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.
Masks are featured in a substantial number of The Finger Players’ (TFP) works as it allows for quick character changes and for actors to play multiple characters. This character was featured in the 2015 production of Love is The Last Thing on My Mind, written and directed by Ang Hui Bin, who was then Resident Artist of the TFP.
The foundation of this mask was a neutral cardboard mask. To make it sturdier, layers of papier mache and plaster gauze were piled over it. Unlike the previous masks which she designed and constructed, where all the features were painted on, Hui Bin wanted these masks to have a sense of organic movement and to be more life-like so that the performer and the mask could be seen as a single unit. After discussion with Myra (who was the co-puppet designer and maker), Hui Bin decided to incorporate the use of wigs as hair for some of the characters, and used fabric that resembled hair textures for other characters.
The masks were designed as half-masks so the performers would not run into problems with their microphones during quick change. Half-masks also meant that it was easier for the performers to breathe and articulate their lines. Being able to see part of the performer’s face also helped to blur the line between the mask (puppet) and the human.
It was TFP Co-Founder Tan Beng Tian who taught Hui Bin to use wood clay to enhance the features and Co-Founder Ong Kian Sin who taught her to add sand to the masks to give it a more realistic texture. While working on previous productions, Hui Bin also learnt about colours and painting techniques from Oliver Chong and Beng Tian. With all of these skills and knowledge acquired from the trio, Hui Bin was able to create a series of theatrical yet realistic looking masks.
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