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).