Jesse North: This is a theatre company that offers entertainment with no strings attached. Okay, maybe a few. Paper Moon Puppet
Theatre has been entertaining kids for 25 years with whimsical characters and
classic stories. We’re here at their headquarters in Atlantic Highlands to
meet the hands behind these puppets. What is Paper Moon Theatre?
James Racioppi: Paper Moon Puppet Theatre is an in-house marionette theatre. We have all different kinds of puppets, mostly marionette theatre, that’s been in existence for about 25 years, and we entertain children camps and schools, etc. Jesse: Why did you start this company?
James: When I was a little kid I loved dolls and I lived in Newark, and you
don’t play with dolls in Newark in the ’50s. And if they moved it was okay. And I started making puppets at 9 and that was it. Jesse: What led you to starting a
theatre company for kids? James: I’ve always been entertaining kids since I was very young and when I moved down to New Jersey from New York I met some
people who said, “Would you like to do your puppets here?” They really set me up
here that’s the start of it. And we gradually built an audience and then a
following, and that was the way it started. Jesse: What kind of shows do you do here?
James: Fairy tales, fables, folk tales from around the world, but we don’t do the Disney versions, we go to the old source material and we try to be true to that.
Jesse: What do you love about puppets? James: I love to create a whole world around a figure and have the kids enter into it. I design the scenery, the backdrops, the costumes and the puppets, and try to make it all an aesthetic whole so the kids have a certain experience when they see it. Jesse: So you make these puppets yourselves.
James: Yeah, sure, because you can’t really buy them, and you build the puppet according to the needs of what it has to, how it has to move. I love that, it’s my favorite part of it anyway.
Jesse: What is it about puppets that you think connects with kids so well?
James: First of all, the puppets are smaller than they are, and so
they’re not intimidated by them, and second, when they see a puppet do
something that they do, they absolutely love it, because they can identify with
them, and also this is not a high-tech experience for the kids. Their imaginations do a lot of it. You present a little bit of reality to them and they fill in the rest.
Jesse: What do you want the kids to leave with after seeing
one of your shows here? James: I want them to leave with the knowledge that they can make believe, they can let their imaginations have free rein. Jesse: And you also do shows outside
of this theater, right? James: We are touring and that’s
a nice thing too because we can’t always get people to come here. Jesse: Can you show me how to use some of the puppets? James: Absolutely, it would be my pleasure. You want to a job here? Jesse: Yeah, let’s go. I’m here with Tyler, a puppeteer here at
Paper Moon, who’s gonna give us a backstage tour of the puppet theatre.
So what is going on here? Tyler: Okay, so what we’re dealing with here in this theatre,
in the in-house, here are marionettes. Jesse: What’s the difference between a
marionette and a puppet? Tyler: So a marionette, in simple terms, is a string puppet. So you have strings that come down from up above and they go to specific joints on
the puppet, and I’m gonna show you how they work, I’m gonna show you a little
bit about the stage and how it operates. Jesse: Awesome. Let’s take a look.
Tyler: Alright. Tyler: Alright, welcome to backstage.
Jesse: This is awesome.
Tyler: I know. Jesse: It’s very tight back here.
How do you work back here? Tyler: Well, just like a tiny house, everything has to have a function. Jesse: Wow. The set is, the set is just down here. Tyler: Yeah. The string puppet we’re working with will come through the wings and we’ll do our scene. When they’re
offstage, then they rest on hooks in the back, which you can see all around.
Jesse: Oh, wow. This is their hanging out in place. Tyler: Yea. See, there’s the lion,
there’s Glinda. Jesse: So this is where the performers are during the show.
Tyler: Correct. Jesse: How many performers do you
have during a show? Tyler: We have two, and sometimes a third, depending on how the show functions. Jesse: Wow. You just picture three people up here
working those puppets. Do the strings ever get tangled together? Tyler: If there’s a crevasse, it’ll get tangled. Here you go. Here’s Dorothy.
Jesse: Oh my gosh. Tyler: So first off, the first step is feeling the weight. Very important. Make sure you you feel
the contact on the floor. The next thing we’re gonna do is learn how to walk. So take the puppet in right hand.
Jesse: Okay. Tyler: And now, puppets walk on a beat. Jesse: Yeah.
Tyler: See? Jesse: Okay. Oh. We’re walking?
Tyler: You’re walking. Jesse: OK! We’re walking guys, we’re making movements. Jesse, what I want you to do, is just take your hand on the control like this, and take off the leg bar. We’re still gonna walk on a beat, but we’re going to rock this control back and forth. Jesse: Oh, there’s the second piece. I didn’t even realize that when you handed
it to me. Tyler: Establish your beat. Feel the weight of the puppet, and now, while you’re doing that,
rock this control back and forth. Good. Now, we’re gonna focus on the
second objective, which is focus. Jesse: Focus. So that has to do with the head, and so it’s
very important when you’re performing to focus on the character you’re
interacting with, otherwise the kids aren’t going to get it.
Jesse: Mmhmm. Tyler: If you could just kind of imagine,
he’s looking over her, Jesse: Right.
Tyler: because he’s a lot taller. But, if I tilt this control down a bit,
Jesse: Yep. Tyler: I can now look at you. And I want you to tilt this, almost as if… Jesse: Oh she’s…
Tyler: Yeah. Almost as if she’s staying still but yeah!
Perfect! Perfect! Jesse:So am I
talking to you right now? I’m glad that you can understand me now,
cause now you’ve taught me how to talk, I’m never gonna stop talking!
Tyler:Oh no! James: So Jesse, you a puppeteer now? Jesse: You know, I think I’m ready. Tyler, thank you so much for this
amazing puppet lesson. I loved it. Tyler: Oh, you’re welcome, Jesse. Jesse: I’m ready to just take Dorothy
and walk away with her. Tyler: Don’t walk away with her just yet,
we need her for the show!Come back here!