Alone in bed, her black hair untied across her pillow, she laments the white snow piling up in it. The open-faced puppeteer moves with her, their gestures double, her loneliness is his loneliness.
In many forms of puppetry, the puppeteer isn’t visible. In Bunraku, a famous Japanese style of puppetry, three puppeteers visible on stage operate one puppet. Kuruma ningyo, a less well-known Japanese style, has only one puppeteer operating the puppet. The puppeteer sits on a cart and uses his legs to move the puppets legs, his left hand to control the puppet’s left hand, and his right hand to control the puppet’s right hand and head. The visible puppeteers are clothed in black, and often they were black masks. So, even when the puppeteer is visible, he or she is effaced as a person.
Nishikawa Koryu V performed puppetry for the song Kurokami (Black Hair) using Hachioji kuruma ningyo at the Freer Gallery yesterday. His face was exposed as he controlled the puppet and moved with the puppet. The doubling of the puppet and the puppeteer was a beautiful aspect of the performance.