My policy is not to talk about work, but I believe this is a suitable exception.  I’m not one for following my rules off a cliff I suppose you might say.  Mr. Punch, being an intriguing rascal, appears to enjoy stirring things up.

So.  Not one to easily forget the discovery I made of Mr. Punch in an earlier post, I bided my time.  The passing of time elapsed, and an opportunity presented itself to me in the form of a talent show at work.

I didn’t immediately recognize it as such.  Many folks where I work recognize that I have certain leanings towards the creative performance.  So it wasn’t a surprise when I said randomly, “Sure, sign me up.  I don’t know what I’ll do, but whatever.”

The show approached, and all I could think of was doing some unformulated comedy routine.  Meanwhile, the other volunteers honed their ideas and practiced what they would share with the rest of us at the office.  Heartfelt duets, piano-violin duets, funny duets.

Me, I had nothing.  And from nothing comes something, or rather, Mr. Punch came along and said I should do a show for him.  The folks at the office would love it, and I would get a chance to actually run a show.

You see, I’ve been doing a lot of Internet reading about Mr. Punch.  Not just to search for clues, but because I found the whole concept fascinating.  Perhaps I might actually become a “professor” one day!  That’s a person who is a Punch and Judy performer, by the way.  It has roots in the old days, when professors weren’t merely academics but also people with mystical or showmanship skills.

Okay, I have no funds right now, having spent all my reserves moving out of the haunted house.  There’s no way I was going to actually be able to buy real props.  Not with two days to go before the big show, where I was getting the feeling I’d be standing up on stage like a frightened Andy Kaufman, except it wouldn’t be an act.

So, I pored over Punch and Judy scripts and made one of my own.  Well, in true rip-off street entertainer style I snatched up a bunch of ideas from other professors online.  I decided on Punch, Judy, and the Constable, with the Devil for a chaser.  Memorized some classic lines and that was that.

Next, a makeshift stage.  Obtained some tall, stiff cardstock and taped it together.  Large enough for me to sit behind and raise my hands above.  A bit wobbly—wouldn’t it be hilarious if it fell down during the performance?  Well, that’s show biz folks.  I’d run with it.  The great thing about Punch and Judy shows is they are designed to be totally improvised and mobile if the situation calls for it.

Finally, the puppets.  Again, ripping off pictures of Punch characters from the Internet and printing them out.  I traced the outlines onto a fresh piece of paper and exaggerated the lines a little to make them larger.  Then I colored the faces and cut them out.  Taking four brown paper lunch bags, I glue-sticked the faces on to the bottoms.  When the bags are folded, the faces “face” forward and have a little motive ability.

For Punch’s stick I used a cardboard tube from a paper towel roll.

I practiced the voices and the lines back and forth for an hour.  Slept on it.  And then the next day I’m at work ready to go!  We are talking a dirt cheap, bare bones, never been done before by me, on the fly show.  Boy I sure hope I don’t choke!

Mr. Punch came through.  I did the work, and he had my back when the time came for him to show up.  There’s something primordial about puppet shows, and archetypal characters on stage that has a strong life energy of its own.  The show was a big hit, with people laughing at the stupidity of the paper bag puppets talking in funny voices.  The interactivity really makes the audience implicit in the story, while still allowing them to be particpationists (it’s all rote responses right….right?!).  This is what genius is made of.

I didn’t think I would be able to run all three side characters in the five-minute time slot, but it all flowed beautifully.  Judy boggled at the audience larger than she could cook for, so she decided to call in delivery (the office was having a lunch afterwards of Chick-Fil-A).  The constable was suitably outraged at Punch’s misbehavior.  And when the Devil showed up there was a nice chill down the audience’s spine, at the same time a hope Punch would get his comeuppance this time!

I don’t know when I’ll get to do a Punch and Judy show again.  It’s a tremendous privilege for Mr. Punch to come along and give me even one opportunity in life.  I feel as if I’ve participated in an ancient, honorable tradition and made people happy.

And that’s the way you do it.