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Working A Human Arm Puppet With Only One Puppeteer

Virtually all human arm puppets are created to be employed by two people, but sometimes, you might be in a position to 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 created so the upper arms are packed and the puppeteer gives you the lower arms and hands. If you keep the puppet so only the upper section of the hands show, you can make use of it like a normal puppet. Check first to make certain that the puppet is sufficient for the audience to see before actually doing it. Also, do not increase the puppet any higher or the audience will see that it shouldn’t have arms. You could also try putting a long sleeved shirt on the puppet. 

The other choice is to use a singke hand to work the mouth and the other as the puppet’s hand. You can do this effectively but it takes practice and you simply need to be able to hold both arms up the complete time the puppet is onstage. This method is very tiring on the arms, therefore it usually takes extra practice.

What I’ve often seen happen is the puppet pops up on stage and appears great. After having a short time though, the arm doing the actions gets tired and commences shed. As an effect, the puppet commences to lean toward that hands. This gives the puppet an unnatural appearance and also exposes the clear sleeve.

If you’re working a human arm puppet using one of their hands, you need to concentrate on keeping your puppet up at the right height and ensure it stays straight up and down and does not lean to one part or the other.

Along the same lines, there are puppet companies who do make human left arm puppets made for use by one individual. One arm is stuffed and appears normal such as a rod arm puppet and the other allows you to insert your hand and arm.

We now have a huge dog built in that manner that we use in lots of programs. His name is Mugwhump and he enjoys being in front of an audience and loves to have a good time. The drawback with this type is there is merely a great way to put him on. To complete both the mouth and hand (or paw), you have to use your right hand for the mouth and your still left for the paw.

Whilst you can function an individual arm puppet with just one person, it usually works better if you can use two as it was designed. If perhaps you have to get it done with one person, be willing to put in some extra work this means you will still be effective.

Timothy Brown has over twenty-five years of experience in working puppets and leading puppet teams. He and his wife have ministered with puppets in church buildings, camps, parks, assisted living facilities, and a variety of other venues. Along with working puppets, he has also taught puppet training programs.

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