We are familiar with puppets that are controlled by a hand inside, hidden by a high stage, or marionettes controlled by puppeteers hidden above. In Vietnam, puppets move about by controllers hidden by the water they’re standing in! Mike Powell and Jürgen Horn attended a performance of Vietnamese water puppets.
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The concept of water puppetry is simple to grasp: hidden behind a backdrop, a team of puppeteers use long bamboo sticks and strings to control the puppets, who glide about a pool of water.
But although I understand the basic idea, what I have trouble comprehending is its execution. We saw scenes with at least eight puppets zipping about, often in perfect synchronization. How do the puppeteers, each apparently maneuvering a stick through the water, manage to do it so quickly and exactly? Are they jumping over each other? Passing the sticks down a line? As entertaining as the show was, I think I would have preferred to go backstage, to see them work.
Read more, and see a video of the water puppet performance at For 91 Days.