Puppet Origin Stories: Astronaut

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 Gravity, 2020

Gravity is a performance supported by the Qualcomm Foundation, and was specially created for students with additional needs. Loo An Ni designed and created the costume, puppet and set for this production. To An Ni, this was an exercise in world building, and she tried to create contrast between the two worlds – the Space world and the Earth world.

As a starting point to land on an aesthetic that she wanted to use, An Ni considered how the astronaut graphic was being popularized, and the recent trends of incorporating astronauts in design. She landed on a vapourwave aesthetic for the Space world – signified by pastel tones, smooth textures and a “chill” vibe. In contrast, the Earth world’s main colors are green and browns. It is populated with urban decay, and incorporates rough textures, gravel and lichen.

Key Visual for Gravity

As the Astronaut was not used to being on earth, the puppet was created to show its disjointed state. Myra Loke, the Director of the show, and a puppet designer and maker herself, suggested using slinky within the limbs to demonstrate this. An Ni recycled tea canisters and attached the slinky to both ends. It was challenging to look for pure metal slinkies but it was essential for this puppet, as magnets could be attached to it to show how the puppet’s limbs were being stretched apart and snapped back. It was also coincidence and luck that the tea cannisters that An Ni had used were also metal, so this gadget was immediately possible. The Astronaut also had a rounded aesthetic as Myra had mentioned in conversation to An Ni that she liked round things, and so An Ni incorporated that aesthetic. 

Slinkies in Astronaut’s limbs

The lower limbs are also secured to the upper limbs by magnets, but the limbs eventually became too heavy for the magnets to support, so it kept dropping off. The puppeteers therefore had to hold them together manually. It is therefore essential to keep experimenting to find the right balance, for the magnets’ attraction to be of the right strength so the puppeteers will not have trouble pulling it apart, and for it to be strong enough to support the limbs.

Rehearsal of Gravity

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