My day with the giant man-eating plant.

Today I went out to Beaverton to teach someone how to be a giant man-eating plant. That’s right, it’s time for Little Shop of Horrors.  For those who don’t know me, I’m a little addicted to the show. I’ve performed in seven different productions and trained puppeteers for other productions.

I can generate a one-page resume consisting of nothing except Little Shop. Ah… the strange things I’m proud of.

So. Today. This was a set of puppets that I hadn’t seen before. They are physically attractive but deviate from the original plans quite a bit. This is the first time I’ve seen 3/4 ply in one of these. It makes them very sturdy but also heavy.

I’m guessing that the largest puppet is in the 125-130lb. range. I got to borrow and perform with the plants from the original off-Broadway production and the largest there was 125lbs. It was exquisitely balanced so you didn’t have to fight the mass. This plant is very nose heavy.  It wants to tip forward at all times so the puppeteer has to use her own weight to try to counter-balance it. Once it’s in operating position it moves pretty well, but it’s a beast to get there.

The young woman they have performing the puppet is very smart and I think she’ll do a good job with it but she’s going to be working really hard.

This is frustrating for me because it repeats a pattern I see a lot. The person who made these created some really beautiful props but props are not puppets.   The two art-forms are related but not identical.  A puppet-builder thinks about things like balance intuitively and designs around the ergonomic requirements of the human body.

What makes it particularly frustrating with Little Shop of Horrors is that there’s a really good set of plans out there by Marty Robinson from the original production. They are so well-balanced that I wish people would just build them instead of trying to create something new.

On the other hand, I also have this crazy scheme to design a set of disposable cardboard plants specifically so that high schools can make something light and affordable.

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7 thoughts on “My day with the giant man-eating plant.”

  1. Disposable cardboard plants is a brilliant idea! Refrigerator boxes are easy to come by as are wardrobe moving boxes if you need something sturdier – but you should be writing instead of dreaming about puppets.

  2. I love that show! I got to be the plant’s voice in high school and it was awesome!


  3. I am curious, as a builder, are you ever tempted to modify the puppets? Like, considering adding weight elsewhere, so even though that makes it heavier, it’s better balanced?

    1. I do sometimes, but there are limits to what can be done since the plants are usually rentals. In this case, we are discussing adding some weight to the rear to try to balance the nose. I’m hoping that we won’t need to do that since the puppet is already very heavy.

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