Great article on Monster Intelligence, the show I built for!

How a Community Builds a Puppet Show

MonsterPressUp In Arms’ latest puppet musical, “Monster Intelligence“, makes its debut with 3 shows free to the public in Orange County, New York on May 10, June 7 and June 14, 2014. Looking back, it’s been quite the journey. Over a year ago, many of my friends in the puppet community had been discussing the hurdles we face as full time artists. Bookings were and continue to be low and balancing budgets and the prospect of producing new shows becomes difficult to reconcile. This article won’t be about the hardships that we all know too well. I’d rather focus on the triumphs and community of puppeteers and supporters who made this show possible.

Last year, I became aware of a grant available through our county office of tourism which promotes arts events here in Orange County, NY. Several grants would be awarded at a maximum of $5000. Part of the funding had to come from the applying organization which just meant I had to show that I was investing in my project as well. It was my first grant and I had two very smart and educated nieces guiding me as they were both familiar with the grant writing process. Months after the grant was finalized, I was notified that I was a successful applicant and my project would move ahead with funds from Orange County Tourism and the County of Orange. This is the major reason why the show was even able to move forward in production.

The grant and budget would pay for the script writer, music arranger, recording studio, puppet materials, additional puppet builder, scenery and props, photographer, talent rehearsal and performance stipend. Along with that, I had a community of people ready to lend a hand. Derek Lux is a builder from LA who was kind enough to buy an Up In Arms t-shirt when I had them printed to raise funds. I always enjoyed his artistry and was happy to be able to employ him as my additional builder. Although the materials were supplied, he jumped in at a reduced fee to help build some of the puppets. Pasha Romanowski from Project Puppet has always been a champion of all we do at Up In Arms and lent his artistry in drawing some initial concept designs for many of the characters. When it came time to construct props, I needed a drawing of a young monster for a cereal box. Of course, Dave Hulteen came to mind and I knew just the character of his I wanted to use. When I asked for use of the character, he not only allowed me to use it but, mocked up what he thought the cereal box cover might look like and it’s now being used in the show. These are all people that I’ve developed relationships with online over the years but, it still fills me with love and support that these people believe in what I do. Relationships in this community are everything to me. I met puppeteer Charlie Kanev at the POA festival in Swarthmore, PA last summer and he wanted to help in any way he could. I want to support this young talent, not only because of the friendship we’ve forged but, because of the amazing artistry and potential that he so obviously has. When I needed a butterfly for the opening scene, Charlie, with his knowledge of rod puppet mechs, built me a beautiful butterfly rod puppet with flapping wings. Charlie was instrumental in designing and painting some of the set pieces as well and will be puppeteering for the premiere performances. A designer I met at the Puppetry Guild of Greater New York (NYC) was Justin DuPont who designed and built a simple rolling frame for the monster’s doors which roll on and off during the show.

I took Colette Searls’ workshop “Directing for Puppetry” at the POA conference and realized that I’ve had to direct from within for my shows, being both director and puppeteer. Having an outside look at your show or having someone with that vision can be so helpful. With all of the great music and artistry that’s already gone into “Monster Intelligence”, I wanted it to achieve a greater vision. One of my favorite puppeteers that I’ve worked with on “Helping Drew” is Amy Rush as she’s always inspired better performance from me. I also met Joshua Holden, another amazing artist at the POA Festival, and enlisted the two to workshop “Monster Intelligence” so I could have that outside look and observe what’s possible with the various characters and their scenes. Amy and Joshua were a joy to work with and helped me see a better vision for “Monster Intelligence” that I couldn’t have completely seen for myself.

Of course, there are more than just puppeteers and puppet builders that made this show happen. I’m lucky to be part of an arts community where I live and called upon talented friends for the initial table-read of the show, vocal talent to record the show, Scott Test, our exceptional music arranger, my friend Hannah Blair Butler who created costumes for a few of the characters and, my insanely talented friend John Simpkins in Oregon who painted the backdrop for the show. Major kudos, of course, to my creative partner and script writer Alex Ishkanian for taking on the ‘monster’ task of bringing this story to life. “Monster Intelligence” is ready to be embraced by an audience with a community of exceptionally talented and caring individuals behind it.

Article by David Manley




Here’s the link to the article!

Monster Intelligence!


Late last summer, DLUX Puppets was contacted by Up In Arms to assist building a handful of puppets for a brand new show. It was a truly wonderful, collaborative effort. Puppets were designed and patterned by Pasha Romanowski of Project Puppet, and then built in stages by Derek Lux and David Manley. The live show starts performing this spring!

Here are the three completed puppets that DLUX Puppets built for Monster Intelligence.


For more information on the show, please visit

Audrey 2 Puppet!


DLUX Puppets’ first fully completed project of the year is an Audrey 2 hand puppet from Little Shop of Horrors!

Youtube personality and sensation Trisha Paytas commissioned the build for her personal use. She is a huge fan of the 1986 film and has always wanted one of her own! She loved the visual style of Swazzle’s Audrey 2 puppets, so even though I tweaked many things, I have to give them credit for their great look!

Here are some pictures of the entire process of building this girl from scratch!






Throw Back Thursday! The Drakes! – Making the puppets – Part Two – Brielle!

The Drakes Poster

I was given the idea recently to post some pictures of previous builds as part of a “Throw Back Thursday” theme. For my first post, last week, I decided to post about the Bigfoot puppet character I built for The Drakes!

This week I give you his niece, Brielle! She’s a four year old beauty pageant competing little girl. She is carried around in a baby bjorn by her father who is an overprotective stage dad, played by me!! She was inspired by ‘Honey Boo’ when I first saw her on Toddlers and Tiaras.

Below you will see some pics and descriptions from the building process of the puppet that was created for The Drakes concept pitch.  Check it out!


As I did with Duane, the bigfoot, I started with a mock up from a pattern I had laying around. I used it as a jumping off point, and ultimately made modifications to it.


Using reticulated foam, I glued her head shape together.



I use Barge cement, which is really strong contact cement.


Barge is very vaporous and can be dangerous. I always use a respirator. Safety first peeps!


If I am making a puppet for myself, I will experiment and always try something new each time I make one. Usually with the parts going on in the inside. I’ve seen people use elastic for straps on the mouth plate, so I thought I’d do it and see for myself what the experience was. All in all, not a good approach for this puppet, for various reasons. Oh well, at least I know now!


Using armature wire, I fashioned the inside of her hand so it can be posable under the foam. Shoe laces run through the entire length of her arm so they can be attached or detached as needed.


Her little hands and feet patterned out and traced.


Hands, arms, legs, feet and head all glued together in foam.


I created a fabric pattern for her head out of one solid piece of fabric. I placed the seams under where I knew I was going to be placing her eyes. I used antron fleece that I hand dyed a flesh color so as to help reduce seam visibility.


I love her smile as she closes her mouth!


Her hand stitched legs all ready to go.


Her hand stitched arms ready to go too!


Fleece glued onto her ultra suede mouth. He nose was placed underneath the fleece that was stretched around and glued down. Here she is with some place holder paper eyes pinned in place so I could preassemble the eyes with proper pupil placement. How nerdy does all that sound?


A blonde curly wig, her eyes, some lips, buckteeth, and a pair of tonsils and a tongue, and she is all done!


Here she is in her baby bjorn all ready to be worn!



For more information about the live action mockumentary comedy concept The Drakes, please click on the links page to be directed to the website.

The Drakes Poster

Throw Back Thursday! The Drakes! – Making the puppets – Part One – Bigfoot!

The Drakes Poster

I was given the idea recently to post some pictures of previous builds as part of a “Throw Back Thursday” theme. For my first post, I decided to go big… Bigfoot that is!

And I decided since it’s a throw back, I will show the process backwards!

I started building this puppet about two years ago. Below you will see some pics and descriptions from the building process of the bigfoot puppet that was created for The Drakes concept pitch. He’s a meandering through life, weightlifting, fist pumping, Jersey Shore-esq type of character. He since has been lovingly named, Duane ‘The Train’.  Check it out!





He’s a full bodied, live hand puppet. His pelvis and legs are detachable for close up shots when his lower half isn’t seen.


He was completely sewn by hand for the best results in hiding seams. Let’s just say, it took a while!



His arms can be tried in place and removed through reinforced holes in the shoulder using shoelaces.


His head was made from a combination of reticulated foam and a closed cell foam called L-200.


His entire body constructed in foam. Looks like Robo-puppet.


Back of his pelvis. His legs are attached with strips of leather.


Custom patterns made from after the mock up design process.


A full scale mock up was made in poly foam to see the size and proportions of the puppet.


His feet were carved from blocks of poly foam and sanded smooth with a dremel.


Big Ole Feet!!


Head mock up with his mouth plate shape pinned in place.


His head mock up in it’s most basic shape before alterations. See we keep going backwards!


Nope, that’s not a peanut, that’s the beginning of his heap shape!


The oval shape glued from leaf shaped pieces of foam.


Leaf pattern traced onto poly foam. The dimensions were calculated using a ‘ball equation’ to scale up from a concept drawing.

And that’s a brief backwards overview of how Duane “The Train” Drake came to be!

Check out next week’s post, where I will share the process of making Brielle, the pageant competing four year old little girl from The Drakes!

The Drakes Poster

2013 Ovation Honor Award for Puppet Design


For their design and work done in Shrek The Musical, Derek Lux and Christian Anderson were the recipients of a 2013 Ovation Honor Award for Puppet Design. It was a huge honor to be recognized by the Los Angeles theater community.

In October, the nominees were invited to a reception to receive nominee certificates. Since our award was a special one, we gave a thank you speech at the reception. Plus, we had a lot of fun!!





In November, the 24th annual Ovation Awards were held in a black tie event hosted by Michael McKean.



I did have a date, but my wife was kind enough to let me take a photo with one of my friends!Image

Shrek The Musical – behind the scenes!

ImageIn May of this year, Derek Lux and Christian Anderson began designing and building puppets for Shrek The Musical for 3D Theatricals. Puppets included a Gingerbread hand puppet, a mechanized chirping bird rod puppet, assorted rod puppets for a Travel Song number, and a 25 foot full scale dragon puppet!!

Here are some behind the scene pics of the build!


A one fifth scale head was carved from poly foam, then draped with muslin to created a pattern for the sheet foam that will later be used to create the final head of the dragon puppet.


The muslin was then carefully removed and traced onto paper.


All markings were transferred over as reference.


An overhead projector was used to blow up the original pattern pieces two times larger.


Now twice the size of the original, the patterns are traced onto 12TF sheet foam and cut and glued to make a mock up.


This crude mock up confirms that everything has gone smoothly thus far in the process.

Now it’s time to blow the original pieces five times larger on the overhead projector.


With this foot in the picture as scale, you can see the pieces are getting quite large!!

Now time to trace them onto the L200, the foam that will be used for the final version of the head.


The markings help assemble the large and often confusing pieces. The 1 inch thick and 1 1/2 think L200 is glued together with Duall #88, a very strong grade contact cement. Notice the respirator, safety first!




The limbs of the dragon being carved and sanded with a dremel from 2 inch thick L200.


About 35 different sized rings created from different thicknesses of sharkbite were made to make up the shape of the dragon’s torso and tail.


Webbing and fanny pack clips were utilized to created custom attachments, this way the dragon’s body could be disassembled for shipping and storage.


An inside view of the torso rings connected and padded with foam insulation tubing.


Starting to take shape!


Next, the head is draped once again to create the fabric pattern to be machine sewn. About four or five full bolts of fabric were used to cover the dragon!



Not to mention many many pins!!


The mechanism for the wings were sourced to our friends at Encirco Studios. They did an amazing job creating wings that can extend and flap up and down! Check them out –

Once the head was fully completed, it was harnessed and tested!


The big girl in the truck ready to be shipped!


Backstage ready for her entrance!

And here are some great production quality pics!