This is an article I'm tweaking for submission to magazines.
| Kermit the Frog, The Cookie Monster and Elmo are all Muppet's created by Jim Henson, they're a small part of the puppet family. Punch and Judy, Pinocchio and Lamb Chop are all other types of puppets. Puppets can be made from items like paper, cloth, wood, plastic, milk cartons and can be embellished with buttons, ribbons, bells, chenille sticks, glitter glue or anything that is handy.|
The beginning of puppetry is clouded in mystery. Some experts say the first puppet shows happened in ancient Egypt or Greece, during religious festivals to popularize religious legends. Puppet-like figures have been found in tombs and ruins in Egypt, Greece and Rome. Others believe puppetry originated in the Far East in Burma, China and the islands of Java or Bali. While others believe that it may have started when ancient peoples put their hands in front of a fire to cast shadows onto walls while telling stories. The shadows could have resembled people, animals, and imaginary creatures. Most scholars believe puppetry predates written language. There is some evidence that statues in some ancient temples of Greece and Rome had moving parts. These types of statues can also be found in some medieval European churches and among some African tribes. Puppetry among North American Natives was often ceremonial and sacred, after Europeans started settling, puppetry among Natives started following European traditions.
Several different types of puppets exist. The first are string puppets, also known as marionettes. These are controlled by a rod with wire or string attached to the joints of the figure. The strings control the puppets movement. The puppeteer is above and behind the stage during the show.
A second type is called shadow puppets. These are two or three-dimensional figures. The puppet passes between a light source and a screen to cast a shadow on a screen. Ancient shadow figures were sometimes made of carved bone or horn which was sometimes painted in transparent colours. Now they are generally made of stiff oiled paper and again they are painted in transparent colours. They are operated from below by thin bamboo sticks or strong wire attached at the joints. Shadow puppets are usually extremely frail and intricately articulated.
A third type is called glove puppets. These are the most familiar kind and are also known as hand puppets. Glove puppets have a firm head and hands which are attached to a loose costume. They are very adaptable, portable and easily made, but are not as agile as marionettes. Hand puppets are worn over the hand like a glove and much of the movement is controlled by the puppeteer's hand. Some puppeteers who use glove puppets appear in full view of their audience, like Shari Lewis & Lamb Chop. Other puppeteers prefer to remain partly or fully hidden from view.
Rod puppets are a fourth type and are similar to marionettes. These puppets are full length, rounded figures operated from below the stage by rods. Muppets fall into this category. The rods are attached to limbs, heads and bodies. Their movements are more limited than marionettes but often more graceful. They are considered regal and subtle. The puppeteers are often concealed from view. Rod puppets may also be worked in front of the puppeteer. When they are worked like this, the stage has a backdrop which allows light through. The light hits the cloth so that the puppeteer can see out but the audience can't see in.
Toy puppet theatres were invented by William West in 1811. He made miniature paper theatres and sold them in his store. They were exact replicas of the plays appearing at Covent Garden, Drury Lane and others. He positioned puppets in the most dramatic moments of the play, copying facial expressions, costumes and colour from the original productions. Each was equipped with scenery. Later these theatres were lithographed for children in Germany, Spain and Denmark.
Ventriloquists figures may be puppets or doll like figures, and are made of many different materials. They usually share the stage with their animator. The ventriloquist masters techniques of speech and puppetry which brings the figure to life.
The last kind of puppet is the finger puppet. These are small puppets made to slip over the finger. In another type, two fingers serve as the legs of the puppet. A final type uses a glove where each finger is a different character in the story.
Some people see puppetry as a childish pastime while other see it as a powerfully symbolic and deeply evocative art. Some societies have believed puppetry represents spiritual essences rather than illusions. Most Asian cultures consider puppetry as a high art form. Today puppeteers are redefining and challenging traditional ideas about what a puppet or puppeteer is . These artists explore new and inventive ways to animate their creations. Some people think of stop motion animation as puppetry, because the figures are animated on the big screen. Several companies are developing systems in which sensors attached to a human performer are translated by computers into the movement of two or three-dimensional figures. These technologies help puppeteers and artists expand their definitions of what puppetry is and can be.