I'm getting some practice in... learning to get my animation more under control, so a puppet's movements start to look coordinated and graceful, rather than disjointed and spasmodic. As I begin to get this kind of control I can start to make the movements become dramatic - the next step.
I had a good long conversation with Jay Wojnarowski - AKA 1BigLebowski on YouTube, who is a theatrical actor / director and has received training at Dell' Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake California. Maybe you wouldn't know it from seeing what he's posted on YouTube so far, but this guy really knows his stuff!! And, if you've looked at any of his behind-the scenes videos, you know he likes to talk, so I got a good detailed overview from him about physical theatre and commedia dell'arte, which is very closely related to stopmotion - at least the kind of stopmotion I'm interested in. It's the type of training clowns get, and mimes, and silent film comedians.
So I ordered a few books and I'm studying the physical training techniques developed by Jaques Lecoq, who pretty much single-handedly developed these methods (according to his book anyway) - or I should say re-discovered the techniques used in ancient Commedia and Greek Tragic theatre and further developed them.
Jay stresses the importance of the actor in the process.... having been thoroughly trained in physical theater an actor knows how to bring his character to life, and doesn't need permission from a director or writer... he's the main driving force behind the creation of the character and of the drama onstage.
So I'm now changing my focus from researching drama and story to actual performance. Don't misunderstand.... of course it's important to study drama and story, but unless you can express something through actual performance, it's a moot point. Until you're capable as an actor/animator of creating dramatic moments through your puppets, you can't really tell a story with them. So I'm beginning there.
Lecoq puts a lot of emphasis on mask work... training actors by putting masks on them. It frees an actor up... strips away the face and the social persona and puts emphasis on motions of the entire body. I think this is very similar to animating a puppet in a silent performance. So I plan to try some of the exercises he discusses. More to come...