Puppet party

We all love a good costume party. They give everyone a chance to indulge together in harmless fantasy of being a superhero, or a cartoon character or cereal box, or whatever, while continuing to hang out with each other as ourselves.

I think of this now because I’ve been having discussions with people about the use of costumes and puppetry in theater, and how the relationship between costumes and puppets might change if theater is performed in virtual reality.

Usually we know the difference between costumes and puppets in the theater. A costume is worn by an actor as part of their performance. A puppet is operated by a puppeteer who is not generally considered part of the drama — even when in plain view.

Of course sometimes the two concepts can be blurred. Julie Taymor, to give just one example, has made a career out of doing just that. Yet for the most part they are distinct.

But let us consider a future in which theater is performed in VR. An actor might be able to embody an octopus or a giant snake.

In VR theater, it will become possible for the concept of costumes and puppets to be blurred. And yet it seems to me some fundamental distinction may remain.

After all, we all love a good costume party. But nobody goes to a puppet party.

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