Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Penchant For Puppets

I love puppets. I love watching them, playing with them and most importantly, MAKING THEM. If fact, over the last half dozen years I've amassed quite a collection of my own handmade little people. There's just something magical about putting yer hand up the booty of a glove puppet or rod puppet, tugging the strings of a marionette or positioning the sticks and/or wires of a shadow puppet, enabling these little beings to come alive. Equally thaumaturgical is the act of creating said mini-peeps; designing a character from conception to finished product. It's intoxicating. Really, it is...And I aim to prove it to you! In keeping with this effort, each week I plan to show you a few of my puppet roommates, share some of my secrets, elucidate my design process, link up to a few resources and hopefully entertain you a bit in the process.

Without further ado I give you the premiere puppets (and two of the first ones that I made) in this weekly series, Pancho y Judi (pronounced Hoo-dee)!


This is my very Los Angeles, very Latino version of the glove puppet classic, Punch and Judy. Now, I'm not really a Latino, but I am a born and bred Angeleno, I've been married to a couple of Latino men (no, not at the same time...Jeesh...and anyway, I like 'em tall, dark and sue me) and I speak some pretty amazing Spanglish, so my extrapolation from Punch and Judy's British and Italian ancestry seems fitting does it not? In addition, themes of serious marital strife, adultery, abuse and murder enable this puppet classic to easily transcend hundreds of years of history and find a home in our own au current affairs. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this puppet play seems as if its story line was lifted directly from the headlines of our nightly news or alternatively an episode of Jerry Springer. Yep, it's THAT twisted. And we all know, that I'm kinda into twisted...If nothing else, the historical significance of this puppet drama is evidence that the human race really hasn't changed all that much in our long history on the planet.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the original Punch and Judy puppet drama:

The tale of Punch and Judy varies from puppeteer to puppeteer and has changed over time. A typical variant is listed below. A transcript of a typical Punch and Judy show in London of the 1840s can be found in Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor.

Punch, in a fit of jealousy, strangles his infant child. When Judy flies to her revenge, she fetches a bludgeon, with which she belabours her husband, till Punch, exasperated, seizes another bludgeon and beats her to death, then flings into the street the two dead bodies. The bodies attract the notice of a police officer, who enters the house. Punch flees for his life; being arrested by an officer of the Inquisition, he is shut up in prison, from which he escapes by means of a golden key. The rest is often perceived as an allegory, showing how Punch triumphs over all the ills that flesh is heir to. Ennui, in the shape of a dog, is overcome; Disease, in the disguise of a doctor, is kicked out; Death is beaten to death; and the Devil himself is outwitted.

Featuring, as it does, a deformed, child-murdering, wife-beating psychopath who commits appalling acts of violence and cruelty upon all those around him and
escapes scot-free, it is greatly enjoyed by small children. Terry Pratchett draws
attention to this paradox in his short story Theatre of Cruelty, the last line of which is "That's not the way to do it."

Can you see why I'm attracted this particular puppet play? Yep, twisted is good. And judging by the age of this particular piece of entertainment, I'm not alone in my interest nor affection.

The Characters


Mix a little bit philandering with a pinch of pugnacity, drench that combo with deviousness sprinkled with spite, a reckless relationship to the world around him and you get a taste of Pancho's personality. Oh yeah, he also exhibits an uncontrollable urge to murder his family and friends, but did I tell you that he's also comical? Yeah, I agree, the guy needs chemicals and a rubber room...And yet, he's the star of the show! As I said, Jerry Springer would love this guy!


Pancho's wife who currently exhibits the following symptomology: histrionic fits of jealousy and rage; vidictiveness; a tendency toward tears; and an uncontrollable need to beat her husband with a bat. But she's funny...And she loves her children...And she's a good business woman. You know, there's always a bright side!

At any rate, my Pancho y Judi carry the physical attributes of their forebearers with a bit of artistic license here and there (i.e., Pancho's pompadour and RayBans, Judi's flowered shower-cap-like-chapeau and cuke slices to treat the bags under her eyes). My versions do, however, exhibit the traditional hooked noses and chins as well as the glove puppet form. Unlike the original play though, my P&J are small business owners, operating a profitable fast food establishment (shown above, Pancho y Judi's Taco Hut) in Pacoima.

Character Construction

Before embarking on the puppet construction journey I did plenty of research. From there I knew that I wanted my puppets to be of the glove variety, in keeping with Punch and Judy historical precedent, and I wanted to construct them from easily acquired materials (primarily felt and crochet thread). Further, I also knew that I wanted to employ sewing as my primary construction technique. Once these factors were determined the cast went together relatively painlessly. And I can assure you, the group is quite large indeed. I had a blast making all of them!

I am so looking forward to sharing my little peeps with y'all! Next week you will be introduced to Los Ninos (the kids)!

Stay tuned...

Copyright 2006 Regina Rioux Gonzalez. All rights reserved.


chittavrtti said...

egads! I love punch and judy. More, I wonder what you would do with Commedia dell arte?****CV

Stitchy McYarnpants said...

Those are beautiful! I especially love the hands. My husband loves making puppets and articulated dolls. He usually takes them apart to make different ones and there are doll parts everywhere, so he doesn't have a collection of finished ones. I'm looking forward to seeing more of your little pals.

Unknown said...

You are truly inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Muy fabuloso! The details are amazing, and I like that they are in Pacoima - that's my favorite goofy So Cal place name.

Anonymous said...

"Featuring, as it does, a deformed, child-murdering, wife-beating psychopath who commits appalling acts of violence and cruelty upon all those around him and
escapes scot-free, it is greatly enjoyed by small children."

*rolling in laughter*

I've subscribed to your blog, I can't pass up a blog of someone with a sense of humor as dry & warped as mine!

Anonymous said...

Oh my god- love em! Lived in London as a wee one, and saw the original punch and judy all the time. But Pancho y Judi are fantastic! You are so creative, Lady Linoleum!

stuffed said...

Pancho is muy hot... and Judi's hat wants to live on my head.

natasha said...

i know you are not pompous, so i know you will think this is smoke being blown up your proverbial arse, but you are so talented that it blows my mind. blows. my. mind. everything you do is so equally meticulous, no matter what it is, and how different from everything else, it has the same eye to detail! if you weren't taken and i wasn't taken, i would move out there and try to court you. flowers, chocolates, foot rubs. feet rubs. foots rubs. acrylic yarn. fancy hooks. i would dress up like the residents, you know an eyeball with a top hat. is it working? don't tell my husband, he would be mad. and i linked you to luxe...

Dharia said...

hahaha! just found this in your archives, its hilarious.

i went to high school in miami, so i learned my fair share of Spanglish. At one point we made up 'new' characters for star wars: Darth Vato, Han Chulo, R2 Puto, and Ce Tres Peo.