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Topic: Seeing your partner as real
Message: Posted by: Bohh (Jul 28, 2005 10:32AM)
Hey guys,

I'm using a muppet type soft puppet and was sitting with him yesterday. I know in all the books I read, they say to view your puppet as if he or she was real. Well he almost seemed real. It's hard to describe. It felt like we were almost there, but it still felt like I was talking to my hand.

Is this a normal stage in learning, where your sort of like "What am I doing?" How long did it take you to actually view your buddy as real?


As an aside, I had a quick question on the Maher Course. Is it really in depth? Because in the two books I'm working out of, it only spends a few pages on each of the hard letters and a few pages on manipulation. I'm trying to figure out what can all those booklets be covering.


Thanks a lot,

Mike
Message: Posted by: Joseph_Then (Jul 28, 2005 11:23AM)
Well, you'll realised that there is MORE than just not moving your lips... Get Maher Course and you'll find out how much you DO NOT know. :)
Message: Posted by: damien666 (Jul 28, 2005 01:18PM)
Just a thought - if you think your friend is REAL - you've gone over the edge and should be hospitalized. In your mind you think you are talking to your hand because you ARE talking to your hand. Your job as a vent is not to make yourself believe the puppet is real, it is to make the audience believe the illusion. It's true that over time and after working with your puppet, it will start to take on a personality of it's own, but that is just due to becoming more confident and by improving on your improv skills through practise, but it will always be your hand moving the puppet and the puppet will always travel as cargo. To make a long story short - take what you need from the books you are reading and take the rest with a grain of salt - do what works for you. good luck
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jul 28, 2005 07:37PM)
I met a ventriloquist at Venthaven who told me there was a time when he thought his puppets really did the talking themselves. Maybe he was kidding, but I'm glad he didn't take the seat next to me on the bus ride to the Venthaven Museum.

Of course you go for the illusion that you think he's real. Just as in magic you must look like you believe it's magic. I felt awkward at first but with time you develop a personality for each figure and you can improvise conversations and the figure's responses will seem almost spontaneous.
Message: Posted by: Daveandrews (Jul 28, 2005 07:54PM)
Nah, I've been venting for 25 years and believe me, she is a puppet!
She works very well and gives me hard time, but she is still a puppet!
I get totally involved, but she is still a puppet .. aren't you? lol
The last para of Oliver's post is spot on.

Enjoy the art.

Dave
Message: Posted by: Chrystal (Jul 28, 2005 09:05PM)
Hi,

I guess it's important to mention that often little ones watching the interaction between ourselves and a puppet/muppet are at the age where they believe it's real. I've been using my cat puppet for 17 years! Yes the same one! Out of all my props this one seems to have taken on a life of his own. (nope don't go running for that strait jacket yet.) Kids always asked me about Oscar and want to know questions about his life..lol. As a result, My real cat, who was also an orange Tabby like the puppet and had the same name, became the star of many shows. The real one never appeared with me, but I had taken many photos of him lounging around, playing with other cats, sleeping, ect and would show kids those photos. He became real to the children and as I've had him so long many now tell me memories they had of Oscar.

One year I appeared on a televised show (Telethon) and a famous news broadcaster started talking to Oscar and asking him questions..Ha Ha! The cameras weren't on us at the time..and the conversation he had with him..appeared to be very natural. Brings a smile to my face every time I think of that memory.

I suppose in some ways having him around so long I speak about him affectionately but as I said don't go for that strait jacket yet. In time your puppet or muppet will develope it's own personality (with help from you of course.) Just watch out they don't upstage you as once they get the taste of stardom....well enough said.

:O)
Chrystal
Message: Posted by: Bohh (Jul 29, 2005 10:44AM)
Thanks everyone for the replies. I must sound crazy! Just kidding.

What I've noticed is there is a delay when I answer or talk to the figure. It's as if I'm hesitating. Guess that goes away with practice.

Thanks a lot everyone,

Mike
Message: Posted by: KyletheGreat (Jul 29, 2005 10:55AM)
Well...getting used to talking to your body parts is something you have to get used to I guess!...Nobody take what I just said wrong...
Message: Posted by: Dickens & Dave (Dec 13, 2010 04:14PM)
[quote]
On 2005-07-28 14:18, damien666 wrote:
Your job as a vent is not to make yourself believe the puppet is real, it is to make the audience believe the illusion.[/quote]

Here's an oldie I almost hesitated to revive, but here goes....
I agree with the last part of the quoted statement, not so sure I go completely for the first part.
I can't remember the question that usually precedes this response from me, but I can remember telling people more than once, "If I can't make myself believe it's real, how can I make anyone else believe it?".
My goal is always to try to make myself believe it's real. Naturally, because I am the one creating the illusion, I can never completely achieve that goal, and never will unless I slip a nut, but trying to immerse myself in it to that degree I think helps me make it more believable. I think in acting, they call that "method acting".
One of the things new vents are often told to do is create a history for their figure, ie., likes, dislikes, etc. I create a complete overall character for a figure, and I think of them in those terms. When I practice with them, we don't practice routines, we chit-chat like a couple friends would do sitting around talking about whatever.
Of course, I guess another simpler way of saying it is just allowing myself to get into the illusion and trying to enjoy it as much as I hope those watching are.
But don't be calling out the mental health unit yet, I know they are a figures, I am the one giving them life (hmmmm, saying that, now there could be a problem with a God complex....) :)
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Dec 13, 2010 05:31PM)
My puppet doesn't think I'm real... :(
Message: Posted by: Servante (Dec 13, 2010 10:08PM)
Tom...my deepest sympathies. Perhaps one day.

Mike, I've been doing this for a lot of years, and I have also have professional training as an actor (also as a professional door stop and tea cozy, but that's another story).
In actors' training (The Stanislavsky system), we are told that an actor does not believe he is Hamlet. That would be crazy. Instead, an actor says, "I am not Hamlet, but what IF I WERE? And if I WERE, what would I DO?"
You don't say, "How would I feel?" because feelings are a result. You don't START with feelings. When something tragic happens, you don't say, "I'd better cry now." Crying comes naturally.
You don't believe you're REALLY Hamlet, any more than you believe your figure is REALLY alive independent of you. If you believed you really were Hamlet, why bother to mouth memorized lines...just go to Denmark. :)

The corollary is that what you have created (a character, in both cases) is not "real," but it is "true."

"My friend here is not real, but I must do everything in my power to make him true."
And, at a given point, you will find him naturally making comments in character.
I write for a living...and sometimes, when I'm in the zone, the characters I create seem to act independently as I'm writing them. Most writers will tell you about that phenomenon. But, of course, we know they're not really taking over...they are just so well developed that their next line of dialogue comes naturally.
The same applies to a vent figure.
Over the years, Louie, most especially, has surprised me with an adlib.
Not because he is real.
Because he is true.

-Philip
Message: Posted by: CaptKirk (Dec 14, 2010 07:15AM)
Well, I DO actually talk to my figures when I pass by them (I have Cletus and Grampa B sitting on the couch in my TV room)! When they answer me on their OWN, then I'll know I'm in serious trouble:o) Even now, they give me evil stares when I don't say anything to them. Maybe they're distant cousins to "Fats"???
Message: Posted by: ljlvent (Dec 14, 2010 08:16AM)
This is an interesting topic - I understand that Candice Bergen thought that Charlie really was her brother for many years! Our goal is to make our figures as believable as we can and part of that is like you have already stated Servante! Then the audience will be drawn into our illusion and that is what it is all about. Like the other day my little Lily and I were asked to come up and lead the children in singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". So we went up to the front - I had already taken my headset off - but not to worry! The MC just held the mic in front of LILY's mouth!!! I tried to move over but she just kept putting the mic more in front of LILY!! Of course 30 minutes later I thought of what Lily should have said! I am sure many of you have had that experience too!
Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (Dec 14, 2010 08:41AM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-14 09:16, ljlvent wrote:
I understand that Candice Bergen thought that Charlie really was her brother for many years!
[/quote]

Not quite true. In her book "Knock Wood," Candice points out that she resented that her father treated Charlie as if he were real (own bedroom in their house, etc) and made Candice act as if Charlie were her brother in public. She never believed he actually was.

Philip: Fantastic post! Beautifully stated.

Bob
Message: Posted by: harris (Dec 14, 2010 09:31AM)
Creating the illusion that he is real takes time and of course acting.

Vent is essentially a piece of theatre with two actors. I use the word actor to mean male or female.

Timing, writing and of course animation of you and your puppet are crucial.

My work in theatre as well as radio comedy were a great foundation and spring board into vent.

"They" (the puppets) get most of the laughs, I get to put the money into my account.

The puppets really help sell the Doctor of Laughology Programs. This season though not great, has been a decent one as far as gigs.

Connection to our audience is as important in vent as is my connection to my clients in counseling.

Listening helps.

Harris
Message: Posted by: ljlvent (Dec 14, 2010 10:13AM)
Not quite true. In her book "Knock Wood," Candice points out that she resented that her father treated Charlie as if he were real (own bedroom in their house, etc) and made Candice act as if Charlie were her brother in public. She never believed he actually was.


That is good to know!! This has been a fun post!
Message: Posted by: Dickens & Dave (Dec 14, 2010 10:58AM)
And here I was, almost afraid to revive it......
Message: Posted by: Servante (Dec 14, 2010 12:33PM)
Keep revivin'. :)

-Philip
Message: Posted by: Servante (Dec 14, 2010 12:33PM)
(Thanks, Bob)
-Philip
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Dec 14, 2010 12:44PM)
Here's how I look at it...when I am on stage with my puppet partner, it is like we are doing a 2 person play. If I was an actor, I have to believe for the purpose of the play that the other character is real. Do I believe they are that character off stage? No.
Now here's the catch, since I am playing that other character too, it is my job to make the audience believe he is a real character.
Do I think that the audience believes Horton is a real pig? No, but for our entertainment purposes, they "go along".
Message: Posted by: daffydoug (Dec 15, 2010 10:38AM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-14 09:16, ljlvent wrote:
This is an interesting topic - I understand that Candice Bergen thought that Charlie really was her brother for many years! Our goal is to make our figures as believable as we can and part of that is like you have already stated Servante! Then the audience will be drawn into our illusion and that is what it is all about. Like the other day my little Lily and I were asked to come up and lead the children in singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". So we went up to the front - I had already taken my headset off - but not to worry! The MC just held the mic in front of LILY's mouth!!! I tried to move over but she just kept putting the mic more in front of LILY!! Of course 30 minutes later I thought of what Lily should have said! I am sure many of you have had that experience too!
[/quote]

You're in good company. I remember the story of how that happened to Paul Winchell the first time he tried to put Jerry on TV. The boom mike above their heads was not picking up Jerry's voice, only Paul's. Only silence when Jerry was supposed to be giving his lines. As it turned out the boom operator was actually moving the mike back and forth between Jerry and Paul thinking the voice was actually coming from the figure. Paul told him to keep the mike on him, and the problem magically vanished.

Yup, even the greatest of us all, old Paul can't actually "throw" his voice.
Message: Posted by: TRUMPETMAN (Dec 15, 2010 10:31PM)
Like Neale, I view my puppets as members of the cast of my show. They get lines, rehearsals, and even tricks to perform (sometimes better than me !). I never view them as mere figures or inanimate props. They are valued cast members who have a role to play. I take special efforts to make sure audience members do not get to see load out, so they don't see figures getting stuffed into cases. Each figure is brought onstage as another actor in the play, then taken backstage, so they have an entrance and an exit. Quite often, part of the comedy revoloves around just those two actions.

Nice topic. Missed you guys. Nice to be back for awhile.....

:)

Mark
Message: Posted by: Mr. Pitts (Dec 16, 2010 12:13AM)
Hey Mark, nice to have you back.

In my vent act as it is developing now, I'm only using one character; my figure Henry. While I see him as basically a stage prop in one sense, he also serves as a vehicle for a character of course. It's a character I have created and must get to know well to create good comedy. I have to believe in him at some level to be able to project a believable, fully realized character to the audience. Ventriloquists are a little sensitive about this thing I think, because of portrayals that depict ventriloquists who 'cross the line' and can no longer separate the fiction they've created from reality. The truth is, many people grow attached to the tools they use, as they do tend to become extensions of ourselves. Bikers often have affection for their motorcycles, fishermen for certain rods, hunters for a particular rifle. But if it's a ventriloquist who makes their living with a puppet, somehow it's seen as crazy to have affection for that tool. But these puppets do become a part of our self-expression and important to us in ways that are greater than the inanimate props we all know them to be. Have you ever had a car for which you felt affection, or a house? I don't see this as being that different. Yes, I LIKE the character I've developed and the puppet through which I 'channel' him.

Back to the original question though... it took a while, maybe a year or two, before I developed Henry enough that he seemed like a real personality to me and I began to experience the 'spontaneous' responses Oliver mentioned. It's a process, it takes time to create and perform a believable character, especially if you are performing two (or more) at a time. To me, this is the real magic of ventriloquism.
Message: Posted by: Dickens & Dave (Dec 16, 2010 10:46AM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-16 01:13, Mr. Pitts wrote:
I have to believe in him at some level to be able to project a believable, fully realized character to the audience. [/quote]
Great post Mr. Pitts. I think that one line sums it up very nicely, and concisely.
Message: Posted by: Servante (Dec 16, 2010 11:32AM)
Yep. It's not unlike the toys I had as a child. As soon as I had some success, I went to ebay and rebought them.
They resonate for me.
It's not the thing itself...it's that resonance.

My main vent figure since the 1960's has been Louie. He resonates for me. We've been through a lot together. Recently I replaced him with a nearly identical, if larger, Hartz figure. I felt bad about it.
But the larger figure seems to have inherited the resonance.

-Philip
Message: Posted by: Mr. Pitts (Dec 16, 2010 06:22PM)
I thought of another comparison, maybe even more apt.. musicians and their instruments. I've known many guitar players who have named their favorite guitars.

By the way Phillip, if I were to get an 'upgrade' for Henry, it would definitely be a Hartz. He's just a great figure maker.
Message: Posted by: Servante (Dec 16, 2010 06:47PM)
He is, isn't he? Louie's mouth mechanism is whisper-quiet, and his face is just like my good old faithful Louie...only moreso. :)
Message: Posted by: Mr. Pitts (Dec 16, 2010 07:46PM)
I sure would like to see a picture comparing the two. I love Conrad's work.
Message: Posted by: Servante (Dec 16, 2010 09:01PM)
I'll try to do that, Mr. Pitts. Honest. Gotta lot of Christmasy things goin' on right now. Lemme get through some holiday stuff.
:)
-Philip
Message: Posted by: Mr. Pitts (Dec 16, 2010 09:14PM)
Whenever you get to it is fine. I'll be looking forward to seeing the pics.
Message: Posted by: Dickens & Dave (Dec 16, 2010 09:53PM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-16 19:22, Mr. Pitts wrote:
I thought of another comparison, maybe even more apt.. musicians and their instruments. I've known many guitar players who have named their favorite guitars.

By the way Phillip, if I were to get an 'upgrade' for Henry, it would definitely be a Hartz. He's just a great figure maker.
[/quote]

Oh, this comparison hits home since I also play guitar - although I have never named my guitars, you're right, many have.

And ditto on Hartz's figures. I've owned two and held a number of others, and they are Very nice figures. I sold one of the two I had because I could just never develop a character for him, but I really hesitated letting him go, and the one I still have will never go anywhere.