Puppet Origin Stories: Confetti Drums

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 The Spirits Play, 2015

The confetti drum machine was a purpose-built gadget that was featured in the 2015 production of The Spirits Play, which was an anti-war performance originally written by theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun in 1998. Oliver Chong, the director of the production, had requested for a confetti drop that increases in intensity, and so Daniel Sim built one from scratch.

It was important to get the right components for this drum, and Daniel was lucky to stumble upon a kind old shop-owner of an electronic parts store in Sim Lim Tower. Daniel had initially wanted to ask about getting the right motor with variable speed controls to built the most suitable drum for the confetti machine, but the shop-owner, though quiet, was passionate about discussing about the art and craft of electronic parts, and soon he was brainstorming with Daniel about the ways of approaching this construction. He sat Daniel down and explained how to sort out the motor, and how to build it. Till this day, Daniel still goes to this particular shop to trouble him for engineering inspirations.

Variable speed controls
Motor for the drum

During the course of his research, Daniel found that some builders used PVC pipes to build the drum. However, the company did not have a Dremel (a hand-held rotary tool) back then and was thus unable to cut PVC pipes properly. There were a few components Daniel needed to create the machine such as a motor with a variable speed control and a round drum that was durable. The drum also had to have small holes to drop confetti through.

In the end, heavy-weight paper was used so that the holes could be easily cut. It was then rolled to form the drum and attached to circular wooden discs to maintain its shape. Because of the changes in humidity when moving in and out of air-conditioned venues, gaff tape was used to reinforce parts of the drum that had started to soften.

All four confetti drums were wired to a control box where the speed could be controlled by turning a knob. The control box also allowed for control of individual drums which was helpful when resetting the confetti after every show.

Resetting after every show

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