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).