Our first puppets were constructed purely out of newspaper and masking tape. They had a head, a spinal column, pairs of arms and legs, and a "popo." In this instance, our little creations were seeing this world for the first time, as only moments before they had been nothing but a page in the Daily Pennsylvanian or New York Times. We first worked in tableaus, getting our puppet to wake one step at a time before smoothing it out to have fluid motion. We found that controlling all of the limbs of this puppet by ourselves could prove rather difficult, so we attempted a technique similar to the puppeteers of bunraku in Japan. For bunraku puppets, there are three people controlling one assigned portion of the same puppet. One operates the feet, the other the left arm, and the head puppeteer is in charge of the right arm and head.
Newspaper puppets were just the beginning. We quickly learned that most anything that could evoke emotional responses from audience members could be turned into a puppet For example, a Styrofoam ball with a hole carved in the middle was our first hand puppet. By the tilt of our finger, we could exhibit disagreement, shame, joy, anger, or embarrassment. At this stage, Robert wanted us to experiment with giving text to our puppet characters. He gave us five minutes to write a monologue inspired by topics related to our studies, which we had written on the blackboard over the course of several weeks. At first we were terrified of the prospect of composing pieces for performance, but the time crunch helped alleviate the pressure. Eventually we continued the process with a dialogue-producing exercise, and brought the text to life using hand, rod, and shadow puppets.
Our final presentation ended up containing a nice mix of each puppetry medium, with text comprised of compilations of these five-minute writing intervals, and edits based on collaborative question-and-answer sessions between the author and the rest of the class. Robert pushed us to focus on why we needed to use puppets in the piece as opposed to human actors. How did puppets enhance the meaning of the piece, and what could the character do as a puppet that would be impossible with a live actor? The result was a collection of unique pieces that were influenced by different aspects of our comparison of science and theater. Some of the topics tackled included edited reality, mental illness, alternate universes, and the danger and responsibility that comes with new knowledge.