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.
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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.
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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?
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.
- eyes: cut out the eyes exactly around the iris and glue them to a rectangular card. (o
- 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.
This is the birthday "e-card" I made for her*:
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
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
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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.
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".
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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.
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
" 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. "
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.
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
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
Go liath down. David hit you with a rock.
Hosea can you see?
Dan yell at those lions!
"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.
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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.
Question: Is there any truth to rumor that you might stop making these cases?
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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.
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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!
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.
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.
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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.
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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.)
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.
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.
Check it out now: Library Shows.