Puppet Origin Stories: Jackson

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: Battle of Redhill, 1996, Puppets! Puppets! Puppets!, 2007

Jackson, named after the King of Pop – Michael Jackson, has been touring around Singapore with The Finger Players (TFP) since 2007. He is the go-to puppet for post-show interactions and workshops, and his swanky look and groovy moves make him an instant hit with the young and old alike.

Ah Mu in white and blue/white checked headscarf

Before this, Jackson was actually Ah Mu, a character from the 1996 production of Battle of Redhill. This production was written and directed by Calvin Teng of Taiwan’s Song Song Song Children’s and Puppet Theatre, who had come to Singapore under the invitation of Kuo Pao Kun.

It was Calvin Teng who taught TFP Co-Founders Tan Beng Tian and Ong Kian Sin how to create the rod puppet Ah Mu, which became a very important foundation for the creation of all of TFP’s puppets over the next twenty years. This rod puppet was crafted with a wooden skeleton, beefed up using foam, with a head that was carved from Styrofoam. It was thus named a rod puppet because of the rods that were inserted into the head and both elbows. The puppeteer (or puppeteers), would bring the puppet to life by holding on to the rods, the metal hook under the spine of the puppet, as well as the feet.

In 2007, the production of Puppets! Puppets! Puppets! was created with the hope of giving retired puppets a new life, and Ah Mu, who had been retired for many years, was given a makeover in the form of a complete costume transformation, giving rise to the Jackson today.

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 Jackson, this is a literary response by LS, 18, from Youth Infinity (a service by AMKFSC Community Services)