Inanimate objects usually in human or animal form, puppets are manipulated from above, below or behind by people known as puppeteers, or puppet masters.
Almost any material can be used to make a puppet; it is the manner in which the figure is con trolled that gives it life-like characteristics.
Types of Puppets
Hand puppets are the most basic of all puppets, usually consisting of a covering for the human hand in the form of an upper torso with two hands and a head. They are considered by many puppeteers to be the perfect form, as the slightest nuance and mannerism can be projected directly through the operator's hand and fingers.
Hand puppets are controlled from below and, as such, stage movements are limited. #Punch and Judy# shows are familiar examples.
String puppets, or marionettes, are full figure models attached to strings and operated from above. The body is usually made from wood and has cloth or pin hinges for the joints. Several strings are used on different parts of the body and they can be manipulated to give a strong impression of life-like movement. Commonly there is one string on each shoulder for main support, one on each side of the head, one for the middle of the back and one each for the hands, arms and legs. The strings should be invisible to the audience and are therefore usually a black nylon filament or fine wire.
Rod puppets are similar to marionettes but are operated by rods instead of strings. They are full figured and operated from below the stage. The central supporting member is a rod of wood or steel and smaller rods are fixed to head, arms and feet.
The shadow puppets of South East Asia, China and the east Mediterranean countries are variants of rod puppets. The presentation is a two-dimensional one, a shadow of the puppet being thrown onto a screen in front of the audience.
Shadow puppets are flat figures held between a translucent screen and a strong light. Their shadows alone are visible to the audience on the other side. They were particularly popular in Europe in the eighteenth century but are now most commonly found as a form of entertainment in China and Java and in parts of eastern Europe.