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Most human arm puppets are made to be used by two people, but sometimes, you might be in a position where you only have one person available to work the puppet. What do you do?
One choice is to perform without using the hands. The shirts are designed so the upper arms are stuffed and the puppeteer supplies the lower arms and hands. If you hold the puppet so only the upper part of the arms show, you can use it like a normal puppet. Check first to make sure that the puppet is high enough for the audience to see before actually doing it. Also, be careful not to raise the puppet any higher or the audience will see that it doesn’t have arms. You could also try putting a long sleeved shirt on the puppet.
The other choice is to use one hand to work the mouth and the other as the puppet’s hand. You can do this effectively but it takes practice and you need to be able to hold both arms up the entire time the puppet is on stage. This method is very tiring on the arms, so it usually takes extra practice.
What I’ve often seen happen is the puppet comes up on stage and looks great. After a short time though, the arm doing the motions gets tired and begins to drop. As a result, the puppet begins to lean toward that hand. This gives the puppet an unnatural appearance and also exposes the empty sleeve.
If you’re working a human arm puppet using one of its hands, you need to concentrate on keeping your puppet up at the right height and make sure it stays straight up and down and doesn’t lean to one side or the other.
Along the same lines, there are puppet companies who do make human arm puppets designed for use by one person. One arm is stuffed and appears normal like a rod arm puppet and the other allows you to insert your hand and arm.
We have a large dog built in that manner that we use in many of our programs. His name is Mugwhump and he enjoys being in front of an audience and likes to have a good time. The drawback with this type is there is only one way to put him on. To do both the mouth and hand (or paw), you have to use your right hand for the mouth and your left for the paw.
While you can work a human arm puppet with just one person, it most often works better if you can use two as it was designed. If you have to do it with one person, be willing to put in some extra work and it can still be effective.
write by Ambrose