happening here. After nearly a year it is time to thank you all for your interest in checking out my blog. Cheers  Norbert

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Marionette Gallery 17 - The trouble with women

Yes for me carving and creating women marionettes is not easy. Man, well you just churn them out and everybody will appreciate the character. With women characters you just have to get it right. Let me show you some of the early versions and the struggle it took for me to get to a nice, not over the top, convincing female character. After all these years I assume with my latest production to be finished, Beauty and the Beast it is about right. You will have seen them in other blog entries.

This curly black haired beauty was one of the first ones ever to see the light of day. You will be able to see from where the strings are attached, she could sway her hips. Nice little effect when she comes on stage. Though not a sustainable character for a show I thought. To over the top and a few technical hitches.
Here is a female character I created for -Fading memories-. With the apron, the idea was the housewife of the 30s, to fit into the script. Ponytailed and bright eyed, made for the show and I would have to think where else I could place her for another stage experience.

The resolute grandmother worked well. Maybe just another memory of my childhood appearing during the process of creation. She had parts in a variety of shows, Russian? Not really, all women wore head scarfs in my childhood, yes things change though she looks quintessential grandmother to me. For today a gray haired pair of cyclists might be appropriate? For each character it is hard to come up with a strong personality, convincing looks not to much over the top and not to flat. Believe me there were a lot that ended up heating the house.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Marionette Gallery 16 - The veteran in a wheelchair

War is a messy business. The heroes are dead and the survivors continue with mental and physical scars that come home with them. Growing up in the 50s there were enough WW2 veterans you could see in the streets. In wheelchairs like my grandfather, not the fast zippy hightech ones of today, but cumbersome vehicles of wood and steel. The old prosthesis and crutches left a legacy with me. Years later this figure emerged. Covered with the old blankets one hand missing and half the face gone. Or is it only a symbol for the inner pain? The fingers make the victory sign, still alive and wont give up.
Technically it is a rod marionette and it can be wheeled at enormous speed across the stage. As the wheels turn the hands go back and forth it conjures up a multitude of emotions in the audience. He was part of Fading Memories, a show of forgetting and not forgetting. Though wanted to put him in some standard role so he gets more acting time for himself.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Marionette Gallery 15 - Early creations

These two figures are some of the early creations of mine. My carving skills were very much in the beginning of their development and I started with a wood turned head form. That three dimensional shape got modified by adding the nose and carving into it. Looking at it now, the hands look rather crude though with a certain charm on their own.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

puppetry and politics

YES it is election year in New Zealand and this September the country can decide the future course of our beloved islands. Thought it is therefore very appropriate to weave it into my blog.

For a lot of people there are only questions marks having those two p words together. Though there is a long history of this partnership. It is not only and all about entertaining when it comes to puppets, there can be clear political messages too. Early on Puppeteers travelled from town to town and were the bringer of news, in times when newspapers did not exist, not to mention radio, tv, phone or internet. Reading up on the history of our profession there are many instances that puppeteers were thrown out of town for political engagement. During the second world war puppeteers were used to entertain troops with clear political guidelines of what to perform, at least on the German side. I have a number of scripts from those days that make your hair stand on end.

Does it exist today you may ask, certainly it does. I was drawn to it by an article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on humour in Syria where it mentioned Masasitmati. Curious about it, you tube gave me the answer with some very exciting clips. Hand puppets as a caricature of political actors with funny dialogues. Half will have past me by not knowing the political situation there to any deep extend. Though there it was political theatre with puppets no doubt hilarious for an insider.

Today the Bread and Puppet Theatre in the USA is widely known for using the art to spread a political message. Peter Schumann, its founder, had a clear vision and saw the poverty and  abuse of power and what and exciting medium to get the message across. Check the internet there are numerous entries and you tube clips, its very interesting

Here in New Zealand it was Red Mole who used theatre, puppetry, masks and performing arts to great effect. They toured New Zealand extensively and worked in New York. Sadly Sally Rodwell and Alan Brunton are not among us any more but their legacy lives on with all the people that worked with them over the years.

Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show of the 80s and 90s. It won Bafta and Emmy awards and I still remember scenes from those days about Thatcher and Ronald Regan. It found many copycats around the world, among them one here in New Zealand. 


PLEASE EXPLORE!!!!! and create your own show, the world needs it!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Marionette gallery 14 - The seven dwarfs

The seven Dwarfs from the famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Snow White. It is part of world heritage and Walt Disney promoted it to his profit very well. For me the dwarfs were never the cute little figures created in the USA. Before I carved them in wood in 1999 I reflected on them and their life. Digging for gold and diamonds is no walk in the park. Accidents do happen and leave their marks on the body of the little miners. They are also not that jolly either. So some have an eye missing crippled fingers or other mishaps.

The next problem was how to get them on to the stage. The solution, a controlle that can have them appear as 'one' or in a group of three or two groups of two. This gave a lot of combination and action possibilities. As a choreographed appearance they created a lot of laughs. When they moved together, one for all and all for one, forward backward or in circles it was hilarious.  There needed to be a more articulated figure as well. So the leader dwarf was created as a solo marionette
Here he is the leader of the pack. With his big solid hands that can swing the pick and shovel with ease. He could interact on stage as an individual and after leaving the stage could return with all his mates.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

the presence of the past, before the internet got BIG, 1990 and 1994

Reorganising my house shifting and changing, it is amazing what comes to the fore. From times before the internet was around and yes there were festivals too. And yes if its not on the net some might think it did/does not exist.
1990 might seem long ago. Strings Attached was one of the invited performers at the 150 years Treaty of Waitangi Celebrations. We performed Mustava and the Moon in the Waitangi visitors centre at 2.30 and 5 pm. Those were certainly memorable days, with the Bay full of large sailing shops and a large fleet of Wakas. A bit like a time warp of 150 year earlier. 
The same year, the show travelled to a huge Puppet Festival in India.
It was a dream representing New Zealand there. With practitioners from around the world, truly international. Africa and the Americas, Europe and Asia, Australia yes and Aotearoa, New Zealand. The show ranged from the traditional, like the Vietnamese Waterpuppets, to Massimo Schuster from France who presented an avant garde show that incorporated figures created from a Meccano set.

1994 was another exciting year with a festival tour around Europe. Performing YES, a table top production with the main figure digging itself out of a sandhill. The highlight, certainly being part of the main programme in Charleville-Mezieres that year. The show was very well received at each festival. Returning home to Wellington that year with a very different feel of internationality.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

pictures of an exhibition

Looks like a great exhibition at the Orewa Estuary Arts Centre. Speaking for myself, I do enjoy the way they displayed my marionettes.  According to Kim the Director the opening went well and there is a good stream of visitors. They also organised a very nice programme alongside.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Marionette Gallery 13 - Three Beggars -

Here they are the three beggars. They were my first experiment with multiple figures on one control. As a solo player you have to experiment with how to get more characters on stage. The problem of course is that there is not a lot of individual movement. Its more of a group entrance and action. This is, to judge by the audience reaction, very comical indeed. Though timing is crucial and overdoing it kills the whole thing. The three participated in some Till Eulenspiegel plays and Fastnachtsspiele. Yes it looks a bit Middle Ages and right you are! The other innovation I tried was loose fingers. Two of the figures have their fingers tied to a base which created noise, with the wood clunking together, as well as additional movement.
There are a few multiple figures in my creations, culminating in the seven dwarfs from the famous fairytale. More about that another time. For my current project of Beauty and the beast there will also be a set of twins on one control with better movement and graze I hope.

Cheers and keep on reading and exploring this little blog.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

touring diary 6

Whakamaru, Pataruru, Whakatane, Rotorua, Ngaruwwahia, Te Aroha, Te Puke, Whenuakite, Tairua and the list can go on. Small towns in New Zealand visited on this tour in the Waikato, the Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty. To most people even here in New Zealand they do not ring a bell. Heartland stuff that might not be part of the picture when you have your daily existence in the big cities like Wellington, Christchurch or Auckland. Certainly a quieter lifestyle with community focus. Yes another lovely tour that is part of me covering the country from Bluff to Kaitaia. Immensely enjoyable and it showed me again what an absolutely  brilliantly beautiful place this country of ours is. Apart from work in the Wellington region there is only the very north, Auckland and beyond, that will be covered at the end of November beginning of December. Very much looking forward to it.
For my overseas readers, no this images is not photo-shopped. Taken from the top of Paku hill looking towards inland Coromandel.
The children from Tairua School getting ready to enter the Tairua community hall for the show. Next to the water a magical spot. Tairua school is one of those schools that are build right by the water. Children have sailing and surfing as part of their sport activities. And when the Orcas come into the bay, school stops and they all have a look I was told. Special day and from here it was back to Wellington. There the trees were forming the spring buds and arriving in Wellington after eight hours of driving, winter was very much still present.
Last touring diary for a while enjoy my blog and looking forward to hearing from you.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

taking them to the exhibition and touring diary 5 - whow 7 images and a video clip

Great to be touring the upper part of the North Island. Yes all on the way to get to Kaitaia the very north of the north here in New Zealand. The Waikato with its lush hills, best dairy country in the world, is beautifull for touring. The greater area around Hamilton has a large population that enjoy a visit. This weekend though it was up to Auckland and Orewa to deliver my Marionettes to the exhibition of performing objects at the Estuary Arts Centre in Orewa.
Started with packing my five friends savely into the box for transport. Goethe, the Dragon, Gamma the Alien Bird, the blue Accountant and the Peha-Ane-Tonga.
Put into their sleeping bags and packed with bubble wrap they hopefully travel safely in my stationwagon.

All went well travelling the week on Waikato roads to arrive at Orewa. Here is Kim, the Director and Curator, standing in the corner of the Gallery where they will be displayed during August. Certainly a great event with workshops and shows. Hopefully to be repeated bianually.

Back in Auckland I went to the Viaduct area to see my friend Jonathan puppeteer extraordinaire. He currently busks with a singing Skeleton. The Sunday visitors loved it check out his website Good to catch up with him after 10 years. Hope we see us again later when I tour the far North.

And here the video!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Marionette Gallery 12 - The Aliens

For Mustava and the Moon there was a need for aliens. His Grandfather worked on a spaceship in the garage, Mustava does not believe it will fly and starts it by accident. He ends up on a far away planet and after being scared of them, helps the aliens against the thread of comets.

Here they are all together. I only used three for the show but they all had a go at being on the stage. Nice to swap them around a bit. They all have in common that they are made from wood and painted. Contrasting colours were important for the impact when they enter the stage as well as they had to be very different from the dressed marionettes. One, the ball on wheels, Alpha had an introduction in a previous blog entry.

This one was the bird like creature. The mouth could open really wide and the squawking sound it made was impressive. Its constructed from pieces of plywood, cut at different angles.

This yellow and blue one is based on the same mechanics as the classic marionette of the dancing skeleton. The head can float and the body falls apart, rather effective.

This red and yellow one is difficult to operate but the stride across the stage with those thin looong legs is beautiful.
Last but not least the clumsy Cyclop with the knee joints folding both ways. This makes for a very interesting sitting motion.
Recently I used the idea of painted marionettes again while creating the magic fish for the production of Titanic. Well it was a mix of Titanic and the fable of the fisherman and his wife. More about that another time. Thanks for reading and leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions. Next two week we will be on tour in the Waikato, a province of New Zealand just south of Auckland.  Cheers