Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Should Puppets Play Jesus?

I first became a part of a puppet team at age 12 at my home church back in the Chicago area. The director of that team had her own rule, we never portrayed Jesus as a least not a puppet like the other "Muppet" style puppets we used. In one production that portrayed some spiritual warfare, Jesus appeared as a white cloaked figure. The puppet was more of a rod puppet and was hooded so the audience couldn't see a face. I think we most often portrayed Jesus simply as a light. As I've been exposed to more puppet teams around the world over the years, I have encountered many who do at times portray Jesus as a puppet character. Others wouldn't hear of it. So what's the answer? Should puppets play Jesus?

I think I'm at the point where I could go either way. I try, in general, not to have "Muppet" style puppets play Jesus. But if it's done in a respectful way, I think that puppets can play Jesus. To me puppetry is acting...from the shoulder up. Actors play Jesus all the time. I'm not a typical actor, but God has given me a gift for acting with a puppet. If a puppet is going to play Jesus, however, I think the tone of the material needs to be different. I'm certainly not suggesting having a Jesus puppet start cracking jokes or break into "Mahna Mahna." There's nothing that says Puppets = Silly. Puppets aren't always wild and crazy, they can communicate subtly. I think that is important to keep in mind when portraying Christ as a puppet.

All that having been said, I still prefer to look for other ways of portraying Jesus. I've talked before about my love of shadow puppetry. Showing Jesus as a shadow puppet can be very beautiful. In some blacklight performances I've seen Jesus portrayed as simply a pair of white gloved hands. Speaking of hands, one of the best portrayals of Jesus I've ever seen in a puppet performance was by marionette artist David Simpich, who simply manipulated his bare hand reaching through a picture frame as he spoke Christ's own words from the scripture.


CawfeeGuy said...

really though?

puppetminister said...

I just can't agree to reducing my Savior to a glorified sock. I'm against it, but I do like your light/hand examples.