The Firebird

A visit to the puppet studio

Video Tour

The puppet studio is buzzing right now as our puppets are coming together in time for rehearsals to begin on Monday. Many friends have visited us over the past weeks, and we’ve been doing a very brief tour around for them. I know many others would like to have a peek too so here’s a little 2 minute guided tour.

Puppet Studio

Its hard to believe that we have already been busy in the studio for 33 weeks. It occurred to me that by the time we finish we will have spent 40 weeks building puppets in the puppet studio… a fitting length to give birth to this production of the Firebird.

eyes in the puppet studio

Puppet Eyes recently cast in resin

Materials

I’ve taken the concept of the three prime forces at play in the show right down to even the materials we’re using. I’ve written more about the rationale behind this here.

Paper

In brief, qualities of inspiration and passion (the original firebird character) are represented by birdlike images. For this we’ve used paper in various forms.

Firebird paper

I’m laying out some of the paper that the dancers will form an early bird from on the floor of the studio.

Puppet leg in the puppet studio

Ok, it’s not all paper – on the final bird we have complex mechanical legs. Here’s Kyle testing the bird’s leg mechanism

Rattan and Sticks

We found form for the energies of doubt and aggression (the original Kastchei) in the increasingly detailed snakes and dog-like creatures. The material here is sticks and rattan.

building the snake head

To form the head of the snake, I’m wrapping rattan around a rough polystyrene head which will later be removed.

Vellum

The qualities of innocence and playfulness (the original Princesses) take the form of children. The material here is vellum.

Puppet legs on the workbench

Puppet legs on the workbench

Puppet heads in the puppet studio

Heads of the ‘innocents’ before being painted and covered in Vellum. These are classic bonraku style puppets

It all comes together

As the forces interact, they begin to take on aspects of the other’s identity, slowly transforming and integrating. The final puppet (the dragon) is a combination of bird and beast: of sticks, paper, and vellum. Although right now she is still structural aluminium : )

Firebird dragon in the puppet studio

Jonah directs the first hoisting of the Dragon. It’s a tense moment as he waits to see if it all works as planned. (it did)