The Abrisham Journey Workshop with award-winning Iranian puppeteer and thespian Hamed Zahmatkesh took place from the 25th to the 29th of August at the Lostgens studio in Jalan Panggong, Kuala Lumpur.
Participants received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pick up new talents, hone their skills and perform through puppetry, masks, and acting. Throughout the workshop, the students also had a chance to learn more about shadow puppetry, paper puppetry, and instrument puppetry.
The 1st Day
The students drew each other’s facial features on paper to gain a deeper understanding of their artistic personalities by observing their hand-drawn portraits before applying their personalities to the puppets.
They also learned mask-making while playing the character of the masks they created.
The 2nd Day
The students learned about shadow puppetry, doing poses and movements in front of an overhead projector (OHP) and spotlight. Their shadows were reflected on a white cloth which formed the viewing screen for the rest of the audience.
The 3rd Day
This exercise was called “Mirror”. One volunteer in the group would have initiative movements or steps, while another would have to follow without letting the audience realise that he or she was following. The purpose of doing this exercise was to train participants to have good focus while honing their senses.
This day also saw Zahmatkesh demonstrating his hand-made puppets, then allowing the students to make their own from a variety of paper, corrugated cardboard, and coloured pens. After this process, each group of participants had to think of a story and choreograph the steps in a presentation.
The 4th Day
Participants were given an exercise in concentration and memory by Zahmatkesh who asked participants to go on stage and place a chair in different positions one-by-one. After everyone had a turn, participants were randomly selected to reposition the chair from the first position until the last.
After this exercise, participants were asked to place their personal belongings separately on a black cloth, arranging them according to however they see fit, giving Zahmatkesh an insight into each participant’s personality in the items they selected and the way they arranged and re-positioned them.
Lastly, participants learned about instrument puppets and how to manipulate them. They also learned the three sightlines while performing, namely to hide their faces with a black mask, not moving their face or making eye contact, or to have sightline communication with the puppets. Performers would have to decide carefully to use either technique depending on the concept they were using.
The 5th Day (The Final Showcase)
In the final day, the participants had a chance to demonstrate the sum of their week-long training.