Why I am a Puppeteer
My name is Joni-Rae Carrack and I am a puppeteer. I stumbled upon puppeteering when I was in my second year at Brunel University and once I tried it I was hooked and I think you could get hooked too.
I always see puppeteering as something that can be tried by anyone. If you have ever played with toys as a child, you already know how to bring life to an inanimate object, you have already believed that they have real lives. Being a puppeteer is just about accessing those instincts once again – and adding a bit more thoughtful technical skill. But it is also as much about playing and making it up as you go along. The only techniques you need are BFF Breath, Focus and Fixed point (and if you remember these, puppets will be your Best Friends Forever)
Once you have these in mind, you’re on your way to making some brilliant theatre.
Puppeteering has opened up all sorts of opportunities for me – I can play any character of any age, any gender, even any species! With puppetry, the only limit is your imagination. If you can imagine it, I believe it is possible and as a performer and theatre-maker this is not only exciting but very liberating.
A lot of the work I do is aimed at an adult audience and I enjoy the challenge that this brings. Puppetry isn’t just for children but is easily accepted by an adult audience. So far in my career I have explored some very hard hitting subjects such as mental illness, the process of adoption and the events of the Holocaust. These shows are the ones I am truly proud of. I wouldn’t have been able to make these pieces without the help of puppetry and seeing the feedback I have received from audiences makes it clear I have made the right decision to use them.
Puppetry is also perfect for interdisciplinary work – it isn’t limited to theatre just for puppets – it mixes well with other genres and theatre mediums. For example, I have worked on several operas that have used puppetry as an integral part of the devising process, I have manipulated puppets that have interacted easily with actors and I have used puppetry to support the telling of personal stories.
Learning to puppeteer can teach you a lot of skills that are essential to make good theatre – it develops your awareness of being in an ensemble (as you often have more than one puppeteer working on a puppet) you become more aware of physicality and how to convey emotion efficiently especially when you cannot change a puppets facial expression. I even found that using breath and focus has made me a better performer when I’m working without a puppet.
If you believe in the potential of a puppet and believe that it is alive, then you can create any piece you could dare to think about.