Masterpuppet Theatre - Blog Now you can perform the most famous scenes in literature anytime, anywhere. Masterpuppet Theatre provides everything you need to mount your own Shakespearean production: a 96-page Folio of classic scenes and dialogue from the Bard's best-loved plays; a dozen scenic backdrops to dress your sets; and sixty illustrated Character Cards portraying the legendary lovers, murderers, kings, and commoners that inhabit Shakespeare's realms. en-us <![CDATA[Mainstream & Independent Titles from 11 Countries Score Top Honors in the 2nd Annual International Book Awards]]> Masterpuppet Theatre Masterpuppet Theatre is Award-Winning Finalist in "Gift & Specialty Books" Category

JPX Media Group announced the winners and finalists of The 2011 International Book Awards (IBA) on May 11, 2011. Over 300 winners and finalists were announced in over 140 categories covering print and audio books. Awards were presented for titles published in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of JPX Media Group, said this year's contest yielded a large number of entries from authors and publishers around the world, which were then narrowed down to the final results.

Keen says of the awards, "The 2011 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the world. With a full publicity and marketing campaign promoting the results of IBA, this year's winners and finalists will gain additional media coverage for the summer season."

Keen adds, "IBA's success begins with the enthusiastic participation of authors and publishers and continues with our distinguished panel of industry judges who bring to the table their extensive editorial, PR, marketing, and design expertise."
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Masterpuppet Theatre is pleased to announce its selection as an Award-Winning Finalist in the "Gift & Specialty Books" category of the 2011 International Book Awards.

A complete list of the winners and finalists of The 2011 International Book Awards is available online at IBA

Mon, 23 May 2011 18:45:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Masterpuppet Goes to Washington]]> Masterpuppet Theatre Notes from The National Press Club Book Fair and Authors' Night, November 9 2010

The National Press Building is an imposing structure right in the heart of D.C., two blocks east of the White House. The event takes place in the Fourth Estate Restaurant on the thirteenth floor, lots of marble and gilt, carved wood molding and high ceilings with sculpted panels. Just off the elevator is a display case filled with all the books being signed, including an open Masterpuppet box with contents arrayed. The hallways are lined with framed photos of headliners like Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, and inexplicably, Jerry Lewis.

There is a reception for authors prior to signing, wine and butlered hors d'oeuvres with everyday fare like asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto, and lots of relaxed schmoozing. I meet several former Philadelphia Inquirer reporters, writer-chefs, publicists, journalists, poets, and all manner of scribes. Everybody is exceptionally friendly and chatty, and there is a kind of implicit bond among the participants, one of those shared experience vibes.

I've brought a Masterpuppet stage to set up and a dozen masterpuppets in clear acrylic picture stands with cutout photos of fingers inserted, a surprisingly realistic effect. I also have a laptop with the Red Carpet Gala video loaded and ready to roll. I'm concerned that this might seem like overkill, until the author of a book titled It's a Jungle in There arrives in one of those costumes designed to look like a person being carried by a gorilla. The pressure's off.

For the signing I'm stationed at a long table in a very impressive room, all dark wood paneling, floor-to-ceiling drapery, and potted plants. Sitting next to me is a lovely woman who has authored forty books, her latest a novelized account of Shakespeare writing The Tempest. Next to her is a Shakespeare professor with an anthology of poet laureates. And then there is me with a display of cardboard fingerpuppets. I dub our post Shakespeare Alley.

The crowd pours in and there is a steady stream of people for almost three hours. This being my first official public presentation of Masterpuppets, it is a genuine thrill to witness the reactions of the attendees. Shakespeare fans seem to love it unconditionally, and quite a few non-fans buy it as a gift. Several people share stories of their Bardic experiences, reading Shakespeare in high school or college, performing at various levels of theater. The most frequent question I get is "How did you come up with this?" I have a supply of promotional puppet postcards and the milling throng is seeded with folks wearing them as they roam the venue, a very satisfying bit of stealth guerilla marketing.

The crowd is in a festive mood, ready to engage in good-natured banter. Volunteers attend each table and make sure the authors have books, beverages, and any other requests fulfilled--I feel very pampered. The big draw is Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who runs out of books.

I talk to a lot of nice people, meet some very impressive writers, and receive an offer to participate in a lecture series. On the way back to Union Station at the end of the evening I am recognized twice on the street and once in the Grant Bar, where a friend who came in for the event from Reston, Virginia, treats me to drinks and raw oysters after the signing.

Probably a half dozen oysters too many, as I just miss the train back to Philadelphia at 10 o'clock. The next train north isn't until 3:15 AM, so I spend an unexpected evening in Reston.

It was a great experience in every category. Even the weather cooperated. Waiting for the train the next morning, I see the very nice interview at Geekadelphia . Readjusting to normal life will require some effort. ( : { >

Thu, 11 Nov 2010 15:41:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Curses!]]> Masterpuppet Theatre!

Theater tradition holds that it is bad luck to speak the name "Macbeth" outside of rehearsals or while the play is being performed. Many in the profession refuse to call it by its title, referring to it instead as 'The Scottish Play' or 'Mackers.'

There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that the production is stalked by some malevolent spirit. During the first ever performance of Macbeth, the boy playing the part of Lady Macbeth died backstage. Legend has it that Shakespeare filled in for him. In a 1672 production, the actor playing Macbeth apparently used a real dagger and killed the actor playing Duncan in full view if the audience. A riot over rival performances being staged in New York in 1849 resulted in the deaths of over twenty people. Three actors died in John Gielgud's 1942 production and the set designer committed suicide. Numerous other reports document unfortunate events befalling presentations of the classic tale of regicide--death, injury, fire, set collapse and the like.

Cynical analysts insist there are logical, non-supernatural reasons for the play's tragic history. But believers know that Macbeth is cursed because real spells are actually cast in the three witches scene. Or that Shakespeare borrowed a few lines from some witches who were so offended they cursed the play. Or that the original propmaster, unable to find a suitable pot to serve as a cauldron, stole one from a local coven. Or perhaps most appealing to conspiracy enthusiasts, that Shakespeare himself propagated the curse to maintain a monopoly on directing the play. Take your pick.

And if some unfortunate soul utters the forbidden name outside of the proper venue? Tradition requires the speaker to perform a cleansing ritual to ward off the evil effects. One cure involves leaving the room or theater, closing the door behind you, turning around three times, swearing, and knocking on the door and asking to be let back in. Variations include spitting over your left shoulder, or spinning and saying "Macbeth" three times before re-entry.

Reciting a line from another of Shakespeare's plays is also an accepted cure. Popular quotes for purposes of exorcism include "Angels and ministers of grace, defend us" (Hamlet), "If we shadows have offended" (A Midsummer Night's Dream), and "Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you" (The Merchant of Venice).

Masterpuppet Theatre says "Break a finger." ( : { >

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 13:36:00 -0800
<![CDATA[A Feast of Language]]> Masterpuppet Theatre Volumes have been written about Shakespeare's vocabulary. Estimates range from the fairly specific 17,677 to 21,000 different words appearing in his plays and sonnets. By comparison, most authors top out at around 7,500. The average college graduate employs a vocabulary of three to four thousand words.

The Oxford English Dictionary logs 1,035 instances where Shakespeare is recorded as the first to use a word, and 357 cases where Shakespeare is the only recorded user of a word. A fair quantity of these were existing words to which Shakespeare imparted a new sense, like script as a noun, and fit as a verb. But many more were never encountered until he pulled them from the ether and committed them to parchment. Sure, a few are terms that haven't aged quite so well, like fustilarian, imperceiverant, and wappened. But a surprising number of Shakespearean coinages survive to this day as uncommonly common words: bedroom, fairyland, leapfrog, subcontract, lackluster, accommodation, zany, puke, and so forth. The phrase ''so forth'' is also one of Shakespeare's creations.

More impressive than the Bard's flair for vocabulary-building was his knack for combining standard words to form memorably evocative phrases, many of which thrive in our contemporary vernacular. You may be surprised to discover how frequently you quote Shakespeare on a day-to-day basis. Take a look at this sampling of expressions attributed to Will.

bated breath --The Merchant of Venice
be-all and end-all --Macbeth
break the ice --The Taming of the Shrew
catch a cold --Henry IV
clothes make the man --Hamlet
cold comfort --The Taming of the Shrew
dead as a doornail --Henry VI
dog will have his day --Hamlet
eaten out of house and home --Henry VI
elbow room --King John
faint hearted --Henry VI
fair play --King John
fancy-free --Midsummer Night's Dream
flaming youth --Hamlet
for goodness' sake --Henry VIII
foregone conclusion --Othello
forever and a day --As You Like It
heart of gold --Henry V
high time --The Comedy of Errors
hot-blooded --King Lear
in a pickle --The Tempest
it smells to heaven --Hamlet
it's Greek to me --Julius Caesar
laughing stock --The Merry Wives of Windsor
live long day --Julius Caesar
mind's eye --Hamlet
naked truth --Love's Labour Lost
neither rhyme nor reason --As You Like It
one fell swoop --Macbeth
own flesh and blood --Hamlet
play fast and loose --King John
sea change --The Tempest
set my teeth on edge --Henry IV
short shrift --Richard III
a sorry sight --Macbeth
spotless reputation --Richard III
strange bedfellows --The Tempest
too much of a good thing --As You Like It
tower of strength --Richard III
wear my heart upon my sleeve --Othello
wild goose chase --Romeo and Juliet

You can cop an academic leaning with no more effort than sprinkling your conversation with these household words that happen to be innovations of the greatest literary figure of all time.

By the way, ''household words'' is a phrase introduced by Shakespeare in Henry V. ( : { >

Mon, 20 Sep 2010 11:01:00 -0800
<![CDATA[School Days]]> Masterpuppet Theatre September means back to school for most students, and more than a few will be required to analyze the iconic works of William Shakespeare. So what did Shakespeare study?

In Elizabethan England, children usually began attending 'petty school' at age five. The petty school was typically an adjunct of the local grammar school, and as the son of a prominent citizen of Stratford, young Will was entitled to a free education. A teacher known as an abecedarius instructed the children in reading. Students employed a hornbook, the must-have handheld learning device of the time, consisting of a leaf of paper displaying the letters of the alphabet, occasionally numerals, and the Lord's Prayer, mounted on a wooden paddle and protected by a thin translucent sheet made of cow's horn. From the hornbook, children graduated to 'ABC' books--alphabetic readers--and the Q&A dialogue format of the Catechism.

After two years students moved on to the grammar school, where they'd remain until age fourteen. The curriculum was centered entirely on the teaching of Latin. Instructional texts had to be learned by heart; students were expected to converse in Latin, and not English; Roman authors were studied in depth; and in some schools students honed their language skills by performing scenes from Old Latin comic dramas. It's conceivable that the bard-to-be was introduced to the five-act play format at King's New School on Church Street, and his comedies draw heavily upon the classic works of playwrights like Plautus that he would have encountered there.

But Elizabethan education wasn't the party scene that concentrated study of a dead language and knee-slapping ancient soap operas would suggest. The days were long, starting at six in the morning and running straight through until five in the afternoon, with breaks for mealtime and recreation. Sunday was the only day off, and there was no summer vacation, no spring break, not even study hall. That's a lotta Latin.

Which may explain a passage from one of Shakespeare's most famous speeches. In As You Like It, the melancholy Jaques presents his version of the Seven Ages of Man in his ''All the world's a stage'' monologue, defining youth as:

. . . the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school.

Discuss amongst thyselves. ( : { >

Mon, 13 Sep 2010 10:35:00 -0800
<![CDATA[What a piece of work is a Masterpuppet]]> Masterpuppet Theatre William Shakespeare's plays were written for the Elizabethan theater, a very different setting from what we consider theater today.

The stage was completely open to view and usually unadorned with props and sets. The actors did not play realistic versions of the characters--they spoke in verse, employed stylized gestures and oratory, possibly even held scripts with cues as they performed. Female characters were portrayed by boys. Performers occasionally wore labels to provide clues as to their identity, such as 'This is a hare.' There was no attempt to present reality on the Elizabethan stage--it was an expressly allegorical experience.

Elizabethan actors, in fact, were known as puppets. They were considered performing objects there to deliver the playwright's material, and it was up to the audience to look beyond the limited physical trappings and discern the layered meanings of the plot and dialogue.

In this regard it has been suggested that audiences for puppet theater may be nearer in their way of thinking to the theater audiences in Elizabethan London, able to see through the surface illusion of the presentation and perceive the symbolism and hidden meaning of the action.

So it would appear that Masterpuppet Theatre offers the transformative experience of Shakespearean performance to actors and audience alike. ( : { >

Tue, 7 Sep 2010 14:00:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Masterpuppet Theatre Goes Live]]> Masterpuppet Theatre Not at the Globe, but on the global stage. Digital performance goes digital as Masterpuppet Theatre announces the launch of Now you can keep up with all the latest news and developments from your favorite interactive Shakespeare drama kit. The site features a blog on all things Bard-related. There are printable downloads of props, sets, and new characters you can use to supplement and embellish your basic package. And there are links to Masterpuppet's Facebook page, Twitter updates, and Knuckleodeum, the official YouTube channel of MPTV, where you can view videos created by other inspired masterpuppeteers, or even upload your own!

And of course there's shopping. You'll find special offers for Masterpuppet Theatre bundled with rare goodies and collectibles--everything you need to mount your own presentations of the greatest theatrical literature of all time. The world of Shakespeare is at your fingertips.

Don your favorite masterpuppets and navigate the site in character for a fully immersive online experience.

Break a finger! ( : { >

Sun, 29 Aug 2010 01:41:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Masterpuppet Theatre Wishes William Shakespeare a Happy Birthday]]> Masterpuppet Theatre Like so many details of the Bard's life, his date of birth is in some dispute, subject to much speculation, wishful thinking, and wild guesswork. What is known according to an entry in the register of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, is that William, the first son of John Shakespeare, was baptized on April 26, 1564. Through a distillation of various subjective readings of politics, superstition, and known baptismal practices of the time, April 23 has been generally accepted as Shakespeare's birthday, possibly aided by the natural inclination to have England's greatest dramatist associated with the feastday of England's patron saint, George. Go, team.

As April 23 happens to be the date of Shakespeare's death in 1616 at the age of 52, it also appeals to fans of symmetry and cosmic conspiracies. Fact or fantasy, we're pleased to have occasion to acknowledge the arrival of the world's greatest author. By an auspicious happenstance of the calendar and definitely not gratuitously exploitive timing, April 23 2010 also marks the inaugural posting of Masterpiece Theatre. ( : { >

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 14:02:00 -0800