Here are some cool facts you should know about Human Arm Puppets!
Human arm and rod arm puppets are built the same way with one exception; the human arm one doesn’t have arms. Instead, it comes with a special shirt and gloves that allow one puppeteer to insert their arms into the sleeves and a second one to work the mouth. This gives greater flexibility and movement but does require coordination and teamwork.
Before you can use a human arm puppet, you need to put it on. The easiest way we found is to have the person who is doing the arms and hands go first. Put on the gloves and then put your arms through the sleeves and knees, with your knees spread apart, at the proper place in the puppet theater. Once you’re in place and the second puppeteer is ready, clasp your hands together and hold them up.
The person working the mouth kneels behind the first puppeteer, placing one knee on their legs and the other knee on the outside. (With practice, you’ll be able to determine which side works best.) The second puppeteer reaches over the shoulder of the first and places his arm up inside the puppet.
If the puppet doesn’t come up right away in the play, have the one doing the arms hold the puppet in his or her lap until just before it’s time to bring it up. If you have both of them ready to go and they’ve got to wait even a minute or two, their arms are going to tire quickly.
You bring the puppet up on stage using the same motion as with a rod arm puppet. Both puppeteers lean back. The one doing the head and mouth takes the lead. It works well to have the puppet’s arms held close to its stomach while it comes up and then start to do any movements after its last step. As you bring the puppet up, it is important to work together. If the one doing the head moves up and the one doing the arms drops down, it will look like the head is stretching off its body.
Once on stage, both tea members need to make sure they keep the puppet at a consistent level. If the one doing the head drops down, but the arms stay up, it gives an effect similar to a turtle pulling its head into its shell. When you do hand motions, remember that moderation is the key word. Be careful that the human arm puppet doesn’t become the center of attention, hindering learning from taking place. And remember that the two puppeteers need to work together as a team even in simple motions. During a performance, it isn’t a good idea for the one doing the hands to throw in an extra movement without letting the other one know about it ahead of time.
Also, while on stage, make sure to keep the puppet as straight up and down as possible. If the one doing the arms leans too far forward, the one doing the head also has to lean forward which can cause a distraction.
To bring the puppet down off the stage, both puppeteers should turn the opposite way of the hand working the puppet. In other words, if the puppeteer is working the head with their right hand, both puppeteers should turn to the left. Don’t turn the puppet all the way so it is facing the back of the theater, just to the side. The one doing the hands drops them out of sight and leans to the side as the puppet walks off the stage.