Puppet Origin Stories: Faceless Maiden

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: Puppets Alive! 2, 2007

Faceless Maiden was made in 2003, a brainchild of The Finger Players (TFP) Co-Founder Ong Kian Sin. Operated by TFP Co-Founder Tan Beng Tian and Tan Wan Sze, Faceless Maiden debuted in schools under the short skit Contract, directed by Kian Sin. As part of NAC’s Arts in Education Programme, Contract toured extensively in schools.

The following year, Faceless Maiden travelled to Kenya, Taiwan and Japan and performed in the international puppet festivals there.

Performance at Yunlin International Puppetry Festival in 2004

Contract tells the story of a woman (played by Faceless Maiden) with a simple desire: to see the world in all its beauty. As she scours the land for a face to call her own, she soon realises that in spite of all the happiness the world had to offer, it was accompanied by darkness, pain and loss. With this realisation, she eventually decides to continue living without sight, as a faceless woman.

Close-up of the puppet to show the old pineapple tart tin container

Behind this enthralling tale, comes a heartwarming story of how Faceless Maiden came to be. The puppet was fashioned together humbly: using a few pieces of fabric and an old pineapple tart tin container. The fabric was gifted by a girl named Emilyn, whom Beng Tian met whilst doing a series of workshops in Raffles Girls Secondary School.

Emilyn continued working alongside Beng Tian in building props and puppets after her ‘O’ Levels. Before eventually furthering her studies abroad, she gifted Beng Tian with fabric which eventually became a part of Faceless Maiden. Today, Emilyn is known as Sister Mary Imelda in The Dominican Sisters of Wanganui, a convent in New Zealand.

The convent runs an orphanage, and Sister Mary Imelda still maintains contact with Beng Tian by writing to her every year.

Champion this puppet and its story today by making a donation HERE.

In 2020, The Finger Players collaborated with Youth Infinity to reimagine selected stories from TFP’s Puppet Origin Stories. These youths were invited to write a creative response to a story, which TFP responded to through a short film. As in-person programmes were cancelled during the Circuit Breaker, TFP sought to engage with communities in a different way. We hope these short films serve as a reminder of this meaningful collaboration.

Based on the origin story of Faceless Maiden, the following mini short film is a literary response by JS, 21, from Youth Infinity (a service by AMKFSC Community Service).