Mark Wade, known as "America's #1 Children's Ventriloquist", will soon be heading for Tokyo, Japan to perform, lecture, and receive the coveted Japanese Ventriloquists' Association "Contributor's Award" for his book"Kidshow Ventriloquism".

The event will take place October 2-3 and Mark will not only lecture on how to do shows for children to the Japanese, he will have the opportunity to perform for a Japanese elementary school. The kids from the school will be brought into the convention auditorium and Mark will perform his popular kidshow, then do a debriefing lecture to the JVA on what they just saw and how he did it.

Mark's book, "Kidshow Ventriloquism" was released a few years ago in a Japanese language edition and became a best seller to the JVA and other Japanese vents. The book is now used in over 26 countries as the text book on how to perform vent for children.

Mark and his wife, Jody, are excited to be making their second trip to Tokyo.

Appropriately, we today will award one lucky blog visitor a signed copy of Mark Wade's, "Kidshow Ventriloquism". And that winner is: Robert Lawrence.


Toy? or "Real"?

Question: Clinton, I have written to you before about the figures in your collection. I'm still hoping that someday I will be able to purchase a "Real" dummy. I hope you will not be offended by this question- but after looking closely at the pictures, it looks to me as if these "Dummies" are converted dolls, like Charlie or Mortimer Snerd dolls. Is that correct? Do you paint them or do you just use them the way they are and update them with a headstick, etc.? Brad
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From Mr. D. If you go through my photo albums (see left hand column of this blog) you will find that early in my career I built all figures from "scratch" which requires many hours. Now, in my retirement, I usually do start with Goldberger dolls (or a kit). But all are completely made over, inside and out. And, yes, fully repainted. Their final finish is equal to any pro figure costing ten times the amount. At $325.00 each (which includes raising eyebrows) their value is unequaled. Add $40 and I will install deluxe hands, too.

I'm sure you realize this, but I replace the legs with handcrafted and contoured deluxe legs. The body is enlarged, They are very nice. It's not where a dummy starts out - it's where it ends up...not unlike the vent that's using it. It's the skill of the vent that makes any figure or puppet a real "pro figure". I'll be glad to help you if I can do so.


Problem: Dry Throat

I have a question. We do a lot of shows in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and for obvious reasons, it's pretty warm in the buildings. From time to time my throat gets pretty dry because it's so warm. During a recent show, I went into a song with my puppet, "Annette", and in the middle of the song, my voice started cracking. I keep some water handy to keep my throat moist, but I seem to still battle a dry throat. What would you suggest to be the best way to keep my throat moist during our show? Thanks! Ron
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Comment: Lick your lips just before you begin - that will help, but it won't keep your mouth moist through the full show. I glass of water is about the only answer I know of. I've heard of vents who actually keep a throat lozenge in their mouth during the show, but I've never tried it - I'd probably choke on it! Are there any readers with suggestions for Ron?


Puppet-ization* of a photograph

From Ted Nunes

A follow-up to the recent discussion of the puppet-ization of a photograph: I decided to make one of my sister for her birthday.

It's easy enough to cut up a photo of someone's face, but the challenge is how to create the extra space around some of the moving parts. (around the eyes and the inside of the mouth.) Having Photoshop makes this really easy. For example, I grabbed somebody's wide open mouth from a Google image search to combine into the interior and lower teeth for my sister.

But for people that don't have photo-editing software, they can take a more manual approach:
- eyes: cut out the eyes exactly around the iris and glue them to a rectangular card. (o
ff-white is actually better--the "whites" of someone's eyes in a photo are not actually white.)
- mouth: cut out the jaw and collage it with some "donor" mouth interior, like from a magazine, or draw it by hand.

I had my puppet parts printed on card stock at a Kinko's. (when she pulled the pdf file up on her screen, the girl helping me said, "that is SO disturbing looking!") Then I backed that up to some bristol board for more thickness. (I used a glue stick for a lot of this project.) Then cut out the parts and used glue-stick, some cardboard and white artist tape to assemble.
NOTE: you want to blacken the cut edges of the eye-holes with a marker. The body was a quick, silly drawing I just cut out and taped to the cross piece that holds the jaw in place. My wire loops for hooking the rubber band were taken from a gator clip and bent up with pliers.
I didn't bother with figuring out a control stick and levers. I just held it in my hand, working the mouth and eyes with my index finger.

This is the birthday "e-card" I made for her*:
*"Puppet-zation" coined by the author.

And the winner is ...

Congratulations to Mel Hall, winner of today's drawing for this framed vintage photo of Edgar Bergen, Charlie and Mortimer.


Teaching children

Comment: My 6 year old grandson did his first ventriloquist act in front of a group of 3 and 4 year old children at our Church M.O.P.S (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) program this morning. He gave a Godly message with his little puppet "Lil Joe" about the train that climbed the mountain to deliver toys and Spinach to needy children. This was entirely his created dialogue. Lil Joe went on to explain how the little train had a hard time, but he finally made it to the top because God gave him the strength to succeed. Someone took a video of his performance so that in years to come Aaron (my grandson) could look back and see how far God has brought him. When I complimented him on doing a good job in ministering to others with his puppet, he gave me a big smile and said "Grammy, I did a ministry"?

He works the puppet's mouth well and according to the syllables of each word, but he realizes that he moves his own lips and needs practice. I tried to share some of the tricks that I learned in the 30 lesson Maher Course, but it is too much for this little guy and I do not want to overwhelm him or cause him to become frustrated and discouraged. Right now it is fun and I don't want it to become a chore or a dread. Is there some program or short version designed for little children who want to learn ventriloquism? Donna
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From Mr. D: I don't know of anything in the way of instructional material that is especially prepared for a six year old. I do, however, believe what you are doing is the best possible at this time - providing opportunity and encouragement. Timely simple tips on technique can be given as opportunity presents itself without making it overwhelming. It will all come together in due time.

An entertaining school show video for elementary age children that includes ventriloquism might be fun for him to watch. and he could unknowingly pick up some techniques to mimic. I'd suggest maybe one by Tim and Laura Allured. I tried to find a web site for them, but this is all I could come up with: Harvey Rabbit Productions Inc, 135 Hummingbird Lane, Lafayette, LA 70506 (337) 988-4170


"Just medium, please"

As I sit down in my barber's chair, one of his first questions is always, "How do you want it?"
"Just medium, please", is my usual response. So when I first finished this figure and then studied his photo (right) he seemed also to be requesting a trim, "medium, please." So I took him back to my barber shop, picked up my scissors and comb and went back to work. A closer trim did provide a much neater appearance (left).
This gentleman is now for sale HERE.


Ventrilo-ett Update

In addition to the Ventrilo-etts shown on my post for 9/21, here are four additional Ventrilo-ett characters to choose from.
(Note to those of you have already ordered: Thank you. If, after seeing these Ventrilo-etts, you would like to change your selection, feel free to do so, but as soon as possible, please.)

The October themed ventrilo-etts (order # S-1) shown on the right will be a limited edition, priced at only $44.95, postpaid (US). Contact Mr. D to order.

C-1 (left); C-2 (center); C-3 (right) $39.95 each


Barry the Box

From Geoffrey Moran (Australia)

Here are some photos of my self-built pal which is obviously a copy of your Christmas Box idea (thank you!). I built my pal (Barry the Box) about 3 years ago.
The outside box was kindly built by my Father-In-Law with dovetailed corners! (Previously I used an appropriate sized cardboard "gift box".)
The internal workings and final finish were my work (with the face pretty much a copy of your Christmas Box). The internal workings are separate from the box and can be slipped in or out of the box if repairs are needed. As you can see the outside box looks pretty ordinary - so when left sitting around no one guesses what it is.
However, sometimes I have wrapped it in Christmas paper, placed it under a Christmas Tree and then brought it out at the appropriate moment. (It could be wrapped in birthday paper if required.) I have also added a thumb hole on the left side of the outside of the box at the front. This allows me to put my thumb through the hole giving me more grip on the puppet.
My right hand at the rear controls the mouth movement. The internal workings are from scraps of timber and wire axles from coat hangers (as you can see my skills are pretty rough), but all works well and shows that even someone with limited skill can make a very nice puppet!


Why "Ventrilo-ett?

Question: Just exactly what is a ventrilo-ett? Why is it called that and different than a regular figure. I would like to know since you will be sending me that picture of ventrilo-etts from the 1970's. Sandi

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Answer from Mr. D: I coined the word "Ventrilo-ett" by combining the two words, "Ventriloquist Puppet". I guess I could have called it a "Puppet-on-a-stick" but I didn't think of it!

The Ventrilo-ett is unique in that it is a hand puppet held and operated from a head post with lever mouth control (hidden by its legs and feet). There's no hand puppet that is easier to operate! Perfect for office, home, classroom, travel ... Pick it up with one hand and begin performing in an instant! Effectively!

For someone wanting to learn to operate a traditional figure, but are not yet able to invest in one, this puppet is the perfect place to start developing the skill and dexterity of operating the larger figure. In fact, this was where the idea for the Ventrilo-ett was born in 1970.

For Sale Now!

Ventrilo-ett Puppets: $39.95 each Postpaid
Contact Mr. D A-1 (left); A-2 (center); A-3 (right)

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B-1 (left); B-2 (center): B-3 (right)

Todd Oliver

It seems unusual to see a photo of Todd Oliver without his four-legged friends, but the Great Ventriloquist collector cards were printed "pre-Irving." However, Todd's traditional characters are still an important part of his show and will be even more so next season, it is rumored.
This signed and framed card was won in today's drawing by Newell Falkinburg.


Custom Compartmentalized Carrying Case

This case was oversize for the intended figure, but purposely chosen so it could by customized inside to hold both figure and props. It turned out well, although it does add significantly to the price of a case.


Making figure's arms moveable

Question: I'm interested in making my figure's arms (or arm) movable. Would you have any
information or photos of how this could be done? Also, this blog is a ventriloquist's blessing, keep up the great work! Bill Bantel - "class of 06".
* * * * *
From Mr. D: The most common (and in my opinion, most effective and practical) method of making a figure's arm move is by the use of an elbow/arm rod on the figure's arm, next to the ventriloquist. I don't have any instructions, but I use a 3/8-1/2" diameter dowel rod inserted into the arm at the elbow and secured to the figure's hand (unseen) at the wrist. About 4-5" of the dowel (painted black) extends outward beyond the elbow (through a hole in the clothing) to act as the "handle" used to manipulate the arm. Next time I have a request for this feature, I'll try to remember to take a photo.


See Beneath the Surface

Let me tell you, Jesse hated this job. And you would too, I imagine, if you had to do it. Jesse was a chicken plucker.

That's right. He stood on a line in a chicken factory and spent his days pulling the feathers off dead chickens so the rest of us wouldn't have to.

It wasn't much of a job. But at the time, Jesse didn't think he was much of a person. His father was a brute of a man. His dad was actually thought to be mentally ill and treated Jesse rough all of his life.

Jesse's older brother wasn't much better. He was always picking on Jesse and beating him up. Yes, Jesse grew up in a very rough home in West Virginia.

Life was anything but easy. And he thought life didn't hold much hope for him. That's why he was standing in this chicken line, doing a job that darn few people wanted.

In addition to all the rough treatment at home, it seems that Jesse was always sick. Sometimes it was real physical illness, but way too often it was all in his head. He was a small child, skinny and meek. That sure didn't help the situation any.

When he started to school, he was the object of every bully on the playground.

He was a hypochondriac of the first order. For Jesse, tomorrow was not always something to be looked forward to. But, he had dreams. He wanted to be a ventriloquist. He found books on ventriloquism. He practiced with sock puppets and saved his hard earned dollars until he could get a real ventriloquist dummy.

When he got old enough, he joined the military. And even though many of his hypochondriac symptoms persisted, the military did recognize his talents and put him in the entertainment corp. That was when his world changed. He gained confidence. He found that he had a talent for making people laugh, and laugh so hard they often had tears in their eyes. Yes, little Jesse had found himself.

You know, folks, the history books are full of people who overcame a handicap to go on and make a success of themselves, but Jesse is one of the few I know of who didn't overcome it. Instead he used his paranoia to make a million dollars, and become one of the best-loved characters of all time in doing it!

Yes, that little paranoid hypochondriac, who transferred his nervousness into a successful career, still holds the record for the most Emmy's given in a single category. The wonderful, gifted, talented, and nervous comedian who brought us Barney Fife was Jesse Don Knotts.

-- John E. Dent, Jr.
Content Editor, Life Lessons
LifeWay Christian Resources

"Don Knotts and "Danny the Dummy"


Maher Alumni Update

From Tom Farrell:

" I started vent in 1950. So I took the Maher Course as a refresher. Now I'm doing school shows, senior, church groups - the sky's the limit on what's next. Thanks Clinton for all your help and support. "

Pictured: Tom and The Gang .
Honor graduate May 17, 2010.


Trying to start over

From Shawn Kraemer:

I have been reading your blog for a while now. I wanted to say thanks. I am 34 and in the Navy right now. Back when I was in 7th grade I saved up for a year and ordered a figure from you. My parents planed our vacation to take our camper through your town so we could pick him up. I still remember the way you had him talk to me before we packed him up and climbed back into our camper and headed back to North Dakota. I also got your home course and got pretty good at it. After I went to college for a few years I did not practice and had to sell him because of a new child. After much prayer and talking to my wife I am going to start over again. I will be ordering the home study course again soon once the bills are taken care of and eventually reorder a new figure from some one. I just wanted to say thanks for putting the bug in me so long ago. And thanks for everything you are doing for future vents and those of us trying to start over. Keep up the good work.


Coin Comment

"My dummy dollar coin arrived today from you and it is just great. I will keep it on my desk - the coin that will keep me prioritized. Five Dummy Dollars ... my sort of currency. The markets won't be able to devalue these! Thanks so much - it is one of those nice things." Chris Woodman

FINAL Coin Call

This day has actually arrived much sooner than I expected, but it's here and you, the reader's of this blog, are the only people who will receive this notice.

My inventory of Dummy Dollar Collector Coins is almost depleted. As I write this, I have only 27 coins remaining. When they are sold, this item will move forever onto the shelves of collector display cases and into the annals of ventriloquist history.

$10 each or three for $25 postpaid - while supply lasts.
Contact Mr. D
This will be my only notice - when the photo disappears from the left margin you will know they have been dispersed.


Ventrilo-ett update

Reader Comment & Question: The woods you have chosen to replace the styrofoam are most interesting because of the diversity of colours shown in the posting. It's a pleasure to see that you're not using plywood, but I wonder if you would share the selection of woods shown? They seem to cut and sand so cleanly, they must be a pleasure to work with. Thank you. John

* * * * * *
From Mr. D: Actually, the wood is a form of plywood called, "luan". Commonly available. I get mine at Home Depot. It is a thin, lightweight 3-ply plywood. And is, as you suggest, very easy to work with. My goal, of course, is to complete the puppets in such a way that none of the luan can be seen (except the inner edges around the mouth opening and those edges will be painted black.

Surrounded by her work

I'm thinking the Ed Casey family may have a budding puppet museum at their north Denver home. With three vents in the family (father Ed, daughter Mehgan, and son Michael), they not only have their garage filled with puppets, but also store an overflow supply in their neighbor's garage! Or maybe....as I look more closely at this photo ... theirs is an Axtell satellite location!

Mehgan and her family are currently featured in a very nice article you can read on line in the
Broomfield Enterprise.



My son is offering this unique one of a kind collectors' item on Ebay. A wood carved masterpiece of Elvis Persley, with moving mouth and side to side eyes. His mouth and eyes are controlled by his tie. A slight up and down motion of his tie will open and close his mouth. Then a right and left movement of his tie will operate his eyes, side to side. Overall measurements are 5"x6" A great item to add to your ventriloquist or Elvis collections. You will not find another one anywhere! More photos Here.

Never before published photo

from the year 1985.

Never before published photo
from the year 1985.

Mini Mr. D.

In the spring of 1985 I received a call from a Denver woodcarver, Jim Harris, asking if I would show him how I installed moving eyes in a ventriloquist figure. He explained that he had designed a woodcarved lapel nameplate piece with moving mouth and eyes, but wanted to explore ways the movements might be improved.
We arranged to meet, and when he showed me his first piece of work at that meeting I was blown away with the detail and precision mechanics. Very little of a my ventriloquist figure's mechanical design applied but we enjoyed discussing possibilities.
Before that meeting ended, however, I commissioned Jim to carve and construct one of his miniature works in my likeness. You see it here. It was #2 of Harris' series of such carvings, and one of the pieces from my collection that will not be sold or given away!

I have to wonder if it was Jim Harris who handcrafted the similar piece that Kevin is offering for sale on eBay, but there are no signature markings on the Elvis piece as there are on mine.



What you see here are the structural, unassembled pieces for a dozen classic Ventrilo-ette puppets. When hit by an unexpected burst of inspiration a few days ago, accompanied by a mental image of how a superior model could be now constructed without Styrofoam (the material we used in the 70's), I decided to construct a few for "old time's sake". So far, so good ...

I have a framed and signed photo of a set of my early (1970s) Ventrilo-etts. It makes sense for this to to be displayed on my office wall but I feel a bit presumptuous in thinking someone else would do the same...however, Sandi Stricker, if you want it, it's yours.


Story time

Arriving from New Zealand this past week was an excitement filled email from Dave Thomson. It had nothing to do with the earthquake that county has recently experienced. For Dave, however, there was another "earthshaking" experience. The week was personally significant to Dave because he had his first opportunity to participate in his minister's Sunday children's message. The minister provided the story, but invited Dave and "Dexter" to listen and ask questions.

Dave had spent three weeks preparing for his participation in the Sunday morning children's presentation during the worship service. In spite of that amount of preparation Dave says, "most of the prepared lines went out the window" once he stood in front of his audience (we've all been there, haven't we?), but still, all in all, the comments he received following the service were very favorable and encouraging.
I'm so thankful for those individuals who recognize budding talent and lend their support as was done for Dave on this Sunday. In my own early career it was the pastor of our church who encouraged my feeble early efforts and provided repeated opportunities for me to perform. Had he not done so, I seriously doubt I would have persued ventriloquism long term. I'm sure nearly every ventriloquist can look back to the early days of their career and see where some special person or persons provided key support which in one way or another was so vital.
Those dear folks who provide encouragement to others are one of God's greatest gifts to his people. I pray you are one of them.

Bible Knock Knocks

Out of print for several years, I now have a very limited number of copies (10) of Bible Knock Knocks due to a customer request. Original writing by William Andersen, author. Nearly 100 Knock Knock jokes with Bible story theme. Best for younger audiences (my opinion). $5.00 each postpaid. Contact Mr. D Or, purchase now on eBay: Here.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Goliath who?
Go liath down. David hit you with a rock.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Hosea who?
Hosea can you see?

Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Daniel who?
Dan yell at those lions!



Bergen Bucks

Charlie McCarthy Mazuma - One Simple Simoleon - Laffin Lettuce - Genuinely Bogus - Happy Cabbage - Illegal and Very Tender - AC or DC Curent-Cy -

"Money Talks but this doesn't even whisper. Try to pass this bill and allow yourself plenty of time - at least 20 years."

Signed by John Dough, Secretary of the Pleasury and Phil Thee Lucre.
* * * * *
These funny money bills were provided for gifting by Bob Abdou . Today's winners who will receive one bill each: Jane Pershing and Edward Arle.

Contact Mr. D to confirm your address and claim your prize.


Getting Close ...

You may remember the trio of unfinished heads I purchased from my son several weeks ago - heads that I started myself a quarter century ago?
Well, one is nearing completion. Hopefully by this time next week I can show you the finished figure which in the end will look quite different from what it would have been if completed when started. I'm glad now that I waited!


Case availability?

Question: Is there any truth to rumor that you might stop making these cases?

* * * * *
Answer: To tell the truth, I had no intention of selling ventriloquist carrying cases as part of my retirement. Even I sometimes wonder just how long I will keep the cases in production. They are custom handcrafted for me and I have to purchase in quantity to get the best price. I do all the lining and padding myself. I stopped carrying them in 2006 when I "retired". Then after a couple years I started getting requests for more and really had no place to refer people for anything of similar quality and value at similar price. So I decided to do a temporary production revival....and here I am today, still producing cases in that "temporary" phase. Ha. You will find the sizes and prices here: http://maherstudios.blogspot.com/ Just scroll down until you see the Custom Carrying Cases.

Note: In this photo there are no cords to hold the lid upright when in the open position. However, I DO now install such cords on ALL cases.


What's in a name?

Question: Here's a quick question. How do you pronounce "Maher"? I've heard it like the comedian Bill Maher says his name (with a MAW sound), and also like the "mayor" of a town. Which is correct?
* * * * *
From Mr. D: It may depend upon the family or the region. I've heard it both ways as well. But we've always pronounced it similar to the "mayor" with a slight twist: "May-hair", as that is the way I recall Mrs. Maher pronouncing it.

I have to tell you a funny story. Years ago we received a letter that was addressed very simply: "Mayor's Office, Litteton, Colorado." That's it - nothing else. And it was delivered by the post office to the office of Littleton's Mayor. We had a friend who worked for the city and when she heard coworkers laughing about the letter sent to the Mayor asking how a dummy could be purchased, she put two and two together and said, "I know who that letter was meant for!", and it was redirected to our door!

What's in a name? More than you might expect, including some surprises!

Paper Puppets by Dave Miller

The last three "Friendly Freddy" paper puppets handcrafted by ventriloquist artist Dave Miller will be awarded today. The lucky winners are: Cliff Wiggs, Jim Haile, and Ken Howell.


Where's the voice!

Question: I purchased your Maher Course over a month ago and I would like to say it is a great Course! I have been practising every day. I can now read anything newspaper etc. with little to no movement at all and the labials are easy to me now.

The problem I'm having is I am having a very hard time coming up with a voice other than a little boy sound. I would like to get the puppet captain Jacque Finch on your site and I have some very funny scripts for him, but I can't seem to come up with his voice that's not close to my own.

I was wondering if there is any other books or CD's that I may purchase that could help me out. It's getting frustrating for me. I find the other things are easily once you practise a lot but for some reason I just can't come up with a voice.
* * * * *
From Mr. D: It does take time to develop new character voice. Initially you can change the tone of the voice, but it still carries speech traits of your own voice. Dialects help, changing inflections and word cadence.

One of my favorite tools on this subject was produced by one of the voice character specialists in our business, Liz VonSeggen. You might contact http://www.onewaystreet.com/ to see if they still sell the DVD "Developing Character Voices" by Liz VonSeggen. I believe it would be a big help to you.


Bergen display!

This is rare! I framed two Edgar Bergen collector cards (so both front and back are displayed) with a copy of an authentic Bergen autograph from my collection. The winner of this piece is Major James Justice. Congratulations!

Backup figure

Mr Detweiler: I just had a friend suggest I should ask you if you would have any figures for sale by any chance. This friend is curious to help me see if we can afford a duplicate as a back up when fella is being serviced or repainted. Thank you.
* * * * * *
Answer: Your figure is one of the handcarved classic basswood figures designed by Craig Lovik and built by Barry VanWert. Both men are out of the business. There is no way to duplicate the figure today. I would suggest you consider adding a second character of some type to your repertoire (or act), a "bench player" so to speak. That way you can bring in the secondary player when your starter needs a break. (I'm a basketball fan.)


Quick, Easy, and Useful!

I love this paper puppet idea that was sent by Barb Phoenix. An idea for your Labor Day Holiday no labor at all! It just takes a few seconds to fold one sheet of paper into a very fun and effective hand puppet. Barb says she uses them after a show when kids come up and want to play with her puppets. "How would you like to have one of your own?", she asks. Then she shows them how to make the folds and draw on a face.
This would make a fun craft project, spur of the moment puppet (I'm guessing you could use a restaraunt paper napkin), restless child anticdote, etc.

Barb has her ad printed on some and uses as an inexpensive handout. She is thinking of printing it on the back of a coloring sheet of her puppets, Oregano and Chesterton, so after coloring the picture, the child can fold it into a puppet with her information on the bottom.
I was able to fold one easily by looking at these pictures. Make the two lengthwise folds first.
If you fold the top corners of the finished puppet down, and the bottom corners up, you get teeth.
Thank you, Barb.

Neck cut off

This vintage Knee Pal was designed with the "drop-through" type neck. I wanting to change it to the more modern ball/socket design which required a shortening of the neck. I have a hacksaw blade that I have modified into a special-purpose handsaw which I use often for detail work on figures, primarily for cutting out (or adjusting) mouths. But it came in quite handy for this "neck-shortening" task as well.


Shadow Puppetry

My Father was quite adept at making hand shadow pictures on our living room wall using his hands and fingers. As a child, I was fascinated by his creations, many with moving antics. The shadows were cast by the light of an oil lamp. Electricity did not reach our rural farm until I was 5 or 6 years old. I now know shadow puppetry is actually more effective when performed with a single light source of low wattage. Technically, my father, Ernest Detweiler, was the first puppeteer I met.

September 4 (today's date) was Dad's birthday. In his memory I am awarding a copy of "Fun With Hand Shadows" to three blog visitors. 57 pages of illustrations showing the proper positioning of hands to create over two dozen animal and human shadow characters. This ancient pastime has lost none of its ability to entertain. The winners are, Tom Rogers, Dr. Joan Jensen, and James Elliott. Enjoy!


NAAV alumni

Question: Hi, Clinton. I found this among my Dad's papers. He passed away many years ago. Can you tell from the Membership Number (9349) about what year this certificate was issued? Thanks. Charles Moody
* * * * *
Answer: Unfortunately, I cannot give you an accurate date as this certificate was issued in the Maher/NAAV "BC" era ("Before Computer"). But from the certificate design I can tell you it was probably during the early 1970s. Does that sound about right to you? Maybe someone reading this might still have a dated NAAV membership card with a membership number close to that of your Dad's. It's a long shot, but we can ask. Seeing this certificate certainly stirs nostalgic memories for me. Thanks for sharing. Mr. D.

Rehearsng Vent for Theatre

By Buddy Big Mountain

Over the past eight years I have had the good fortune to be a part of a production. The producer uses ventriloquists to give ones inner thoughts, a voice. This past June I went to Braunschweig Germany to perform a text called "The Inner Voice - I Am Big" at the Festival Theaterformen.

This particular text, when performed, was about 50 to 60 minutes long. The actors were myself and the figure that was built by the producer. The text is expected to be delivered word for word and in the way the writer meant it to be. I sit in a chair in the spot lights, the middle of the stage with the figure sitting on my lap.

I had to memorize the text first. I broke it up in small sections to make it a little easier for myself and then I practiced it by the page. When I started rehearsing the text I did it without any inflection or emotion. Why? My first time working with this project I had memorized the text from beginning to end. Not only did I rehearse it with a voice, I blocked it out and memorized it as if it were one of my own routines. When I made it to rehearsals and I was asked to go through the text I did it almost flawlessly. I was very proud of myself and the director said, "That is very good Buddy, but that is not the way I want you to do it."

When we came up with the voice I was to use, and the way I was directed to say it, it was like I had never rehearsed at all. I was glad we had enough time before the performance. When I do my own dialogues I can hear my character saying what I am writing as I am writing it. My guys even change it as we go along.

Working with a character you don't know and performing words that are not your own... is challenging. I did a text called "The Inner Voice - Dead Air" about dealing with death. It had made some of the audience members very uneasy. I was told that we were going to do this text as a comedy. I was thinking that now I would have to memorize all the changes made to the text and I hope I could do that in the amount of time we had before the presentation. All we did was change the way things were said, we didn't change any words at all. That is theatre.

Library Shows

I've set up yet another themed page on the subject of how the ventriloquist can best prepare and perform an educational and entertaining Library Show. You'll find advice, suggestions, themes, and tips from professionals with experience performing in this unique venue.

Check it out now: Library Shows.


Swiss Bird Warbler

John Degel (Montana Santa) sent me the small old-time ad (right) for the "wonderful invention use for ventriloquist double throat" which I put up as a post a couple days ago. I think most youngsters, especially boys, were duped into answering this ad at one time or another.
What was delivered was the half moon shaped device with cellophane reed strip (see lower left), that when soaked in water (or saliva) and placed in the mouth could be made into whistle-type sounds. I believe I saw Bill Boley use one for a bit on one of his videos...making a balloon dog "bark" or something similar.
Years ago I attended a show Curt Hansen brought to a Denver area mall. His trained pig (live) barked like a dog throughout the show. Very entertaining and few in the audience suspected it was Curt (using the Bird Warbler) making the dog barks and sounds, and not the pig. It was a sound illusion, but not using the voice, so I never thought of it as ventriloquism, although maybe it's a distant relative. It was very entertaining.
Since publishing the post titled "Remember this", several readers have offered to locate some of these for me to give away. Thanks but no thanks. If anyone wants one, you can Google one for sale easily. Personally, I do not encourage them for the ventriloquist, especially so since my early experience was nearly identical to that which is described in the next paragraph.
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From Philip Grecian: "The one I sent away for was advertised in the backs of comic books with the guy carrying the trunk past the little boy...who was making voices come out of it. There was a little booklet, too. The company that sold such things was "Honor House." Not much honor, though. I ordered quite a few disappointing things from them. The thing itself was useless. As I recall, it was a capsule-sized metal whistle thing you were supposed to put in your mouth. As you say, Clinton, it was useless for anything except making whistle sounds. Disappointed (and grateful not to have swallowed the dang thing), I put it in the sock drawer, where it rested for years and then, apparently, dissolved...or something."