Puppetry and Object Theatre (DRA2042)

StaffMs C Astles - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims:

  • to explore contemporary puppetry and object theatre through a practical examination of performance techniques and approaches and through research into significant performers, directors and theorists of puppetry.
  • to introduce you to a range of cultural and social contexts where puppetry intersects with local, social, religious, political and ritual practices;
  • to enable the development of skills in simple puppet-making;
  • to facilitate the development of skills in visual dramaturgy, staging and directing of puppetry and object theatre;
  • to encourage you to develop collaborative and ensemble working practices through collaborative training and performance.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Develop practical training and performance skills necessary for the understanding and creation of puppetry and object theatre
  • 2. Demonstrate practical performance skills including visual storytelling using objects, puppets and matter through collaborative work
  • 3. Understand and articulate approaches used by specific directors, practitioners and theorists of puppetry and theatre
  • 4. Gain an appreciation and understanding of the diverse contexts in which puppetry is practiced throughout the world and how it contributes to global understanding.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate the ability to relate to others in theatrical processes and performances; to work effectively with others in small task-orientated groups and to initiate and sustain creative, analytic and interpretative work within strict time limits and basic technical competence
  • 6. Demonstrate the ability to engage critically and analytically with physical discipline; the development of thoughtful creative processes and understanding of physicalisation in performance
  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to explore theoretical concerns through practice, and vice versa, and to synthesise findings in practical and written tasks. The ability to interpret research into physical practice and vice versa

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Develop confidence in performance skills and public presentation, both of dramatic practice and researched material
  • 9. Demonstrate the ability to collaborate in various groups and group sizes, to learn elements of teamwork and presentation
  • 10. Develop personal research skills using personal initiative; to set personal objectives and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The syllabus will include an exploration of performance styles within puppetry and object theatre, including primitivism and illusionism; different approaches used by directors and practitioners towards puppets and objects; animism and the creation of life in performance; diverse cultural approaches to puppetry and object theatre performance.
  • The module will work towards the preparation of a performance piece which will develop technical discipline in performing with puppets and objects. This will include training in animation and the development of focus, flow and presence within the object.

You will also consider wider concepts of puppetry, including the animation of scenography and environment, the animation of matter and the relationship between the puppeteer and the puppet. The module will include presentations of research and viewing of video material; there will also be visits to at least one performance, where possible.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching66Studio practice
Guided independent study234Group and independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
In-class presentations in small groupsPresentation of research and practice (10 – 20 minutes long, depending on task)1-10Verbal feedback from tutor and peers

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Continuous assessment including in-class presentations, participation in seminars, attendance, and final performance40Continuous 1-10Verbal and written feedback
Portfolio of written work including academic responses to material and creative writing603000 words3, 4, 7, 9, 10Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Continuous assessment including in-class presentationsPortfolio of evidence demonstrating reflections on practice, contributions to class work and research and performance. 1-10Referral/deferral period
PortfolioPortfolio3, 4, 76, 9, 10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Astles, Cariad (2008): ‘Alternative Puppet Bodies’ in Moin-Moin Year 04, No. 5
  • Astles, Cariad (2010): ‘Puppetry Training in Contemporary Live Theatre’ in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training
  • Baraitser, Marion (1999): ‘Introduction’, section on Doo Cot, ‘Notes on Puppetry as a theatrical art’ (Bass, Eric), ‘The Marionette Theatre’ (Silk, Dennis) and complete the questionnaire at the back of the volume, in Contemporary Theatre Review Vol. 2, Theatre of Animation: Contemporary Adult Puppet Plays in Context
  • Bicat, Tina (2007): Puppets and Performing Objects: A Practical Guide
  • Currell, David (2005): Puppets and Puppet Theatre
  • Dean, Anthony (ed) (2000): Puppetry: A User’s Guide
  • Sherzer, Dina & Joel Sherzer (eds) (1987): ‘Introduction’ and ‘Verbal Humor in the Puppet Show’ in Humor and Comedy in Puppetry
  • Fisher, James (ed) (1995): ‘The Perception of Puppetness in the Legacy of Modernism’ (Peterson, R) in The Puppetry Yearbook
  • Paska, Roman (1992): ‘New Lunar Taxonomies of the Puppet’ (handout)
  • Kantor, Tadeusz (1993): ‘The Theatre of Death 1975’ in A Journey through Other Spaces , pp. 106-116
  • Jurkowski, Henryk (1988): ‘Towards a Theatre of Objects’ &‘Between Literature and Plastic Art’ in Aspects of Puppet Theatre
  • Kominz, Laurence & Mark Levenson (1990): ‘The Appeal of the Puppet: God or Toy?’ (Tillis, Steve), ‘Between Illusion and Reality’, ‘Notes on Puppet Primitives and the Future of an Illusion’ (Paska, Roman), ‘The Burning Bush’ (Bradley, Reg)
  • Segel, Harold B. (1995): Pinocchio’s Progeny
  • Shershow, Scott Cutler (1995): ‘Modern and postmodern puppets in theory and practice’ in Puppets and
  • ‘Popular’ Culture , pp. 183-241
  • Sinclair. Anita (1995): The Puppetry Handbook

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Key words search

puppetry; performance; objects; theatre