Puppet Origin Stories: Amrita

by fingerplayers

In 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we spoke to the Makers and Designers of the puppets we have in The Finger Players (TFP), to create the repository that is the Puppet Origin Stories – a humble effort to highlight the background, and the making and design history of these puppets. We hope that this can be a continued endeavour at TFP, and we hope that you can go on this journey with us.

Featured in: Amrita and the Trees, 1999, 2001 and Puppets Alive!, 2003

Amrita debuted in 1999 in the show titled Amrita and the Trees. Staged at The Substation, it was written by The Finger Players (TFP) Co-Founder Benjamin Ho, directed by Jeffrey Tan, and performed by Benjamin Ho and TFP Co-Founder Tan Beng Tian.

Amrita and The Trees, 1999

Amrita was the very first puppet that Beng Tian designed and built. There were certain details of Amrita which were more time-consuming to craft as she had woven hair and did not wear any shoes. This meant that the puppet maker would have to painstakingly weave yarn together to create a full head of hair, and carve toes – a step that could have been skipped if the puppet wore shoes. Furthermore, because it was essential for the puppet’s feet to be weighted down in order to simulate a more realistic walk, weights (in this case, batteries) were added retrospectively. This meant that after the feet were carved, the maker would then have to create a hole in the feet to insert the weights and then patch the hole up.

Each time Beng Tian created something, it was essential that she experimented with a new element. For Amrita, she experimented with a trigger-like gadget. This would allow the puppeteer to move Amrita’s lips with a lever which could be manipulated with the puppeteer’s index finger.

Amrita’s lips could be triggered to move by the puppeteer

The 2002 version of Amrita was actually remodelled from the original 1999 version. This was because in 1999, Beng Tian was unsatisfied with the shape of Amrita’s head. However, as crafting a new head from scratch would require a long time and delay the production timeline, she waited for an opportune moment in 2001, when preparations for the restaging of Amrita and the Trees began. She was determined to give Amrita new life, by creating a newly designed head for her.

The year 2003 saw another transformation of Amrita. Having retired from Amrita and the Trees, she took a year of hiatus before having her body refurbished. After donning a new set of costume, she took the stage by storm as the Karaoke Girl in Puppets Alive!.

Championed by:

Wu Peihui

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