Academic journal article Review of Artistic Education

The Puppeteers as Solo Performance "Makers"

Academic journal article Review of Artistic Education

The Puppeteers as Solo Performance "Makers"

Article excerpt

SERGEY OBRAZTSOV - from traditional puppetry to essentializing the stage forms

Considered one of the greatest puppeteers of the 20th century, an actor and director of both musical and drama performances and a film producer at the same time, Sergey Vladimirovici Obraztsov, the founder of the Central Puppet Theatre of Moscow, imposed puppetry as an artistic form of expression within 1 O 1 the Soviet Union. According to his confessions in My Profession , his soloist activity can be divided into two periods: that of his becoming a soloist puppeteer based on his aesthetic principles he was to use throughout his career, namely his "family" performances, and that of his artistic maturity, when he defined and refined his artistic style in his professional shows.

Let us keep in mind that Obraztsov's impressive solos emerged in a time when puppetry was next to amateurship and was being transferred from the streets and into professional institutions. Obraztsov was very much like the Petrushniks, the itinerant players, a factotum that was both an actor and a puppet manipulator, the stage props maker and the screenwriter of his own performances. But unlike the old times artist, whose skills were mainly technical and focused on the manipulation of the various objects, Obraztsov's puppet took the role of both character and actor.

His main interest lay in the dramatic character, more specifically in the nature of man himself. He was a keen observer of the human nature and its weaknesses, which were a constant source of inspiration to his performances. He borrowed from Stanislavsky the latter's view on the stage performance and applied it to the puppet theatre in the relationship between characters, in their love or discords. As a consequence, a number of practitioners and theorists of i the 1960's considered his performances to be deeply realistic, imitative . If that were the case, it was more like imitating the human universe, actually transfiguring it.

In the 1930's, Obraztsov's observations on the hand puppet led him to abandon any costume in favour of the naked hand. Following the model of the well-known characters of the puppet theatre such as Punch, Guignol or Petrushka, the artist understood that essentializing was the key word in conceiving his characters that were to have a puppet head and the dressed human hand for a body. He drew the conclusion that a puppet's essentialized features are more appropriate for a naked hand than a reproduction of the human body. This simplified form is of great support to the stage representation of the puppet that would not mechanically render the human movements, but "concisely express their emotions".

Speaking about the various situations in which a soloist performer may find himself, Sergey Obraztsov admits that they are linked to one another in that the first directions offered by the producer trigger in the actor an excitement regarding his future character and then a constant search for appropriate manipulating means.

Throughout his acting and directing career, the artist was very careful about controlling his stage manifestations and his inspiration would always follow his reasoning. His screenplay would come to life only after every detail was established. The whole process had different stages as the audience would usually differ from one performance to another. The most important of them was meeting the audience, the end of a road and the beginning of another of new searches for an appropriate adjustment of the personal emotion to that of the character.

By comparing the world of the drama actor or puppeteer that play on a stage with other fellow-actors, who have a director, a scenographer and all the necessary stage elements with that of the soloist performer, Obraztsov considers that the latter's mission is more difficult: "On stage, even the big role actors are supported by their stage partners, the lights, the props, while in the street the actor is basically by himself. …

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