Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Vision: Theatre to Entertain and Teach

Marionettes have been used throughout history in one form or another. The earliest ancestor of the marionette dates back to ancient times, from Burma to the Greeks and Romans. These puppets eventually gave birth to what we know as the marionette; a puppet controlled by strings from a person situated above the marionette.

Why start a theatre?

For a variety of reasons we had decided on utilizing theatrical productions to both entertain and educate participants. The first reason was that theatre is fun and many of our friends were quite interested in one form or other of the stage. Another reason was that it would be a interesting project to work on; starting from learning the basics and creating the simplest of marionettes and gradually working our way up to the truly fantastic and extensive marionettes designed in the medieval fashion.

The first goal was to entertain; for why else would somebody wish to see a show with dolls suspended from strings jiggling around on a stage? Performing stories such as the entertaining Quest for the Holy Grail, the moving Song of Roland, and snipets of the various fairy tales recorded by the Brothers Grimm reaches this goal. Entertainment in our corner of the Society for Creative Anachronism is sadly lacking and limited to bardic circles where songs are performed around a campfire. The entertainment of the masses has been and always will be the main goal of our modest troupe.

The second goal, and one that I still feel is vital, is to transfer the oral tradition of our medieval-minded group into a visual form. As a group that believes in preserving the collected medieval past of our forefathers, our history is woefully neglected; crumbling into dust as the years pass by. Theatre could, in essence, help keep the stories and traditions of our group alive.

So…why the marionettes?

Working with marionettes provides several benefits over traditional actors. Marionettes can perform many tasks that may seem magical or require special props with ease. For example, a marionette may fly through the air in one scene and swim under the ocean in the next without anything special besides imagination.

Additionally, marionettes were preferred over traditional actors in our situation because of the shortage of the latter; at least in our area. One experienced puppeteer can, in essence, control two marionettes at a time, thus increasing the amount viable performers quickly.

Also, using marionettes gives the puppeteer a sense of freedom, as only the marionette is being seen. This allows for even the shyest of people to pick up the controllers and perform the most outrageous and entertaining of performances.

Where do we go from here?

This blog is meant to showcase our studies into this unique and entertaining art form. Precious few resources can be found on the Internet that further studies into medieval and renaissance marionettes or their applications into the Society for Creative Anachronism. It is our hope that other people who are interested in our field of study can find more information and create their own working troupe.

Additionally, this blog will be ongoing as we continue to progress from the simple to the extravagant, from the amateur to the patient; and we invite you to come along with us.

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