Some of my favorite puppets are the ones that are very small. A tiny puppet, by its very size, is diminutive. Watching tiny puppets, we identify with that feeling of being a small creature in a big world. A tiny puppet sets up a childlike experience.
I loved Sesame Street's "Twiddlebugs" (1971) for two reasons. First, Twiddlebugs (living in Ernie's flower box) are a perfect reminder that there are hidden worlds all around us - even in our own backyards. Second, they experience similar adventures and experiences opening the door to teaching empathy with the natural world.
In Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock (1983), small, playful creatures - the Fraggles - live in an underworld system of natural caves under the workshop of a human (AKA "silly creatures") inventor named Doc. And in this small Fraggle Rock world, there is another culture of even SMALLER, pudgy, green, industrious creatures - the "Doozers." The smaller than small creatures help to offer a counterpoint to the Fraggle world and life, and give the Fraggles some perspective on their own world.
Performing with tiny puppets, you get to create and interact with an environment that won't fit on a traditional stage. In Sea Song, Hobey Ford switches from different sized puppets to create the illusion of switching between different cinematic camera shots. Large puppets help us see detailed action, and small puppets help us see the bigger environment.
In the puppet play, Once There Were Six Seasons (2014), Caroline Reck (Producing Artist Director of Glass Half Full Theatre) uses small puppets to illustrate the effects of Global Warming on our culture and environment. The doll-house sized environment gives us a long-shot of the world in which her characters live. Watching the tiny characters interact with their environment changes how we feel about the action.
As the technology allows we "Silly Creatures" to make smaller and smaller joints, we can make smaller and smaller puppets!
Living through the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may more closely identify with tiny puppets. To tell the personal story of our own health, we have to step back and see the big picture. We can play our part to end the pandemic - get vaccinated, wear a mask, avoid large gatherings. But our ultimate health is not just in our hands alone. It is tied to our connection to our neighbors, our country's culture, and the world's cultures, and to the planet. To find an ending, the human race must pull together.
Puppet On, dear reader!!