Assembling Thor for Odd and the Frost Giants

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series Building Odd and the Frost Giants

On Friday I had two visitors from Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston to take a look at the puppets for their adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants. Rob Kimbro, the director and man who did the adaptation, and Jodi Bobrovsky, the props master for Stages, came to look at the rehearsal puppets and talk about plans for moving forward.

I’d worked with Rob before at McCarter Theatre on The Tempest: A Puppet Play and he’s remained one of my favorite people to work with. Jodi and I met for the first time this weekend and seem to be kindred spirits. At one point we were comparing the various dead dogs we’ve made.

Part of the goal of the weekend was to have Rob and Jodi help with the assembly of the rehearsal puppets so that if they break in rehearsal — which they will — they had an understanding of how the puppets worked so that they could fix them.

This is the downside of working remotely. I can’t be on hand to make repairs. Having someone like Jodi there is a luxury.

Anyway. I had done drawings of everything and had the eagle ready and Loki well on his way.  Thor, on the other hand, remained a drawing on the wall AND I’d lost the pattern for his head.

Due to various time elements, I wasn’t able to pick up the foam for Thor until the morning that Rob and Jodi arrived. We all knew this was the case, but it still made me nervous.

I gave Jodi the task of taking my drawing and turning cutting everything out of the foam.  I had the side view drawn but still needed to do the top and front views. Fortunately, she’s amazing and was able to work from my hastily drawn top.  It’s nice when I can draw something and say, “Like this, only symmetrical” and know it will happen.  We mocked the body up in cardboard first because I was nervous about size. I wanted it to be big, but I didn’t want the puppeteer to have to be working at full extension.

That photo, by the way, is actually of Jodi disassembling the bear for packing, but some of the assembly photos are locked on my camera which is refusing to let me download anything but the pictures on the card.

While she did made the bear’s frame, I had Rob Kimbro working on sanding and trimming pieces of Loki. Photos of Loki tomorrow.

And me? I was redesigning that head.  The problem with flat patterns of the puppets is that the paper looks like, well, paper, and is either in a stack somewhere or in the recycling.

The biggest challenge there was that I had to tape paper together to get something large enough.

I also worked on Thor’s control mechanism. I cut out the control on the bandsaw in bass wood. Bass wood is light, fairly strong, and easy to work with. The part about being light is very important with puppetry. You don’t want the puppeteer to be spending unnecessary energy just supporting the puppet when they could be performing.  Comfortable controls are a part of that equation.

I then shaped it with a belt sander to receive a beefy compression spring that will support the weight of the bear’s head.  That inserts into a pvc pipe coupling and is held in place with a bolt.

(I’m not holding the control in operating position here.)

The other end of the control gets inserted into the bear’s head and is tacked into place with hotglue.  This is just  rehearsal head of paper. Once we are certain we like the size of the puppet I’ll make the final head in teak veneer, reinforced with paper mache.

You can see that even cut down by three inches all the way around, Thor is quite large. He has a PVC spine that runs through his body.  It splits in the middle for packing otherwise they’d never get him on a plane.

The joint in the middle doubles as the hand grip.  It’s two couplings with a mahogany dowel in the middle.  Comfy, sturdy, and practical. It’s all the rage in Asgard.

And here is Thor, draped. For the finished puppet, I’ll use a mix of fabrics to create the look of a hand-felted pelt.  His head will be teak instead of the world’s-crappiest-paper-which-tore-everytime-I-pulled tape-off-and-I-hate-so-much which I used for the mockup.

I didn’t give the puppets legs to allow them to play more freely with the space. Once you have legs, they have to move right and that would take more puppeteers. For the story, these are best played with solo puppeteers.We can rely on the audience to create the rest of the creatures.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Loki.

Series Navigation<< Odin assembly: Photos from Odd and the Frost GiantsAssembling rehearsal Loki for Odd and the Frost Giants. >>