Puppet Shows - History of the Puppet


The history of the puppet and how it came to be an icon of our culture is an interesting one. It is believed the first puppets were developed in India possibly as long ago as 1000 B.C. The first puppets were probably nothing more than simple stick figures made using various materials found on the ground or other places. While the first puppets were no doubt simplistic in design and appearance, the acting out of the puppet shows was loud and full of fanfare. Many cultures later developed their own versions of puppet shows, and these often reflected the culture of their upbringing. Like stories and fables, puppet shows became known as a way to pass the time in an entertaining fashion with friends and family, which got passed down to many generations.

One type of puppet, commonly referred to as "dummy" is utilized in ventriloquism acts. Typically, the "dummy" delivers one-liners or responds to the ventriloquist role as straight-man. One Internationally recognized ventriloquist, Jim Barber, is appearing in Branson at the Hamners Unbelievable Variety Show.

The Japanese often used puppets to replace human actors, as a means of illustrating and symbolizing things a human actor could not. Actors are also typically harder to work with, more demanding, and often unruly. This took the human element out so the script could be focused on more fully. At times, puppets would be operated by 3 people at a time, controlling them from various locations as they moved across the stage.

In Europe, like Shakespearean theatre, morality plays were the rule of the day. Themes dealt with the morality of human decisions, even though the actors on the stage were far from human. In general, when puppets are used, the play becomes more focused on the theme and the plot, rather than the glamor of actors. In this way, the real literature comes out, without focusing on the acting craft with real people. Focus has shifted from the dialogue only to the pomp and circumstance of modern-day puppetry. Puppets shows are put on every day worldwide to entertain children, as well as adults in different settings. The art of puppetry is not completely known, but it is believed it must have had its origins in either China or India. Ancient puppets were very simplistic and focused on the play rather than the actors. Puppetry is still a fascinating art form enjoyed by millions today.

If you're planning a trip to Branson, find fun things to do and great places to stay.

To learn more about the history of puppets and their heritage, visit the following links:

  • Ancient Puppets- This site discusses some of the ancient uses of puppets in India.
  • Puppets from Different Cultures- Learn about the different puppets from different cultures around the world.
  • History of Puppets in Britain- A look at the history of puppetry in Britain.
  • A Historical Timeline - A closer look at the history of puppets in America starting in the 1950s.
  • A History of Sock Puppets- A look at the history of sock puppetry.
  • History of Hand Puppets- A look specifically at the history of hand puppets and the art form they represent.
  • Another View of the Origins of Puppetry- This site takes a look at some information that lends credibility to the fact that puppetry began in ancient China.
  • History of Marionettes- A site with a video about the history of marionettes as a unique art form.
  • History of Puppets in India- A site dedicated to the historical background of India's puppetry art.
  • Puppetry: A World History- A look at the history of puppetry and the types of puppets used, as they evolved as a true art form in their own way.
  • China Shadow Puppetry- Another site that looks at the origins of puppetry, beginning in China, with shadow puppets.
  • Sock Puppets- Information on sock puppets and how to make puppet crafts for kids.
  • Center for Puppetry Arts- A site put up by the Center for Puppetry Arts which focuses on the art of modern-day puppetry and its origins.
  • Sicilian Puppetry- A look at the history of Sicilian puppetry, a rare historical form of puppetry art. 

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