Thursday Think Tank: YO Puppetry!

For this weeks Think Tank, we bring you a little bit of insight about the puppetry in Young Olympians!

Puppeteers Karli Cole and Renee Gerrard work together as two roles in YO: Chiron the Centaur and Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Hades.  With some coaching by fellow puppeteer, Vanessa Strickland*, Karli and Renee have (literally) been working in tandem with each other.  Each puppeteer was given the opportunity to explore the movement aspects and perspective of their partner so that a kinesthetic, or physical awareness can be created.  Particularly on puppets that require more than one puppeteer, each performer must be alert and receptive to the scene at hand as well as each other.  In the case of Cerberus, the head must know what the tail is doing and vice-versa.

Karli and Renee have taken some time to study the movement of dogs and horses on their own in order to achieve authentic movements together.  Young Olympians playwright, Sarah Shulman*, who has extensive experience with dogs, has been teaching Karli and Renee about canine movement.  Sarah has given them a dog vocabulary of sorts to help the puppeteers recreate dog poses and motions with their bodies.

Another animal which will be explored by both Karli and Renee is a horse.  Chiron is a Centaur, a half-human, half-horse creature of Greek mythology.  Much like how they are studying and learning about the motions of dogs, the movement of a horse differs enough to warrant observation and practice to make the motions seem authentic.

With both of these characters, accurate and convincing movement must be achieved when there is a physical handicap present.  As the back end of Chiron, Renee will be costumed in such a way that she will only be able to see the floor and Karli’s hips in front of her.  As Cerberus, Karli’s face will be masked, which will narrow her scope of vision as well.  For both performers, this creates the challenge of having a full awareness of the playing space and their fellow actors while having visual limits.  Again, the idea of being in touch with each other’s physicality comes into play to make the character work.

Costumes and puppets are currently undergoing construction, but we do want our audiences to experience seeing these characters for the first time live onstage, so be sure to come and check out Young Olympians!

Young Olympians opens Saturday, March 31st at 2pm and runs weekends through Sunday, April 22nd at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre, 31 W Patrick Street, Frederick, MD.  To purchase your tickets, call the MET box office at 301-694-4744 or order online!

* – indicates MET Company member