Puppet Origin Stories: Sponge Girl

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.

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Sponge Girl was created during Myra Loke’s time at The Finger Players (TFP) as an apprentice. It was made during a puppet-making masterclass, conducted by TFP Co-Founders Ong Kian Sin and Tan Beng Tian, and was the first puppet that Myra had made. It was initially meant to be featured in an Arts Education Programme. However due to multiple factors, that project was postponed indefinitely.

TFP Batch #1 Apprentices and the puppets they built during the class

The theme of the masterclass then was “When I was young”, so all apprentices were tasked with making younger versions of themselves. This was the puppet that evoked a lot of introspection and emotions for Myra because she couldn’t recall what she was like in her younger years. She also did not have access to photos of her childhood and frankly felt lost.

Thus, Myra decided to reinterpret the design brief to create the younger version of herself that she wished she was. She started recreating her past, and in turn, her younger self. She wanted it to look perfect because she wished that she was. To achieve this, she spent hours in the workshop perfecting the puppet’s head and body, even after everyone else had left.

There were three parts of the puppet that had to be made from scratch – its head, torso and limbs.

Creating the puppet’s head proved the most challenging for Myra because she had to shave and carve a square Styrofoam piece to look like a human head, despite having zero experience in 3D carving. Eventually, though Myra had felt that her face was a little too flat, and not as human-like as the puppets her mentors had made, she believed it was alright, as not everything can be perfect.

A “flat” face according to Myra

She encountered another creative block when it came to dressing the puppet – she couldn’t find clothes that reminded her of her young self, or anything she wanted her younger self to wear.

It was at this time that Kian Sin had told her to not fret about the eventual product yet, but to just take her time to do something else, anything, and the idea will naturally come along. He handed Myra some sponge, which was meant to be the “flesh” of the puppet. However, the sponge eventually became the puppet’s clothes instead, and Myra liked that this sponge represented infinite possibilities – this puppet could be like sponge, soaking in anything and everything along her journey. She could be anything she wanted, and so, Sponge Girl was born.

In retrospect, even though Myra was recreating her past, at the same time, she was also starting a new phase of her life – being the apprentice in a company that she had wished to work with since she was a student. Sponge Girl then became a statement for herself and for the people who encountered her – that everything is in your hands, and you have the power to create what you want to see and want to be.

Championed by:

Chang Chuyan
Dancing Giraffe

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 Sponge Girl, the following mini short film is a literary response by XS, 18, from Youth Infinity (a service by AMKFSC Community Service).