Finding the perfect voice

By Rose Baggerly

Let me introduce to you my first puppet. It will explain some of what you read below as to how I came up with his name, his voice and his personality.

His name is Herman. He is a hot pink furry monster similar to the construction of Cookie Monster. He is a three handed puppet - his mouth and both of his hands can be worked by the puppeteer. If only one person is operating the puppet (which is most of the time), then only his mouth and his right hand are used. The right hand is used so that the puppet can shake hands. If two people are working the puppet then one person works the mouth and the other person works the hands (that makes clapping easier). Herman is now 33 years old and he still can't count past three (he only has three fingers on each hand).

I had never made a puppet or worked with a puppet before, so I had no idea where to begin to determine his voice. I tried several voice types such as a high pitched female voice, a medium voice, a fast talking voice, a soft / shy voice and I finally settled on a male voice. The main reason I selected the male voice is because I wanted a voice that was not at all like my voice. I decided that no one would be able to tell it was me doing the puppet since I would be behind a curtain and it would be a deep male voice totally unlike my own voice. Also, I would feel less nervous when performing if no one could figure out that it was me.

I continued to work on Herman's voice until it became more natural to do a male voice. Sometimes I would even practice doing his voice without him on my hands (mostly when I was alone or with other pupeteers). That helped me to make his voice more natural to me and less like a stranger. How long that process takes depends entirely on how much time you have available and how quickly you determine what voice works best for you. It can vary significantly for each individual. I do not remember how long it took for me to get comfortable with Herman's voice. It just seemed that one day I realized that his voice was as comfortable as my own.

Since I was still a little nervous performing with a puppet I decided to add another feature to his voice. Herman now had a voice of a distinctively less intelligent type. When he introduced himself to others, he usually couldn't even remember his own name without some help. He also said "duh" a lot and had a totally ridiculous laugh. That helped my nerves a lot and made him very popular with kids. I also changed Herman's introduction of himself so that he added that he could count to three. He was so proud that he could count so high. He always laughed after he had introduced himself and after he had counted to three. The kids really liked it because they could usually count higher, so they began to teach him the next few numbers. When that started, my nerves melted away. I knew then that Herman had become real to the kids. And that is the goal of finding the perfect voice.

Since then I have added 14 more voices and personalities. I have a grandma, a little girl, a fast talking male puppet who looks somewhat like a human, but he is blue with long gloves for his hands (his name is Big Blue), a squeaky mouse, an intelligent worm named BW (book worm) and many more. Sometimes I can pull a personality out that I never knew I had and do a show that is a hit with kids and adults.

To me, puppeteering is a gift from God that has helped me and helped many kids get thru some tough times. My puppets have gone to the MD Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston, and brought joy to many kids who were stuggling with some of life's most difficult diseases. The show I did there was a total flop. The reason: most of the kids were from other countries so they didn't speak English, and I didn't speak their language either. But when I let them work the puppets and do their own shows, their faces lit up like Christmas trees. My most popular puppet there was my unfinished (or so I thought he was unfinished) bald human puppet. He was so popular because most of the kids there were bald. That puppet made them feel welcomed and without embarrassement. There were so many kids that wanted to use that puppet that we had to set up a line and limit how much time each kid could use the puppet. That puppet show had nothing to do with my performance, and everything to do with entertainment. And, for a short time those kids were able to forget where they were and why they were there, and just enjoy being a kid.

Nothing is more motivating than that.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share. As you can tell I love talking about puppets.



  1. Anonymous3/21/2010

    That's a great article Rose. Yes, together with our ventriloquist figures we can encourage children, teenagers, people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and also people who suffer from dementia. They all start to talk about their situations and being creative in having contact with our ventriloquist characters. That is a lot of joy and a gift. You are absolutely right. God bless you and your work.

  2. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Esp the story of the what-you-thought-was-unfinished puppet. It's amazing how things work out sometimes. :)

  3. Anonymous3/21/2010

    Beautiful story Rose.
    What a wonderful gift you are to those children.