The way to the future starts in the past... - Letter to Puppeteers
The way to the future starts in the past... -
Dear Puppeteer or Technical Person

Thank you for your interest in the new project and we hope that you will like what you see and want to come on board.

It is a new idea (we hope unique but I’m sure someone will tell us if it is not!).  It is also a sort of co-operative in the loose term that the creative works come from members and is performed by the creator’s group and then passed on to other groups.  

It is very much payment by what you do rather than a shared profit though.  You will have a share of the ticket price or a percentage of any booking by a venue as well as a percentage of any show recordings which are sold after the show is performed.

The idea is that the plays and shows circulate through the groups.  We have an idea from a back story already in existence which involves puppets that are actors.  They put on the costumes and perform the plays.  So you can do an actual “profile” on the persona of the puppet and they are “stars” in their own right.  It makes it possible for them to do party visits and to appear outside the play as their own “person”.  

I’m working on making puppets but of course you are more than welcome to make your own.  Your puppet is a reflection of you as you are its handler and keeper.  If you would like to make your own puppet then as long as it is the right size then that is great.  I’m going to turn out very basic bodies, the face is up to you to paint or get painted to your style.  You can customise it as much as you like as long as it has the same size body so that the costumes etc can be circulated.

We would like to standardise what each group offers but you can personalise your theatre as much as you like.  We are looking at buying 10ft x 10ft pop up gazebos with a printed front with the theatre name so that you have somewhere specific to work, to keep your things while at a show and so that we can be specific about what space you need to put on a show.  It also allows the shows to be inside or outdoor.  We are looking at the easy to put up ones, don’t worry!  You are welcome to customise your theatre on the inside with drapes etc.  We can discuss practicalities once we have enough people on board to get started.
We will provide the equipment which includes the theatre, recording equipment, sound equipment etc.  That is “on lease” to your group and remains the property of the main company.

We intend to record every show.  One recording device will record the show, the other the crowd.  By buying a ticket the audience are agreeing to be recorded.  This is the responsibility of the technical person.  Each show is uploaded to our web site.  If it is requested to be purchased then our Show Editor will edit it to bring in crowd reaction etc and produce a finished and polished version for sale.  Shows will be for sale on memory sticks which are in a finger puppet case so that the purchaser has their own puppet to play with or use as a permanent case for the stick.  That is all handled here and figures for sold shows will be sent out monthly along with your payment.

We are looking at the puppet size at the moment.  We had thought full size human but that would not be practical for the gazebo size theatre.  We need to keep the theatre size small so that it can be booked for anywhere and so that we don’t need a huge venue to appear in.  Each theatre could have one full size puppet as a narrator or for storytelling?  

We also thought of a hybrid puppet which has detachable strings so it can also be a hand puppet.  That gives the puppets the option to “go visiting” or be used for storytelling and to interact with the audience after the show.  If you can get extra payment from children being photographed with the puppet then that is your own income.  Postcards of puppets and other keepsakes are also a possibility at a later date if this takes off.

We would love to set up groups all over the UK.  We are limited here as we cannot leave the animals as we run a smallholding with goats, ponies, donkeys and sheep.  As we have a natural theatre here made by a small quarry we are planning to work on the shows and record them here so that we can work out the lighting and sound so that it is programmed in before it is sent to you.  It also gives us something for promotion of each show.  You would be very welcome to come and be involved in the filming of the shows here as they are put together but we are in mid Wales and other than tents we have nowhere to put anyone up!  As part of the set up cost we could arrange for you to stay at the local Holiday Inn.  Obviously once the shows are circulating you won’t have time to do this for new shows and the Pantomimes and other seasonal shows but with communicating media these days we can work around that.

We are looking at funding options to set this up so we are working out the costings at the moment for a basic set up to get us all up and running.

That is the practical side.

The creative side is that we would love the shows to have a message but not to “bang the drum” about the message.  It is there but it is there without those who need it having it “in their face”.  One of the main topics we would like to address is Depression.  

I’ve been working with the idea of Frixians for about ten years now.  I started with a Puppet Company puppet which is now obsolete but I’ve adapted it a bit.  She was the first Frixian to return.  We set dressed a small barn and had friends round for roleplaying and a whole story built up around the barn which became a novel which I self published.

The back story I am proposing is about the Frixians.  They have always been here looking after children.  They are alien entities who have no physical form in this dimension so they inhabit toys and puppets to look after children.  So that teddy bear really can fight off the monster in the cupboard.  

Their enemies are the Goblians.  They are creatures which are created from hate, spite and all the negative traits of humanity.  When a wicked act is done or a spiteful word said another Goblian comes into being.  They feed on depression and they cause it.  When a Goblian is in the room everyone feels that unexplained negativity.

Frixians used to be all over the place.  They were originally bound into their bodies by The Toymaker who embodied any maker of toys to create that special toy which was going to be given as a gift.  As children began to prefer their computers and set aside their soft toys the Frixians became trapped or thrown away and where they aren’t loved they don’t stay.  

A Frixian can only enter a toy or puppet when it is a gift of love.  That love binds them to the toy and that love protects the child when the parents or anyone else can’t be there.  Frixian toys can also be found where they were originally a gift of love but were given away i.e. Charity Shops.  

The Frixian are back.  Widget woke up in the cryogenic unit of the interdimensional travelling device when it was found on a farm in Wales.  She and her sister Gadget who also woke up set about finding out what was going on.  They have now set The Weaver of Dreams free (big dragon) and she in turn has created a new Toymaker (old china headed puppet I found on Ebay who looks like Pinocchio’s maker).  So now there can be Frixians again and they are trying to “fight back” by encouraging children to love their toys again.

As the “battle” is hard with the toys not loved so much they have decided that some of them would like to become actors and try to convey their message via plays and have interaction with children that way.  

A Frixian is an ethereal creature.  They have been inhabiting any toy but they would like their puppets to reflect how they feel they are.  They have no gender as they don’t reproduce.  They are created out of love and hatched from eggs on their home dimension.  They are called through a gateway into this world and then inhabit toys either “to order” or they will wander until they find the right person to help.  If you could see a Frixian then they look like a classic Elf.  I found a book called Introduction to Making Cloth Dolls by Jan Horrox and in my mind they look a lot like that and that would be how they would like to be represented but with an opening mouth rather than a closed cloth one (bit like Widget).

Widget opens and closes her mouth as if she is talking but she “talks” to me via telepathy when we are interacting with children.  So we have a one sided conversation and I then say what she said to the person she is talking to.  For the plays they will have to find their voice as you most likely can do that.
As well as offering our own plays I was thinking we could offer “Mystery Plays”, a Nativity (here we are hoping to record something which involves the donkeys and other animals – could be a recipe for disaster!).  Perhaps a show specifically for Halloween, Easter and other festivals.  

You may like to know a bit about me.  I have put a CV on my web site.

I hope that I haven’t completely confused you.  What we are proposing is a sort of Franchise whereby you are part of a larger theatre group which puts on shows across the UK.  The plays and shows travel, the actors and puppets can enjoy not having to.  

I am planning an advertising campaign which will involve contacting all the places which would benefit from our services.  The ideal being to bring happiness and a bit “extra” to places so that those who visit there can have wonderful memories of the day.  I intend to target attractions etc in the area where you have your base to get bookings and to try to find venues where you can fill in with shows on a hopefully regular basis.  As the plays circulate that should keep everything fresh.  

As mentioned before it would be ideal if each group could write one play and then that play circulates.  When it comes to Pantomimes, similarly through the years.  If we have to go to external writers then obviously the cost of their work will come off of any profits from the show.

I have been asked about a web site.  We need to find a web designer!  It will be our face to the world and we need to have something that reflects what we do.  Ideally to have a place where we can put a bit about each of our “puppet stars” (Frixians) and their helpers (you as a puppeteer with your experience etc).  That may help you get other work but hopefully we’ll keep you in enough work that you won’t need to!

To get started it may be that we have to create a few plays and shows with one puppeteer.  This would give us a stock of solo shows in case they are needed for later as well.  Some puppeteers may prefer to work on their own.  We are happy to work with this idea.
(c) Angela Timms 2018

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