Students get hands on Japanese puppetry during Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe workshop and show

Students interact with The Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe during last Thursday evening's show

Last week, The Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe, the only traditional Japanese puppet troupe active outside Japan, held a workshop and show at SIUE.

Professor Martin Holman, of the University of Missouri – Columbia Japanese Studies Program, directed his troupe of 11 students, who are based Columbia, MO. Holman’s troupe has performed in 34 states and also Japan where they traveled to study the art form.

They demonstrated Japanese puppetry before a packed crowd in Dunham Hall Theater for a September 12 show.

Theater professor Laura Hanson said she decided to coordinate their appearance on campus after she watched them perform at the St. Louis Art Museum.

“It was eye-opening,” Hanson said. “I think it’s great for our students to see something from another culture. It ties in with our classes such as theater history and intro the theater.”

Lisa Hinrichs, a junior graphic design major said the show was really funny. She enjoyed the audience interaction.

During the workshop, Holman shared the history of Japanese puppetry. He said puppetry existed early on in civilization. The feudal period in Japan, from about 1200-1600, saw sophisticated rod puppets with three strings on necks that were used in public shows. After the World War II bombings of Japan, many puppet heads had to be replaced

He displayed puppets with colorful satin kimonos. While male puppets have feet, often female ones do not, according to Holman, “because they are rarely shown in Japanese productions.”

Puppeteers do not speak according to Holman, and do not make much sound except a guttural noise when the puppet is portrayed laughing. Sometimes the puppeteer would stomp on the floor.

Holman said on one side of the stage, as demonstrated during Thursday evening’s show, a vocalist would narrate a story, but would also dictate each puppet character’s dialogue.

For each puppet there are three men, for no female puppeteers exist in the Japanese genre, according to Holman. One person manipulates the feet, another operates the moveable neck and head and one hand, and the third moves and hold things on the other hand.

According to Holman, the puppet body consists mainly of: a wooden shoulder board with a loofa sponge on each end; a waist made from circular bamboo material; and legs on string that are tied to the top.

“You don’t need a whole body for the shape of the puppet which hangs especially as the kimono seams are square,” Holman said.

At the end of the workshop, students were allowed to group in threes and operate the puppets.

Joshua Pollard, a sophomore business marketing major said he really liked it.

“This is really fun to see how puppets work,” Pollard said.

Hinrichs said she liked playing with the puppets as well.

“They’re complex and a lot harder than I thought,” Hinrichs said.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: General CAS StoriesTheater & Dance

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Switch to our mobile site