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Puppeteers are more than performers. They are careful artists who can make people believe in the unbelievable. They can make us believe that the small furry animal on their hand, the wooden figure hanging off of string or sitting on their lap, or the shadows growing on the wall, are independent creatures who think, feel, react and speak with their own minds. Successful puppeteers make us believe that they do not really control their puppets, but the puppets control themselves.

Often, puppeteers build their puppets by hand, and use them in performances at parties, in theatrical productions, on television shows, and in movies. They use the puppets to interact with the elderly, the sick, and the young, as well as victims and trauma patients who may feel uncomfortable speaking with human beings. Regardless of whether or not the puppet and puppeteer are interacting with a huge crowd or one-on-one, the world of childhood fantasies and adult realities come together nicely in a gentle, safe way, allowing for communication in ways that might not otherwise have been possible. Puppets break down barriers and establish trust and friendship on many levels.

Puppeteers who do not have regular gigs with a theater company or television production company often support themselves with other part-time jobs. Those who love puppeteering and cannot imagine doing anything else will work hard to build enough of a reputation that they can leave their day jobs and focus on performing in independent shows or with a puppeteering company full time.

Puppeteers are actors, singers, stage designers, and storytellers. They act, memorize, write and direct. They are multi-talented performers who bring their shows to the public through theater, television, one-on-one interaction, and ensemble work.

Puppeteers do more than just perform, however. They have to study, practice, and create new routines. They advertise themselves in creative ways in order to drum up new business. They travel, meet with club owners, agents, executives, and party planners, making arrangements for upcoming shows. Puppeteers can also be members of agency or associations, and find work and training courses through these means.

Puppeteering is good for shy people who like performing and the theater. Working with puppets means they get to bask in the glow of performance, while allowing the audience's focus to be on the puppets, and not on them. The pressure of live theater is somewhat diminished, but the power and thrill remains.
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  Interests and Skills  
Want to be a puppeteer? First of all, puppeteers should love performing. They should genuinely love to make people happy, and thrive off the thrill of the crowd. They should be creative, adapt easily to new situations, and have good hand-eye coordination and tons of self-confidence. Puppeteers need to have a good sense of comedic timing, and feel comfortable with children of all ages. They should be healthy and strong, with good concentration and stamina. They also need to see their puppets are more than just props, but as individuals with their own personalities. They should be intuitive, and able to read and react to an audience's mood. Puppeteers may need to manage themselves, so good business sense is also important.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Practice old routines
  • Work alone or with colleagues to design new routines
  • Routine maintenance of puppets
  • Pack, unpack, and set up equipment for shows
  • Perform routines
  • Advertise services
  • The typical day for a puppeteer will involve a little bit of everything. Practice and performing will dominate many days. Many days will be spend traveling around the country or world to performances and jobs. Puppeteers who work independently will be required to take out ads, meet with agents, and build a client base from which to establish a career. Those who work as part of a team on television, film, or with a theater troupe might spend some of each day in meetings, discussing upcoming projects and shows. Most puppeteers are lucky enough to meet many different people, from other performers and their puppets to excited fans.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Puppeteers can work full- or part-time. Full-time puppeteers belong to theater troupes, or work on the set of movies and television shows which use puppets. These puppeteers work in a number of environments, including television sets, on stages, behind screens in front of attentive audiences, and may spend weeks or months traveling around the world with the show.
  • Part-time puppeteers make their living by performing their acts at children's parties, adult fundraisers, hotels, and resorts. Some work in ensembles, while others perform alone. They will have another job to support their career as puppeteers.
  • The more preparation, set up, and training that goes into a show, the longer the hours. Along with the actual performance, there is equipment maintenance, self-promotion, and writing and practicing new routines. And because performances and parties generally take place on the weekend and in the evenings, puppeteers can expect to work when the rest of the world is at play.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Pupeteering can be a full-time job, although it takes a while to get there. Puppeteers can become instructors at puppeteering schools and camps, and teach theater. They can take their show on the road, to buskers' and puppeteering festivals, and to television. They may become actors, comedians, early childhood educators, or children's entertainers. They may become talent scouts and agents, puppet designers, or animators.

  Educational Paths  
People interested in puppeteering should think about completing either a university degree or a college diploma in theater studies. Most theater programs offer courses in puppetry, including making and using them in various types of performance. Animation courses, business courses, and art classes are also useful to those interested in becoming puppeteers.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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