All original text and diagrams are in black and white (except for this page and the next) and any added comments by me are below that as are reworked diagrams if available. Some of the pages have the stringing color coded and you can isolate the strings by placing your cursor over the correct link.
I have also listed below some books on marionettes that are currently available. They are linked to the Amazon site but listed with each is the Author and the ISBN/ASIN so that you can search for them in your local library if you prefer.
Most of the tricks are traditional. Others are comparatively recent, and a few points are perhaps original here. Every inventive showman will stage them in his own way and devise variations. Like all time-honored tricks, they are always fresh to a new generation.
What is impossible for a human being may be easy for a marionette. In the group of transformation, inside-out, break-away and pop-out figures are tricks peculiar to marionettes only. They are amazing as magic, susceptible of endless changes, and tempting for the ingenious. Other stunts, walking a tight-rope or flying on a trapeze, require skill and special management, whether for men or marionettes. Still others, breathing visibly or picking up an object, are everyday acts for men, but tricks for marionettes. The last two classes are amusing or astonishing only in their clever imitation of men. They may appeal to the realist, but are sometimes more trouble than they are worth.
Circuses and revue scenes are enlivened by these tricks, or indeed composed mostly of them. Dramas may make use of them, but there they should never delay action. On principles of the devices shown, almost any sort of a trick can be worked out. This little book is intended to spur invention. (Page 31 is for your own notes.) The illustrator has therefore drawn unclothed those marionettes whose dress is not integral, so that if you follow the trick you may indulge your fancy in giving them clown suits, acrobats' fleshing or fancy costume.
Its head and torso are made in halves to join neatly together along a vertical line. Each half of the neck is linked separately to the shoulders. In the upper parts of the head and in the shoulders and hips are lead weights, the lowest the heaviest. The limbs are attached in the usual way; kneestrings run up to one control stick, and the hand-, shoulder- and head-strings to another. Pairs of wire loops are set into the top of the head, the chest and the pelvis on either side of the split. From one loop, where it is tied, a string passes freely through the other and up to the second control stick. these three special strings, pulled tight, are caught in a cut in the stick and secured on a button.
When the button is released and lowered, the weighted halves of the marionette will separate as far as the strings allow, and may be hopped about. If the two halves are to run off in separate directions, the control sticks may pull apart in the center, where they were butted in a metal sleeve; the strings holding the halves together may double down through the loops and up again, with one end free so that they may be released and pulled entirely out of the loops; then two puppeteers may rush the two halves off.
The costume covering the torso must be made with overlaps front and back, held together with small pins which pullout readily, or, better still, held merely by the friction of the material.
The lady is complete to the waist only, but by swinging her slightly from the shoulder-strings the motion of her full skirt suggests legs that walk. Under the skirt hangs the basket of the balloon with its passengers. Sometimes the two little figures emerge from the lady's arms, unhooked and turned inside out like the Grand Turk's. A hoop in the bottom of the skirt is pulled up by four strings passing through a hole in the center of the control stick and tied to a Ring. The skirt turns inside out like an umbrella on a windy day, closing on top with a drawstring, and hides the lady. Strings for hands, shoulders and head are attached to a single stick.
The success of the trick depends not only upon quick manipulation but upon the construction of the skirt. The balloon bag is first made of heavy, flexible material, possibly in vertical segments of contrasting colors. A draw-string is run through a hem to round it together at the top. It is then turned inside out and the lady's skirt and ruffles are applied of a soft, light stuff, the hoop being hidden by the bottom ruffle, which comes at the widest circumference of the bag. The rest of the bag, with its loose draw-string, is tucked up under the skirt.
The horizontal turn is very simple. A two-faced head is made, with a face front and back (if there may be considered to be a back). Fuzzy or flowing hair divides the two, which should differ from each other as much as possible in form and colour. The costume is in two similar contrasting halves. A single stick supports hand, shoulder and head strings. No legs are necessary with the flowing costume; a walk is suggested by the motion of the shoulders.
This marionette must walk on stage in "a cautious, sidling manner, lest the other side be seen too soon. And at the proper moment it must turn very neatly, and not too far around. If the back is made all of dull black, and it turns before a dull black background on a not too-brightly lighted stage, it will disappear.
The vertical turn is almost as simple. With this type the marionette may show its back without revealing its split personality. Two complete characters are made to the waist only, and there joined. A full skirt, each surface of contrasting colour, is attached at the waist. There are two control sticks, each supporting the hand, shoulder and head strings of one character.
By lowering one and raising the other, the marionette is made to turn, and the skirt hangs over the lower character.
This turn must be made very quickly, "with the audience's attention deflected by some other movement, a sudden noise or light. And the skirt should be weighted to turn without sticking.
From one control stick ran strings to support the shoulders and head, and the jaw-string. The head was not fastened to the neck at all, but hung from a single string. Screw-eyes at the temples, through which the shoulder strings passed without fastening, kept it from turning.
From a second stick ran a pair of strings through the shoulder screw-eyes, fastened to the upper-arm screw-eyes; and another pair through the hip screw-eyes, fastened to the thigh screw-eyes. From a third stick ran strings through elbow screweyes, fastened to screw-eyes at the knees.
The marionette dances in a low light against a dark background. The first two control sticks are held in one hand, the third in the other. By raising its end alternately the marionette is made to wave its arms and legs about. Pull up on the central string that supports the head; it will float and drop back into place. Hold the first stick in the teeth, lower the second with one hand and continue to manipulate the third in the other. The arms and legs will dance off into the air, and reunite with the trunk when the second stick is brought up again.
Like buxom ladies who turn into laden automobiles at the crack of a revolvershot, he comes apart and each part turns inside out. The trick takes a perfectly adjusted marionette and long practice so that it may go off without a hitch.
One stick with knee-strings makes the Turk walk. Another supports his shoulder-strings and six strings which lead to the heads of the concealed figures. One deft jerk pulls all to light. This is how it happens:
His neck pulls out of a socket in his shoulder block. The garment of the first figure, wrapped around its head to form the turban, jerks loose and falls over the Turk's head.
His sleeves are gathered at his shoulders by small rings over hooks in the ends of the shoulder block. The weight of his arms keeps them suspended until the jerk on the strings attached to the heads inside, when they come off and fall inside out, covering the arms and revealing the heads. In the same way the trousers unhook from the hoop which forms his girdle. His knee bar must be lowered so that its strings do not keep the trousers from turning down over the feet.
The head inside the chest, fixed to the shoulder block, is pulled with the block through the girdle hoop (which must be sufficiently large), the shoulder-strings are released from cuts in their stick, where they were held with buttons, and the last head dangles with the Turk's inside-out tunic for a dress.
The marionette is made of a few well-weighted parts held together by cord through eyelets, and by the costume. The neck rises on a cord well above the shoulders, but is secured by a tall, soft collar. And there are no upper arms or thighs, merely cords and the hallow tube of sleeve - and trouser-cloth. Between the shoulder and hip blocks there is only nylon cord; the ulster suggests the body.
Walking is managed by one stick with knee-strings. The other stick has the hand-strings (one is attached to the knob of the cane, which slips freely through a hole in the fist as the hand grasps it), elbow-strings (passing up inside the sleeves, out at the shoulders and up through holes in the stick, where they join at a ring on top), shoulder-strings, and head-strings (also going up through the stick with a ring on top).
When he shrinks, the gentleman is lowered by the stick with the shoulder-strings, and the ring on the elbow-strings is pulled up. This causes his body and arms to collapse. The walking stick, resting on the floor, rises through the fist as the arm drops. When the gentleman grows, the main stick is raised above its normal height and the ring on the head-strings is pulled up.
Many variations on growing, shrinking and neck stretching may be preformed in a similar way.
Pop-out marionettes are made with hollow bodies so that they crumple into small quarters. A Dutch milkmaid carrying two pails may come out and clog. At a certain point in the dance a tiny Dutch boy and girl hop out of the pails and clog also. In order to dance well they should be on a tandem controller; one puppeteer operates them, and another the milkmaid. Or seven or eight children may pop out of the pockets of the full skirt of the Old Lady who Lived in a Shoe. Or animated toys may jump out of Santa Claus' pack.
One marionette which was popular with English puppet showmen of the last century was a clown with a hollow body, whose head and neck rose, showing another head and neck below, and so on till a whole string of heads had risen from its shoulders.
The marionette which Goldsmith and his friends enjoyed was probably very simply strung, like the one here pictured. Strings to head and back are attached to one stick; the centre string effects a bow. Strings from the hands go up through holes in the pole to a second stick; when raised sharply, it causes the hands 10 be tossed up and the pike, or bar, to travel up into the air several inches. Then it slides down the strings by gravity and is neatly caught in the uplifted hands.
Perhaps this is all that the eighteenth century figure could do. But by running two more strings from the toes through the bar to a third stick, one can make the marionette toss the bar from its hands to its feet and back again as it lies on its back. This is done by pulling up sharply on the hand-string stick and the footstring one alternately. The figure may also be made to balance the pole on its head if two small nails are driven into it, about an inch apart, to keep the pole from rolling off.
One heel-string, attached to the end of the head-string stick, enables the marionette to skip on and off stage, and to dance between stunts. A strong-man weightlifter is operated on the same principle.
Knee-strings for walking are attached to one control stick. The hands have two sets of strings. One is knotted on the top of the hands, passed through holes in the bar and, with three or four inches of slack, tied to the ends of the second control stick. The other is knotted under the hands and brought directly to the stick, inside the first set. Heel-strings pass through holes in the stick and meet at a ring in the centre. The head- and back-strings are in the middle.
When the marionette carries his bar, the outside hand-strings are pulled tight. When he raises his hands from it, the inside strings are pulled. For sitting on the bar, the marionette's hands are detached, he is brought as far back from it as the slack of the outside hand-strings will allow, and the knee-strings are raised till the feet go over. For the hand-stand, the heel-strings are raised by pulling the ring in the centre of the stick.
This marionette is con trolled by three sticks. To the first are attached the head- I and back-strings. To the second are strung the hand-strings, passing through holes in wooden balls. When the ends of this stick are raised alternately, with sharp little jerks, the figur~ seems to juggle the balls.
If worked at right angles to the other I sticks, it will make the balls appear to be tossed from hand to hand.
From one end of the third stick a string passes down through a ball and fastens to the top of the marionette's head; from the other end a string passes through the other ball to its toe. If the stick with the handstrings is lowered, and this one is brought I into play, the balls will land on the head or toe.
A reclining marionette with strings going up from its toes through a large ball to a stick may juggle the ball with its feet in I the manner of a Japanese performer.
Plates, clubs, bouquets or other tossable objects may be substituted for the balls, but none are quite so good.
Two, marionettes that look alike are required. One is built with the usual joints and knee-, hip-, head- and back-strings attached to three sticks, one for knees, one for hips and one for head and back. The hip strings support the performer on forward and back bends. The arms hang down by force of gravity for a handstand and need no strings. (They are more effective with wrist joints.)
When the first marionette walks off into the wings, the second is substituted for the somersaults. This is built rigid, except for wrist and ankle joints, and very light. It is fixed to a rod at its line of balance near the hips. The rod passes through loops in the ends of supporting wires, which should be stiff, and of a colour to blend with the background. Fixed at the end of the hiprod away from the audience, outside the supporting wire, is a reel as big as the thickness of the marionette will allow; it must not be seen. Around this a string is wound as many times as the tumbler must somersault to cross the stage. By pulling this string the flip-flaps are effected.
The first marionette is then brought back for the bow, having been crossed over behind the scenes from the side where it first went off.
Unless a ludicrous parody of this performance is wanted, it must be practiced until everything goes without a hitch. The marionettes should have a tall proscenium arch or, lacking that, should be made small. Two puppeteers are needed.
One manipulates each figure. The under man need have no leg joints; solid legs would give him a rigid stance. He has head- and back-strings fastened to one stick, and hand-strings, passing through the top man's hands, fastened to another. The top man has head- and back-strings fastened to one stick, and knee-strings fastened to another, which has extensions at right-angles to its ends for heel-strings.
When the top man jumps, the' under man's hand-stick is raised, bringing the hands together I and raising his arms. The top man's knee-stick is raised till this figure is aloft, and it is then rotated so that its extensions bring up the heels. For a waist hold or a head stand, other strings might run from the under man's hands to the top man's waist, or from his head to hers.
Adagio dancers could be worked on this principle.
Or the same mischief-finder comes upon a ladder. He climbs to the top and gets his feet on rungs to either side. It is not a safety ladder, and begins to slip, its two halves spreading wider and wider. The clown, for all his waving, can do nothing to avert the catastrophe. With a sickening swoop the ladder goes flat on the floor and the clown is doing the splits.
The clown IS a usual marionette with one stick for head- and hand-strings and another, if desired, for knee-strings. His predicaments are only as funny as the puppeteer's timing of the action makes them; the arm motion must be well studied. The tables and chair, solidly built, are held together one on top of the other by a string passing through them. The forward sway is controlled by the puppeteer and the backward by an assistant holding this string from the top. One end of the ladder is hinged to a base-piece; the other slips freely on this base, pulled by strings from the side of the stage.
Toeing the ball is effected with short, rapid jerks ona string attached to one heel only. The other foot moves forward . as the ball rolls. It is attached to a rod which goes down into a slot in the ball and hooks over the bar which forms the ball's axis. Because of this slot the ball is divided in two, held together by the axial bar. The slot seems to be only another of the black stripes painted around the ball. It is rolled by a stiff wire, painted to blend with the background, and slipped over the protruding end of the axial bar. One stick holds the marionette's hand-, head-, backand heel-strings.
There is nothing special about the marionettes. The chest is opened by a string to its cover, and the knife drops into the thrower's hand from its sleeve; there is only one. After each throw the hand is lowered so quickly into the chest that this is not seen. At the same time a string behind the panel is pulled, releasing a catch which holds the handle of a knife, behind a hole in the panel. Rubber bands thrust out the knife handle first, and it stops and holds by a block at its tip. S6 all the prearranged knives are released. The holes are not noticeable in the dark velvet.
One puppeteer holds it to the trapeze, the other operates it. Strings from its hands run up through holes in the bar to a control stick. The assistant puppeteer pulls this up till the hands touch the bar, swings the trapeze and releases the marionette when its turn is done.
The chief puppeteer holds two control sticks. To one are attached kneestrings. To the other are attached head, heel and back strings. When the marionette chins, he lets down the second stick till the figure crouches, then pulls it up sharply as the assistant brings the hands to the bar, and finally raises it slowly till the arms bend and the head comes above the bar.
The marionette jumps for the trapeze again, sits or lies full length on it and swings, then drops off and bows. The chief puppeteer brings it to a chinning position, raises it further till its arms are over the bar, supporting its body by the back string, and shoves its legs over the bar by means of the kneestrings.
Now the marionette jumps for the bar, lifts heels over head and does a handstand on it, balancing for a moment, then slowly and carefully lifts a hand from the bar and remains poised on but one. Down again slowly, to drop off and bow. When the figure is almost ready to sit on the bar, its heel-strings are pulled up and it does a handstand on one or both hands.
Next it swings by its knees. While it sits on the bar the stick with headstrings is lowered till the figure falls over backwards, and the stick with kneestrings is held so that the knees hang bent over the bar.
To conclude the marionette runs, jumps to the bar, swings by the hands, drops off backwards, runs, catches it again, or misses and lands in the footlights or wings. In this turn the chief puppeteer makes it run and jump while the assistant, timing perfectly, pulls it to the bar and drops it again.
Or the aerial artiste may have pinpoints projecting from each sole. In this case the rope is a white tape, blackened all its length, save for a narrow strip toward the audience. As the marionette walks along its feet are pinned securely. With bent pins in the palms of its hands, it may drop and catch the "rope" by hooking into it. And if all its strings are double, passing through screw-eyes in the figure without being tied, they maybe released atone end, pulled straight through the eyes and whisked out of the way. The marionette, hanging by the hands, may then be turned over and over the rope which is swung like a jumping-rope from one side. Properly emphasized by a rolling drum, this trick has an exciting crescendo.
Three marionettes that look alike are used. The first crawls into the cannon, pulled in by strings from his feet that pass through the gun and out at the side of the stage, and stays there. The second, which was fastened to the side of the gun away from the audience all the time, is pulled up at the explosion. (This had better not be real gunpowder.) The third, with parachute and flags ready, is lowered at the proper moment.
For marching files a simpler arrangement is possible. The heads of the marchers are strung to a stick about two inches wide and as long as the file is to be. The knee-strings are attached to either side of a slightly broader stick above it. The lower stick hangs from the upper by pieces of stout, flexible cord at regular intervals. The upper stick is held firmly in both hands of the puppeteer, and without being tilted atone end or the other, is rocked briskly sidewise. The knees of the marionettes are lifted and the marchers are in motion.
Hand-strings for such groups may be used, but are seldom necessary.
With more colnplex controllers, such as those described on pages 58-60 of Puppetry 1934, marionettes strung in tandem may be made to turn about-face.
The marionette is jointed at the neck, arms, waist and hips, but the legs and feet are constructed in one stiff piece with pointed toes. The hips must be weighted, but the feet need not be. The head, back and arms are strung to one stick, the toes and heels to another. Much of the effectiveness of this marionette depends upon the manipulator's clear mental image of how ballet dancers move.
For instance, at the entrance of the dancer on the points, she may take sidewise steps, always facing the audience. These are small and weaving, giving the dancer a fluttering motion of the whole body. She sways gracefully at the waist; the head and arms bend freely. For a leap into the air, one toe is raised, she soars, and lands on it with the other out behind her. For a pirouette one toe is raised backwards and she turns rapidly on the other. Forward kicking belongs to the music-hall rather than to the classic ballet. Grouping and patterns of motion by several dancers. are more interesting in marionette ballerinas than solo work.
A circus equestrienne with toe attached to the back of her mount may be operated on the same principle. More will be said of animal marionettes, by the way, in a handbook devoted especially to them.
A free-jointed marionette, even without leg-strings, will jig and tap with jerks at its shoulder-strings only. The accidental swing of arms and legs, with joints at wrist and ankle, will seem to beat syncopated time to any lively tune.
Strings attached to the breasts and hips, running up to special sticks, enable a marionette to lean over backwards and shimmy in the naughty style which the orient never knew.
In the 1890's Loie Fuller developed the then-popular skirt-dance into a beautiful and abstract performance which was imitated far and wide, even by marionettes. The dancer wore a voluminous gown of very soft, flowing white material. It hung down from the neck like a circular cloak. The hems were grasped in the hands, or held out by sticks in the hands. On a darkened stage, against black velvet, and over a glass panel in the floor, the dancer waved and whirled her draperies while spot-lights from the sides and from the glass below played upon her in various colour combinations. The movement of the coloured garment suggested butterfly wings, fire, fountains and flowers. There was practically no foot movement. A marionette serpentine dancer m/ay be suspended from head-strings while an operator works continuations of the sticks in her hands through holes in the black velvet back-drop, and the electrician plays his coloured lights. The marionette may stand fixed to the floor, head and arm joints alone being necessary.
His arms and legs are pivoted on pins from front to bqck, like those of a jumpingjack. This makes it possible for him to squat and kick sidewards in the characteristic motions of this peasant dance. The head and hands are strung to one stick and the knees to another. A row of these dancers in Cossack costume, controlled in tandem, with spirited music and wild cries" interjected, would make a rousing number.
A tandem controller with figures facing each other will allow marionettes to foxtrot, waltz or rhumba. A string from the hand of one through that of the other dancer will bring them together when pulled. Adagio dancers work like the equilibrists already described.