No, I have not taken leave of my senses.
It’s like this, see….
A couple of weeks ago, Athos and Porthos went for a birthday party that featured a magician from That Magical Party. I’ve seen a few magicians at parties but this guy (Danny) was outstanding – smooth sleight of hand, unobtrusive ventriloquism, impeccable comic timing, and engaging patter. He kept the kids (and me!) enraptured and entertained for about an hour.
The kids have been talking about it on and off since then. They were particularly charmed by the talking puppet (“Where did the voice come from?…. But I couldn’t see the magician talking!”) So tonight on a whim, this crazy sleep-deprived mother decided to undertake a pre-bedtime ventriloqual act.
And folks, I’m pleased to confirm that it IS possible for a total novice to make this work. Assuming your kids are young and gullible like mine.
We don’t have a puppet at home so I used a stuffed toy. I found that just by moving its head and body dramatically, I could get a pretty good effect. The stuffed toy looked at me when we conversed, looked at the boys when he talked to them, moved his head in sync with his words, and flopped, bobbed and jiggled depending on his mood.
The hard part was the ventriloquism. How to make it look and sound like the puppet is speaking?
The first is to give him a tone that is different from your own. In my case, I went for high-pitched. The sharper the distinction, the more it will appear that there are two characters.
The second is a technique known as substitution. I remember reading about this ages ago and finally put it to use today. Open your mouth slightly, and try saying the whole alphabet without moving your lips. You’ll find that for the most part, this is pretty easy. BUT, there are some letters which are impossible to say without the use of your lips – b, f, m, p, v, w. In those cases, a simple substitution will do the trick.
- For “b”, try “d” or “g” – Say “dalloon” for “balloon”
- For “f”, try “th” – Say “thish” for “fish”
- For “m”, use “n” – Say “nonny” for “mommy”
- For “p”, try “t” – “Tilgrin Tarent” for “Pilgrim Parent”. Pronounce the “t” as far inside the mouth as possible.
- For “v”, use “th” – “thery” for “very”
- For “w”, use “oo” – “oo-inter” for “winter”
And there you have it! I’m sure it’ll get easier with practice but Athos and Porthos are young enough that I got away with the amateur performance. The kids thought it was so funny to have their stuffed dog tease their mother that we ended up going past their bedtime. Pilgrim Mom gets kitschy and carried away….