Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Stagecraft (1 of 2)

OK, it's been a few days and I'm still just overwhelmed by one particular little bit of stagecraft they used in His Dark Materials.  So I'm going to share it with you (even though it will require quite a bit of set-up.)

In the world of His Dark Materials, every person has a daemon.  (Pronounced: demon.)  Your daemon looks like an animal.  It follows you around -- indeed, you can't be separated from it.  You can think of a daemon kinda like a witch's familiar, but it's rather more than that.  It is described as the "physical manifestation of the human soul."  Oh yeah, and they can talk.

In the stage production, the daemons are played by puppets.  (Very pretty, elegant, fluttering-piece-of-silk puppets.)  Our lead character, Lyra, has a daemon, Pan, that looks kinda like a small squirrel or ferret (or something with a bushy tail).  Sometimes Lyra operates her own daemon puppet (like when Pan is scared, so huddles in her arms) but he's frequently operated by another actor.  And since the other actor isn't really supposed to be there, he's dressed in black from head to toe.  He's even wearing what looks like a black fencing mask over his face -- he totally disappears, in order to make the puppet the character.

Other daemons are also portrayed this way -- so during the six hours of this show, you sort of get used to ignoring these people dressed in black who are operating the puppets that are the daemons we should be paying attention to.

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