The Amazing Puppeteer
Christian Anderson is a puppeteer and the former puppet director at Avenue Q. We asked Christian a few questions in order to better understand his process of writing and creating content for his YouTube show, 88 Jade Way along with his future aspirations for it.
Where did you get the idea for your YouTube puppet show?
I was working on another puppet-based show for Youtube's YOMYOMF network
with my old friend, actor Sung Kang ('Han' in the Fast and Furious films). He had to
go out of town for work and suggested I come up with something else for them. I
had just finished building a small puppet, just for fun, and thought how I'd like to do
a show with just puppets in a puppet world with no humans. I talked to my girlfriend
about it and we came up with the idea that we could incorporate the real life trials
and tribulations of our apartment living adventures. We had a schizophrenic
woman who would ramble on about having no problem killing white American
children living across the hall, downstairs we had a lovely Mongolian couple who
fought loudly-and what sounded violently-at 5 a.m. in the morning after the girl came home wasted drunk and, closer to home, my girlfriend is a 'Cat Lady' in training-A treasure trove of inspiration. And that is the story of the birth of 88 Jade Way.
What was the biggest challenge that came with being the artistic director of Avenue Q?
My job at 3D Theatrical's Avenue Q was director of puppetry. I think the biggest
challenge was to try to teach non-puppeteer performers to essentially become believable puppeteers in about five weeks. Puppetry is a very complicated skill. Bad puppetry can take an audience out of the story and in Avenue Q half of the main characters are puppets and the audience needs to believe in them. It was hard work, very repetitive and exhausting, but the cast was great, very dedicated and professional and I think we accomplished what we set out to do.
What are your future aspiration as a writer/director?
Right now, I envision creating an empire with my puppet characters. I've got a
plethora of ideas for shows for adults like 88 Jade Way, and for kids, which is what I
was working on before-a musical puppet/human adventure series ala H.R.
Pufnstuf, but in reverse. I've been fascinated with that type of entertainment for as long as I can remember and I think there's a place for it today.
How does using puppets help or hinder your storytelling process?
I think that puppets add a certain "anything can happen and probably will"
ingredient to whatever they're involved with. If performed well, a puppet can make an audience believe anything you might want them to believe. A puppet can get away with saying something that if said by a human performer, would probably cause great offense, but doesn't for some reason because it's being said by a puppet, as seen all throughout Avenue Q. There's something magical and
transcendent about using puppets in storytelling, but not all stories need or would benefit from that. For me and the stories that I want to tell right now, puppets are key.
So far, what has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Simply put, I think the most rewarding aspect of my career so far is having had
the opportunity to meet and work with, thus learn from, some amazing and talented people. I got trained in puppetry (Muppetry... if you will) by the amazing Peter Linz ('Walter' from The Muppets), I've been directed by the great Jack O'Brien (The Full Monty, Hairspray, The Coast of Utopia), I've taught alongside former Muppeteer Michael Earl.... blah, blah, blah. I've also been lucky enough to travel some for work-Vancouver, Japan, London, and all around the U.S. Life is good people, life is good.
What sort of writing do you do outside of your puppet show?
Mostly silly little songs. I'm writing all the songs for and scoring 88 Jade Way.
Outside of that, I sing silly-some might say stupid-little songs all day long and
sometimes I put them to paper. I used to write a lot when I was younger-a whole
bunch of short stories, but writing is hard and I have a short attention span so the
real sitting down and writing something doesn't happen all that much.
What do you think is your biggest asset as a writer/director?
I don't consider myself a writer/director as of yet. I'd like to be someday, someday
soon, but I've got a lot to learn before I feel I can actually call myself those things.
As far as 88 Jade Way is concerned, I had an idea and knew that in order to make
it the best that it could be I needed to reach out to those who are actually writing
and directing, not dreaming about it like myself. I'm at the writer's meetings (with
Nihar Patel and Aaron Strongoni, our writers) giving notes and sharing ideas and
chiming in with Anson Ho (our director) while we're shooting, but mostly I'm
watching these guys and learning what I can.
88 Jade Way will likely be premiering on the YOMYOMF YouTube network in mid-May.
View Christian's Puppet Reel here.
Read about Christian Anderson at Avenue Q in the LA Stage Times.