I first became interested in ventriloquism upon watching a female ventriloquist who is about my age when she appeared on the television show America’s Got Talent. She performed with an assortment of fun characters that she made come to life. I began researching the topic, not knowing where the path would lead me.
My primary focus had been on school and sports, and I was looking for a way to express myself in a new way. Ventriloquism quickly became my favorite method of entertaining others for fun and in a volunteer capacity. Ventriloquism has become a significant part of who I am, and a fun hobby.
I started by exploring YouTube tutorials, and I found an abundance of performers and practice techniques. A ventriloquism instructor talked about how to use your diaphragm and throat, what position to keep your mouth in, and how to approach the most difficult sounds. Sitting up straight on the couch, I knew it was going to be a tough task, but it looked very exciting. I thought to myself how cool it would be to make something or someone come alive! This was a journey I believed I could take on and was ready to do whatever it took.
I began practicing every day for a month, using a small mirror in my room to make sure my mouth wasn’t moving an inch. I had mastered all of the easy letters, and a few difficult ones. Things were going so well, I started to look at puppets and figures on eBay, matching my practice voices to the ones they might have if I were holding them in my hand. I chose my favorite personalities for puppets, the top one being an old man’s voice.
After discussing with my family what I had been doing, they loved the progress I had made, and after a few more weeks of work, came to the agreement that purchasing a real puppet was the next step. I decided to buy an elderly man puppet from the site thedummyshoppe.com. They had a great selection of puppets, but after talking with the team, decided to go with a custom-made model. We worked together to implement all the features I wanted, and the final puppet is amazing. His name is Hank Wilson, a kind 93 year-old man.
After receiving Hank, I knew the real work would begin. I used the technique of mind mapping, originally developed by Leonardo da Vinci, to create the material for the performance. In mind mapping, a topic is placed in the center of the paper, and then related ideas are branched out in tree-like fashion from the primary topic. I created two mind maps of performance material, one tailored to young children and the other to elderly audiences. Once the mind maps had been filled with ideas for the material, I scripted it out and began practicing it.
During my ventriloquism journey, I learned some of the most important aspects of ventriloquism. The primary challenge is not moving your mouth. There are different ways to say harder letters, such as molding a letter into a sound that sounds similar to it in order to produce the same effect. However, the most important factor I learned was to have a real bond and connection with the puppet. If I was doing a show and my puppet lacked energy and enthusiasm, the act wouldn’t go over well. I practiced bringing Hank to life by holding eye contact, and showing authentic facial expressions. This way, he would really connect with the audience, and they would spend all their time looking at him instead of me.
I practice Ventriloquism on a regular basis, preparing for performances for younger children and older folks. It has been a life-changing and rewarding journey.