Stringing them along
Tintera’s puppets part of First Fridays production
September 1, 2016
by Kate Gienapp
Special to the Times
Bill Tintera often can be found in the company of pirates, parrots, stray dogs, turtles and other exotic creatures of the sea. They’re puppets, of course, but the adventure is still exciting. He has been mastering the precise pageantry and improvisation of puppets for more than 20 years.
“In 1987, we were in the (Crested Butte) Mountain Theatre and doing things there and somebody said, “Let’s do some strange things in the name of art, ” smiles Tintera.
Like many other creative endeavors, his love of puppets and performance started right here in the Gunnison Valley. Tintera has performed plays at the Eldo in Crested Butte, puppet shows for Vinotok, shows for children at the public library and even at the recent art fair in Crested Butte.
Tintera will perform “The Treasure of Coconut Island” at 6 p.m. in the courtyard of Gunnison Gallery as part of tomorrow night’s First Fridays ArtWalk & Music.
Puppets and marionettes can entertain many occasions — being both educational and festive — as well as many audiences, young and old.
“It’s another way to educate yourself about any subject you want, “ explains Tintera.
For example, Tintera performs a comical puppet show about a pirate and his parrot who are marooned on Coconut Island, but he also uses the show as an opportunity to teach about navigation, he explains.
“Nobody knows how to use a sextant but as a surveyor I’ve found out a couple things,” he laughs of an instrument used to measure angular distances between objects.
Although putting on a puppet show is slightly different than your average theater production, Tintera was up for the challenge.
The dialogue of puppets is different, for example, as compared to a play with people. Even though puppet shows are generally shorter, making it easy to memorize lines, Tintera prefers improvisational techniques.
“Usually I don’t use a script. I write an outline of the story and give that to the puppeteers, “he explains. “when you make up your own line you remember it.”
And Tintera not only performs the puppet shows, but he also makes the puppets himself. Combining the knowledge he has as wood carver and as a theater performer, puppeteer was a natural fit.
I like theater anyway, it uses all the arts, from painting the set to making the puppets to writing the script,” says Tintera.
Making marionettes requires several nuanced skills, such as knowing how to make a puppet that dances or one that walks, says Tintera.
A puppet that walks will be built with different hinges on its leg joints allowing for freer leg movements, he says.
Tintera also recently made a turtle puppet with fins that extend in and out to mimic an underwater adventure.
Another part of the fun is that puppets can get away with saying things that people can’t.
“Puppets can say more wild things than people would, even on stage, and then with animals you can even go farther, animals can say anything they want and everybody laughs, “ muses Tintera. “you can say things that wouldn’t ordinarily be said.”