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Marionette from Tiller family marionette company, 1870s-1890s V&A Museum no. S.286-1999
a marionette

A marionette is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings (wires being the standard now due to increased durability). A marionette's puppeteer is called a manipulator.[1] Marionettes are operated with the puppeteer hidden or revealed to an audience by using a vertical or horizontal control bar in different forms of theatres or entertainment venues. They have also been used in films and on television.

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Ancient times

Puppetry is an ancient form of performance. Some historians claim that they pre-date actors in theatre. There is evidence that they were used in Egypt as early as 2000 BC when string-operated figures of wood were manipulated to perform the action of kneading bread, and other string controlled objects. Wire controlled, articulated puppets made of clay and ivory have been found in Egyptian tombs. Marionette puppetry was used to display rituals and ceremonies using these string-operated figurines back in ancient times and is used today.

Though the Greeks left few physical examples of puppets, their literature suggests that puppetry was important. The oldest written record on puppetry can be found in the writings of Xenephon dating from around 422 BC. The Greek word usually translated as "puppets" is neurospasta, which means "string-pulling", from nervus, meaning either sinew, tendon, muscle, string, or wire, and span, to pull. Aristotle compared pulling strings to control heads, hands and eyes, shoulders and legs. Archimedes is known to have worked with marionettes. Plato's work is full of references to puppeteering. The 'Iliad' and the 'Odyssey' were presented using puppetry. Herodotus wrote that during festivals to honour Osiris, female priests carried statues which had moving arms activated by strings.

In ancient Greece and Rome clay and ivory dolls, dated from around 500 BC, were found in children's tombs. These dolls had articulated arms and legs, some of which had an iron rod extending up from the tops of their heads. This rod was used to manipulate the doll from above, exactly as is done today in Sicilian puppetry. A few of these dolls had strings in place of the rods. Some authorities believe these ancient figures were mere toys and not puppets due to their small size.

The Indian word sutradhara refers to the show-manager of theatrical performances (or a puppet-player), and also means literally "string-puller" or "string-holder".

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Italy is considered by many to be the early home of the marionette thanks to the influence of Roman puppetry. Xenophon and Plutarch refer to them. The Christian church used marionettes to perform morality plays. It is believed that the term marionette emerged around 1600. Comedy sneaked into the plays as time went by and ultimately led to an edict banning puppetry from the church. Puppeteers responded by setting up stages outside cathedrals and became ever more ribald and slapstick. Out of this grew the Italian comedy called commedia dell'arte. Puppets were used at times in this form of theatre. Sometimes Shakespeare's plays were performed using marionettes instead of actors.

Sicilian marionettes

The sides of donkey carts are decorated with intricate, painted scenes from the Frankish romantic poems, such as The Song of Roland; these same tales are enacted in traditional puppet theatres featuring hand-made marionettes of wood, this art is called Opira dî pupi (Opera of the puppets) in Sicilian. The opera of the puppets and the Sicilian tradition of cantastorî (sing stories) are rooted in the Provençal troubadour tradition in Sicily during the reign of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, in the first half of the 13th century. A great place to see this marionette art is the puppet theatres of Palermo, Sicily.

Marionette operas

From a production of Mozart's The Magic Flute by the Salzburg Marionette Theatre

In the eighteenth century, operas were specifically composed for marionettes. Mozart as a child had seen marionettes. Gluck, Haydn, de Falla and Respighi all composed adult operas for marionettes. Today in Salzburg in Austria, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre still continues the tradition of presenting full length opera using marionettes in their own purpose built theatre.

Marionettes in modern times

Marionettes are sometimes referred to as "puppets", but the term "marionettes" is more precise, distinguishing them from other forms of puppetry, such as finger, glove, rod and shadow puppetry.

In the UK the renaissance of Marionettes during the early 20th century was driven by W. H. Whanslaw and Waldo Lanchester, Two of the co founders of the B.P.M.T.G. (British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild). The only purpose-built UK marionette theatre founded by Eric Brammall is The Harlequin Puppet Theatre (built 1958) in Rhos on Sea, North Wales. Other theatres that occasionally perform with marionettes are The Little Angel Puppet Theatre, founded by John and Lyndie Wright in Islington, London and the Norwich Puppet Theatre founded by Ray & Joan DaSilva. In Scotland, Dr Malcolm Knight has championed the art form and over the last 25 years the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre has acted as a catalyst, a lead agency, and as a resource centre for all those with an interest in mask and puppet theatre.

The Salzburg Marionette Theatre was founded in 1913 by Professor Anton Aicher. Aicher was heavily influenced by Count Franz Pocci who founded the Munich Marionette Theatre in Germany in 1855. Today, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre is under the artistic direction of his granddaughter, Gretel Aicher, who commented on her lasting interest in marionettes, "What then is the fascination of a life with marionettes? Is it the pleasure of performing? The appeal of mastering an "instrument" to the point of virtuosity? The transformation of one's own self? For me, it is the process of emphathising with mind and soul, of feeling at one with music and movement that bring these much loved creatures to life. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre performs mainly operas such as Die Fledermaus and The Magic Flute and a small number of ballets such as The Nutcracker. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre productions are aimed for adults although children are welcome. There is also a marionette theatre at Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna. Marionette theatre also had a very long history in entertainment in Prague, and elsewhere in the Czech Republic. An important organisation is the National Marionette Theatre in Prague. Its repertoire mainly features a marionette production of Mozart's famous Don Giovanni. The production has period costumes and a beautifully designed eighteenth century setting. There are numerous other companies including, Buchty a Loutky ("Cakes and Puppets") founded by Marek Becka. Rocky IX and Tibet are just two works in the repertoire. [2]

In Australia, like is many other countries, there is a continuing tradition of marionette puppetry. Peter Scriven, founder of the Marionette Theatre of Australia, and Richard Bradshaw OAM are notable puppeteers.

In France, the most famous marionette is Guignol (hand marionette created in Lyon in 1808). In Picardie (France), Lafleur is a marionette from Amiens. The Cabotans d'Amiens are hand carved, using wood, with a central rod and strings for the arms and legs.

Television and film

With the rise in popularity of television and film, marionettes found a rise in popularity especially in children's programming. The story of Pinocchio and its Disney adaptation (Pinocchio), which was released in 1940, is a story about a marionette. In 1947, Howdy Doody introduced marionettes to Saturday morning television, with Howdy Doody (the main character) being a marionette, as well as some other characters.

In the 1950s, Bil Baird and Cora Eisenberg presented a great number of marionette shows for television, and were also responsible for the Lonely Goatherd sequence from the classic film The Sound of Music. Bil Baird also wrote a classic book on his work. [3] In Australia, a program called Mr. Squiggle, using a marionette central character of the same name, ran for just over 40 years (1959-1999). Another program for children using puppetry was the Magic Circle Club featuring puppets Cassius Cuckoo and Leonardo de Funbird.

Andypandy.jpg

In 1950 in the United Kingdom, a well loved marionette program for children, Andy Pandy entertained young and old. Later in the 1960s, Gerry Anderson with his wife, Sylvia Anderson and colleagues made a number of hit series, Fireball XL5, Stingray and Thunderbirds, which pioneered a technique combining marionettes and electronics. This allowed for radio control moving of the mouth of a marionettes. The technique is patented and called "supermarionation". The programs have been shown all around the world and are now widely distributed on DVD. Anderson also made two films, Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6. [4] Team America: World Police is a 2004 movie made by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker which uses the same style of supermarionation as Thunderbirds. Matt Stone and Trey Parker dubbed their version "Supercrappymation" due to the fact they intentionally left the strings visible, among other reasons.

Also appearing in 2004 was the full length marionette fantasy film Strings, directed by Dane Anders Rønnow Klarlund which received several awards.

Puppets have also been used widely in animated films. Czech animator, Jiří Trnka, was particularly famous for his work. Pixar also uses its own proprietary software called Marionette to create its animations.


Marionettes are featured in the 1999 film, "Being John Malkovich". John Cusack played a manipulator who referred to himself as a puppeteer.

Styles of marionettes

Sicilian marionettes

Sicilian marionettes are among the simplest marionettes to operate. They are usually carved out of wood and have a sturdy rod which extends up through the body into the head. This rod, and one string attached to the hand, controls the manipulation of the puppet.

Marionette in Prague

Czech marionettes

Czech rod marionettes are similar to Sicilian ones though they are more complex. They are hand carved, usually using lime wood. The marionettes have the central rod like the Sicilian marionette but also have strings for the arms and legs. Sometimes they also use string to control a mouth or movable ears. These require more skilled manipulation. Czechs also have marionettes that have no central rod and strings that are attached to the head, shoulders and back. These are the most difficult marionettes to manipulate due to the absence of the central rod. Miroslav Trejtnar is an acknowledged master puppeteer and teacher of traditional Czech marionette making skills.

References

  1. ^ Puppetry Today by Helan Binyon, p.11
  2. ^ Czech Puppet Theatre by Alice Dubska, p.56
  3. ^ The Art of the Puppet by Bil Baird
  4. ^ BBC Online - Cult - Gerry Anderson - Thunderbirds

Books

  • Baird, Bil (1966). The Art of the Puppet. Plays. ISBN 10 0823800679.  
  • Binyon, Helen (1966). Puppetry Today. London: Studio Vista Limited.  
  • Beaton, Mabel; Les Beaton (1948). Marionettes: A Hobby for Everyone. New York.  
  • Currell, David (1992). An Introduction to Puppets and Puppetmaking. London: New Burlington Books, Quintet Publishing Limited. ISBN 1 85348 389 3.  
  • Dubska, Alice; Jan Novak, Nina Malikova, Marie Zdenkova (2006). Czech Puppet Theatre. Prague: Theatre Institute. ISBN 80 7008 199 6.  
  • Latshaw, George (2000). The Complete Book of Puppetry. London: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-048640-952-8.  
  • Robinson, Stuart; Patricia Robertson (1967). Exploring Puppetry. London: Mills & Boon Limited.  
  • Sinclair, Anita (1995). The Puppetry Handbook. Richmond, Victoria, Australia: Richard Lee Publishing. ISBN 0 646 39063 5.  
  • Suib, Leonard; Muriel Broadman (1975). Marionettes Onstage!. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. ISBN 0 06 014166 2.  

See also

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also marionette

Contents

German

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Marionette

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Etymology

From French marionette

Noun

Marionette f. (genitive Marionette, plural Marionetten)

  1. A marionette or any type of puppet generally

Derived terms


Simple English

A marionette is a puppet that people control with strings called a manipulator from above.[1]

References

  1. Puppetry Today by Helan Binyon, p.11









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