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The Human Hand and its Effects in Puppetry by Estelle Bryer
The knowledge of the 3-foldness of the hand, the 3-foldness of the puppet and their effects on the 3-foldness of the growing human being is of vital importance to the puppeteer.
The fingers are connected with our thinking, the palm with our feeling and the base of the palm to the will.
Not only is there a 3-foldness but our hands also bear a pentagram. The pentagram is the etheric counterpart of the human being. Looking for example at the palm of the left hand one can trace a pentagram from the tip of the middle finger down to the left side at the bottom of the palm up to the end of the little finger, across the palm to the end of the thumb down to the right side of the bottom of the palm then up again to the tip of the middle finger.
Each finger is 3-fold. The top section has to do with thinking. The middle section with feeling and the bottom section with will.
The left hand has the more feeling quality and the right hand more will (in right-handed people?).
Our ego and potential from past life is etched on the palm of the left hand and the potential of this life on the palm of the right.
Each finger also has its own quality, e.g. thumb = will, future (as in hitching a lift). Pointer finger … ideas.
Complicated? Of course! Why shouldn't it be? It is our hands which lift us above the animals!
What is very important for puppeteers is the relaxed contraction and expansion of the hand in handling puppets, especially glove puppets where the chest of the puppet is related to the palm. If this is cramped the puppet's rhythmic system is cramped and this reacts on the child who imitates and absorbs all movement. A good exercise for puppeteers is to become aware of contraction and expansion in nature e.g. the opening and closing of daisies, night/dawn/day/sunset/night. Winter/spring/summer/autumn/winter and to bring this into movement using the whole body (arms and hands as well), All with quality imaginative movements, e.g. closing the hands qualitatively for night, slowly opening for the dawn, opening fully, feeling the rays of the sun stream out then slowly contracting. The key words always being 'quality movements' and 'mobility'. If one is aware of eurythmy movements these can also be done with the hands and also the fingers separately.e.g. L, M, S etc. but eurythmically. The best way to go about this is to do the full movement in order to get into the quality of it then the finger movements based on the quality of the big ones.
One has to enfold the puppet at all times with one's consciousness and feeling. The moment one loses contact with the puppet(s) the puppet dies and becomes 'wooden'. While performing, if one has to address the audience for any reason one must still envelop the puppets in the aura of the puppeteer.
In addition to all this one has to be 'inside the puppet and its character and gestures e.g. if the puppet listens to another puppet it must be still and “listening' as we do when we listen.
We must also be aware of the hips, knees and feet of the puppet (any kind of puppet) so that we are in the walk and can even feel the soles of the feet. Also the different kinds of walk according to the temperament of the character e.g. that of Snow White (nerve sense system) and Rose Red (blood system).
Puppetry is a high art that demands awareness at all times of what one is doing - It breathes, thinks, acts. Too often one sees the character expressions on the faces of the puppeteers instead of them living completely within the puppet itself.
When one sees the horrors of TV caricature puppets and the mechanics of life one can so easily see why "puppetry is the antidote of modern life" for children (if properly done, of course).
Puppeteers should also penetrate as far as possible into the meaning of the story and the characters e.g. the wolf is greed. This knowledge also penetrates into the audience.
"If you want your children to grow up to be imaginative, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be even more imaginative, tell them more fairy tales" … Albert Einstein.
Puppetry is an art of the future and the scope is vast.
The Warmth of Puppetry by Estelle Bryer
What is it within the art of puppetry that makes it the 'antidote to modern civilization' (Rudolf Steiner)? What are the essentials within the teachers performing of a puppet show that bring the healing within this art?
Many times in my long career, did I see puppet shows performed where the puppets were lifeless physical representations with constricted movement, and having no connection with the puppeteer. Because children live so actively into surrounding movement, this can actually have a negative effect and can cramp the breathing and physical of the child through its etheric (life) body.
What then is needed? Warmth and Love! We puppeteers must consciously be the Guardian Angels of the puppets and send our warmth and love down the strings or into the hands to enfold them. Never must this conscious link be broken. The gestures of the puppets must be conveyed through the puppeteers so that all becomes penetrated and alive.
I give eurythmy classes in order to help puppeteers enliven their puppets, to bring the full body gestures down to their hands specifically to fill them with life forces. In the same way as kindergarten students are taught how to light a candle with a 'filled gesture," so should this be at all times with the puppets.
To enhance the puppet movements, the puppeteers should also be aware of the 'invisible body' of the marionette/table top/rod or other puppet, e.g. legs, arms, feet, knees, the way the legs walk underneath the silk, and all the movements they contain. Of course the more one dwells on the actual story, the deeper the effect will be.
Puppetry is a spiritual responsibility, for it can contain within it all the other arts, and it is indeed an art out of the future, still to be fully developed.
I have experienced the magic of puppetry in countless situations. The puppet is a 'safe space' for a child to communicate through to an adult, in therapy or in the kindergarten or home. Elderly audiences in retirement homes will joyfully sing 'Twinkle twinkle little star' when my monkey puppet asks them to. No matter how primitive the attempt, even if with only on puppet, the magic will be alive as long as there is love and warmth as a binding between the puppet and the puppeteer, So … try it, and keep trying for the rewards will be great for all concerned.
As an octogenarian, Estelle Bryer still tells stories to adults and children, lectures and gives puppet workshops to students in Cape Town, South Africa. Estelle Bryer, a South African, has taught at the Constantia Waldorf School in Cape Town since its founding in 1960. She has been a kindergarten teacher, eurythmy teacher, and eurythmy therapist, and is now involved in teacher training. A puppetry pioneer since 1962, she has performed to more than three quarters of a million children. She is also the author of Movement for the Young Child (WECAN, 2011) and Advent and Christmas Stories (Hawthorn, 2010).
"Pimpernell" performed on January 25, 2019 by Ripples Puppetry Group in Olympia, Washington, United States.
"Pimpernell" is a Hungarian folktale about a little boy who is no bigger than a thumb, but as cheerful as a fish! This story of his trials and adventures reveals his strong, courageous heart as well!
"Pimpernell oh Pimpernell
Tiny little fellow
Though he's only inches high
His heart is great and wide!"
The West Coast Puppetry Conference for 2019 will be held in Olympia, Washington, United States in July 2019. The conference is in the planning stages and more information will be available soon.
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The Witch on a Windy Night -- Shadow Puppet Show by Ripples Puppetry
“During the first period of life, the child imitates all that goes on in its surroundings in a bodily-religious way.” Steiner, Understanding Young Children, Walking, Speaking, Thinking.
Our sense of movement gives us awareness of our muscles and joints. When children sit, stand, and move about at their own pace, they are developing their proprioception and vestibular senses, where they are in space, and their sense of balance. Movement integrates our senses and “every movement which we perform with our body is a visible expression of our will,” according to anthroposophical pediatrician Susan R. Johnson. Steiner says that self movement is related to the development of the will. In this paper, I will focus on the primitive reflexes that I have worked with regarding my own child and which I am able to identify through observation. Note that there are other reflexes which will not be discussed here.
Movements made as a result of reflex action myelinize the brain circuitry – like a road map. Sally Goddard states in her book, Reflexes, Learning and Behavior, “A reflex is an involuntary response to a stimulus and the entire physiological process activating it.”
The primitive reflexes are a group of motor reflexes found in new-born babies. They develop in utero and share the characteristics of being present at birth in a full-term, healthy baby and are mediated or arise from the brainstem.
A reflex is an immediate involuntary response evoked by a given stimulus. All reflex responses are involuntary and are not cognitive or actively set off. A stimulus which triggers a reflex always results in the same response. Primitive reflexes are motor/movement reflexes and a specific stimuli will lead to the same pattern or sequence of movements.
A large number of reflexes are found in the brainstem – a very old area of the brain positioned between the spinal cord and the cerebral hemispheres. The first of the primitive reflexes to emerge in utero is the Moro reflex, which appears between nine – twelve weeks after conception. In the first year of life, as a child grows and matures, the primitive reflexes are integrated or absorbed and replaced by the postural reflexes. Primitive reflexes never disappear but can be activated deliberately and they might gradually re-emerge with aging. Following head injury or cerebral insult or disease, they may dramatically re-appear.
The role of primitive reflexes is two-fold: firstly, to help with survival in those delicate early months when the baby’s nervous system is not fully connected and secondly, to assist the baby to move. As previously mentioned, reflex movement is patterned, consistent and involuntary movement but this movement helps to make the baby aware of his body and his surroundings. Gradually, as the primitive reflexes retreat or are integrated, conscious voluntary movements will be established.
The primitive reflexes can be divided into three groups – the multisensory reflex, primitive reflexes of position and the primitive tactile reflexes.