Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter Dreams at HoBT - Design Internship

NOW PLAYING at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (1500 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN):  A show called Winter Dreams

Winter Dreams  is about the ways that all the animals of Minnesota manage to sleep through the winter.  See hibernating bears, turtles who hold their breath for 3 months, snakes who bury themselves in a pit in the ground, frogs who freeze themselves cryogenically, and more!  It's a kid-friendly show with some ingenious puppetry —some of which was designed by ME.

To be more specific, I took a design internship at HOBT this fall and did 3 jobs:
1.  I performed image research and factual research to figure out what certain animals look like and just how their bodies work.
2.  I was tasked with designing and building a shadow puppet sequence based on the Wood Frog —The frog that can tolerate being frozen solid in the winter and resume living after it thaws itself out.
3.  I was also put in charge of fleshing out a sequence that had already been started - one about bees.  In a beehive, the worker bees will crowd around the queen and pulse in order to keep her warm (fun fact, the drones, who usually hang out at the hive, are sent out one by one to die during the Fall)

So I took copious WIP pictures.  So without further ado, this is art in progress.
(read more for pictures!)

PART 1:  Frog Scene Mock-Up

Making a little paper mock-up of your sequence is essential.  It lets you see if your idea will work on stage before you actually start cutting things out.

A pattern of layered leaves...

...opens to reveal a frog

The surface of the frog peels away and we see
its inner workings

its heart opens
and closes, and slows to a stop

The frog fills with ice.
Then fade to black.  A narrator will explain what's going on in the frog's body.

PART 2:  Constructing the Frog puppet.

All shadow puppets are cut out of cardboard.  The thicker, the better.

I draw out the frog design in marker and chalk
and start to cut.

The frog is cut out.

A border/outline of the frog is made,
also, I build his heart.

Transparent plastic is added to make the border
into a window, onto which the organs are drawn.

Another window is made with ice crystals

Ice Crystal Detail

Ice Crystal Detail

Ice Crystal Detail

I cut templates for the leaves out of flimsy paper and taped them
into the shape I wanted

I cut the leaf patters out very carefully
—a right and a left half

Completed leaf shields, cut out and set up in the theatre


This shadow puppet for the Queen Bee was left over
from the last "Winter Dreams" ten years ago.
But I made spare wings for her

Using a hexagonal template, I drew out a honeycomb pattern that one of the
other interns, Allie Quinn,  cut out. 

I used paint to draw out a wreath of worker bees
(in two parts) to keep the Queen warm. 

After I cut out the first half of the workers, I used them as
a stencil to spray-paint a pattern for the second half

Always cut out the smallest pieces from the center first
and work your way out to bigger pieces.  Otherwise
it will get flimsy.

Don't cut out the entire puppet until all the interior
shapes have been cut.

Two sets of bees, Yin and Yang.

If you like what you see here, please go see Winter Dreams this December (2nd-30th.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons/evenings) at HOBT.

—Thomas Boguszewski


  1. Thomas,
    This is Mahi. We met at a few of the puppet builds at Heart of the Beast. I cut one of frogs out! I am also in the show.
    This blog entry is inspiring, as is your entire blog. I did not know that you researched the movement and image of the shadow puppets that you created. Cutting out your designs, and seeing how we put them to life during rehearsals, I assumed that I had a comfortable understanding of the puppet, but after reading this entry, I see that I missed a lot of its history. I am glad you posted this!

  2. @Mahi Palanisami

    Thank you, Mahi! I'm glad you were there to help!