Human Arm Puppetry
So what is a human arm puppet?


Human arm puppets can add more realism to a puppet show by allowing the puppet to actually hold and handle props. Imagine what appeal the Cookie Monster© would lose if he were not able to pick up a cookie. Imagine what appeal the Frankenstein Monster would lose if he were not able to pick up a Frankenstein. With working opposable thumbs, a puppet enters another dimension of realism. With a little effort, a human arm puppet can even turn the pages of a book from which she seems to be reading or perform live illusions or object lessons.

Human arm puppets can be operated by either one or two puppeteers. With one puppeteer, one hand will go into the head while the other goes through a sleeve and into the cup of flat Diet Coke© left behind stage by some thoughtless teammate. When only one puppeteer is operating a human arm puppet, care must be taken to not let the stub of the unused arm flop around above stage like a freshly caught tuna. Pinning it to the puppet’s side is a satisfactory solution. Pinning it to the forehead of a teammate is optional, but perhaps not the best choice. With two puppeteers, one will operate both hands while the other works the head.

To operate the hands, put on the gloves, which are the same color as the puppet’s skin. Holding the puppet facing away from you, put your hand through the fully elasticized end of the sleeve – which we call “the fully elasticized end of the sleeve” - and work it through to the other end. Pull the sleeve to fit around the wrist. (The puppet’s elbow need not coincide with the puppeteer’s elbow.) The puppet is now ready to be operated.

If two puppeteers operate the puppet, the taller puppeteer should work the head. The puppeteers should be positioned as closely together as possible. We suggest duct taping them together is preferable to stapling or any adhesive solutions. The best position will depend on the relative heights and arm lengths of the puppeteers. The taller puppeteer should be stationed behind his partner so that he can reach over him to work the head.

Eight to twelve inches of depth between the stage and the puppet’s body will provide space for arm movements. Do actions with these puppets just as if they were real people on stage with other people’s hands in their heads and arms. They are simply an extension of your personality, so have them do what you would do on stage – unless you would just stand there like a goof with both hands at your sides. In that case, have them act like somebody more interesting. Don’t forget, since they are able to pick up actual props, good eye contact with the prop is imperative. It doesn’t make sense to look the other way when picking something up. Not looking at what you’re picking up is the best way we can think of to accidentally pick up something you don’t want to be holding.