Monday, July 4, 2011

The art of the No-Show

I'm a big fan of puppetry. My blog serial (now in book form) originated from a short puppet play. I collect old puppets, and I frequented puppet shows for awhile when I still lived in the 'happening' part of the state.
They're few and far between on this side, but I catch them when I can.
The art form fascinates me. We Americans tend to lump it into children's entertainment, but in truth it has a much loftier, and often bawdier, history.

For me, the illusion was the hook. I attended my first show and within moments of the lights dimming, the stage grew to gigantic proportions, the sets were life-sized, the puppets living, breathing individuals. Afterwards, when they allow you to approach and examine them, the tiny size was such a shock. I'd experienced something magic, and I fell in love with it.

They say actors usually don't care for puppetry, and I can understand that. The puppeteer is anonymous, his face unimportant. It's the illusion that matters.
I also believe, to an extent, the world looks for the same thing from its authors.

I think a lot about the hostility aimed at authors who over-promote. Granted, most of them are rude and/or downright stupid about it. But the strength of the venom from readers who are just plain sick of hearing authors speak--of seeing their faces--seems exaggerated in proportion. maybe not, some of these folks behave pretty badly,
but I have another theory too.

I think by speaking up too loudly the author is breaking the illusion. I suspect, the ability for the reader to immerse in the story, to believe in the world and the characters as real, living creatures is endangered by too much author input.
How can I suspend my disbelief, and dive fully into a book, when someone keeps reminding me they made it all up?

Is the illusion shattered by knowing the person who created it? Maybe not, but what if they repeatedly pop up to remind you about it? Is it like seeing that wizened old man working the controls behind the curtain?

There has to be a balance. I mean, people love Stephen King, the adore J.K. Rowling...but not as much as they love Harry. Most of them, I suspect, would rather think Harry told his own story. Hell, even I like to think, somewhere in the quiet, childlike places of my mind, that Daigon Alley really hides in a London back alley.

I mean, talk about shopping fantasy.

Okay, obviously the hard sell, used car salesman approach is annoying no matter what, but I'm curious what you all think about the rest of it. Can you keep the illusion if the author is too present? Or do you like to know about the process and the person behind the story?
Is there a line that shouldn't be crossed?

And just for me, who's your favorite puppet?
I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours. :)

~ Frances


Voss Foster said...

My favorite puppet? Well, from a purely technical standpoint it would have to be Gonzo--you simply can't tell that he's a puppet most of the time.

Frances Pauli said...

I saw Legend of the White Snake Fairy in seattle. The puppetter was a guest artist from China. He had hand puppets doing martial arts, flipping in the air and coming back down to land on his hand.
But my favorite was White Snake, a beautiful asian woman puppet who transformed into the huge white snake. awesome technique and delivery.

Frances Pauli said...

...but if i had to pick a muppet, it's Pepe. "I'm a king prawn okay? I will beat you like a bad, bad donkey."

Voss Foster said...

I wouldn't have answered with a muppet, but I couldn't think of any last night for the life of me.

We don't really see many over here on this side.

As for a style, marionettes all the way--I had one once, but I think it broke years ago.