How to Do Blacklight Puppets

By Jessica Cook
Puppets take on a life of their own.

Picture it: A dark room filled with anxious audience members, waiting to see a puppet show and wondering who turned out all the lights. Then your puppets appear on stage, seeming to glow and float through the air. That is the magic of blacklight puppetry. If you're already an experienced puppeteer, adding blacklight to your show brings a new dimension of audience enjoyment. Follow these simple steps to find out how to bring blacklight into your puppetry routine.

Set up your stage. For blacklight puppetry to work, the stage itself must be entirely black. If your stage is another color, you'll have to change it. Spray paint works well for the hard parts of the stage, like the support beams. Replace colored curtains with black ones; to save money, you can make your own.

Get dressed. The puppeteers must be entirely shrouded in black, too, and that means head to toe. Get long-sleeved black shirts, black gloves or wristlets, and black masks or hats. Wear black pants and shoes, too. No colored skin or clothing should show through (especially not white or other light colors that would reflect in the blacklight). This is good for all puppetry performances, because it helps to hide the puppeteers and preserve the illusion. However, it is absolutely essential for blacklight puppetry.

Set up your blacklights. It is best to purchase small blacklights and attach them to the curtain panel facing the puppets so they shine directly on them as you perform. Turn them on just before you begin performing, and you're all set. Blacklight bulbs come in all shapes and sizes, so you only have to find ones that fit the dimensions of your stage.

Build or purchase your puppets. Check out the resources section for links on places to buy blacklight puppets. If you already build your own puppets, making them blacklight-ready is simply a matter of purchasing the right materials. Neon paints and light- or neon-colored fun foam, tag board or other craft supplies can go a long way. For blacklight, you can make realistic puppets or simple shapes, depending on the type of show you want to do. You may make a full-body puppet or just a pair of floating lips; the possibilities are endless.

Gather other supplies. You can skip the puppets and just buy white gloves for your puppeteers, then you'll have floating "jazz hands" to dance around your stage. You can also use black poster board with fluorescent paint or stick-on letters to make signs for blacklight. If you're going to use puppets with movable arms or other body parts, make sure you get black rods for them in addition to your other accessories. If your rods are some other color, spray paint them black. Put together your blacklight puppet show like you would any other--include plans for music, choreography and technology use. Blacklight will add a new element to an already-great puppet program, without a lot of extra effort on your part.

Tip

Be creative. Blacklight puppetry opens up new opportunities for traditional and abstract puppetry styles. Practice first. Make sure your puppets glow the way you want them to before putting them in front of an audience.

Warning

Don't let any color escape. The only color in a blacklight show should be the color of the puppets. Make sure you blacken out or cover all the behind-the-scenes colors.