The past few issues of PI, which dealt with the themes of Social Justice and Intangible Cultural Heritage, were decidedly “heady,” and we felt it was time to get back to what we puppeteers do best: Make stuff. More specifically, we make figures that can move in ways that enable audiences to see in them the gods, demons, tricksters, heroes and other characters that make up the great stories of human culture.

How do we accomplish such feats of almost magical transference? Nuts and bolts, cables and rocker arms, controllers and mechanisms of every sort. Sure, fine sculpting, costuming and wig-making help with the illusion, but if the puppet is incapable of moving well–it ain’t happening, folks. The pages that follow are full of the little secrets that puppeteers use to create the illusion of life in your standard shadows, rod puppets and string puppets as well as a simple marionette stage created in front of an audience, the physically demanding Karakuri ningyo festival puppets, and the larger than life Minotaure from the French company “La Machine.”

One thing you won’t find in this issue is the humble hand puppet. While there are specialized mechanisms used in some hand puppets, for the most part, they perform as a sort of enhanced hand pantomime. Also, PI #48 will be devoted in its entirety to the hand–its puppets, its expressive capacity, its care and feeding.

So come with me as we return to the informative reading of our collective youth, when Popular Mechanics, Popular Electronics, Model Railroad Hobbyist and even Boy’s Life helped fill our weekends and after school hours with the occult knowledge of how to make really cool stuff!

– Andrew Periale