There are always ads that tout the fact that a pro ventriloquist figure is very light weight. I just had to bring this up because in my mind I have no clue why this would make any discernable difference when using a knee figure in performance.
Figures of the golden era were certainly not light weight and the fact is that a McElroy figure weighs in at around 14 pounds. Frank Marshall figures around 7 pounds and same for most of the other wood carved figures. These were used for a hundred years and the weight was of no concern. So why now do some makers use this light weight term as a selling point of a pro vent figure?
Today many performers use a stand to sit the figure upon so would the weight of the figure matter? If you sit down and have the figure sitting on your knee would it really matter?
I guess if you are a walk around ventriloquist it may make a difference but how many vents today do walk around. And if you do, they also sell a side seat which you wear around your middle and the figure sits on same taking the weight. So I guess what I am saying does a light figure really make any difference??!!
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2010 by Dan Willinger
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Of course, light figures are much more desirable when transporting to venues, especially if the vent has other props to carry.
I read somewhere that Bergen was happier using his Charlie replica because it’s lighter, especially when Bergen was older.
In performance I don’t think the figure’s weight matters. My Spencer figure is VERY heavy but I find him easy to use on stage.
I guess whenever possible, I would make fiberglass/urethane replicas of my wood figures, especially antiques, and use these lightweight figs in my shows. That way I won’t also fear accidentally damaging the originals.
The problem is not so much the figure but the clothes and shoes for the figure that add the weight. Check out figure’s weight with these on and off and you will see. I like a “sledgehammer” because of shakes growing older, the heavier the figure the less of that, and use standing figure with ability to move around a lot so no weight problem. I carry head in case, body in bag. Value the head, keep separate and with you whenever fly.
I can only speak for myself, but when you travel and use multiple figures in your act, as I do, less weight is a lot easier on the arms and back.
Especially when you have to lift/carry your trunk(s) and figures in and out of a vehicle, up stairs, on and off stages, etc.
Maybe I’m just getting old. LOL!
For the last forty years I’ve done a Christmas show at a hospital/residence hall for the developmentally disabled. After about 15-20 minutes of magic, I bring out my figure, Louie, for the vent portion of the program.
I discovered several decades ago that this particular audience doesn’t value a scripted show so much as one-on-one with “the talking doll,” so Louie and I go into the audience and speak with each audience member…getting their names, sub rosa, from attendants.
They just beam.
For years my Louie figure was a considerably reworked and rebuilt 1950’s Jerry Mahoney head on a slightly larger body–lightweight and easier to work through a crowd.
Last year I replaced him with a Conrad Hartz figure (same name, almost identical face. I added a new and different wig).
The Hartz is bigger and heavier and harder to work the crowd with.
A side seat’s out of the question, because, moving in amongst about 75-80 wheelchairs and folding chairs arranged in ragged rows, is tough enough! If the seller of the Hartz (As it happens, it was Wanlu, a friend of Ony’s!) had said, “It’s lightweight, too!” it would have been an important selling point to me. But since it was a Hartz, I wouldn’t have cared if it was carved from granite!
(It’s also possible that, some folks buying figures on ebay and elsewhere are buying them for younger people who are just getting into the craft)
Dan as a collector where the figure sits on display the weight of the figure is not important. As Pete Michaels said , when you are performing and carting your equipment in and out, you try to keep the weight down. Especially when you work in some of the old schools where the auditorium is on the third floor and there is no elevator, every little bit helps.
I do walk arounds at RenFaires. A lighter figure is better for my back. I use the Bill Boley board/stage and that helps out a lot as the weight is better distributed. Bonehead is about 20 or so pounds. That is quite a bit. Poopdeck Smiley comes in at about 4 to 6 pounds I think. I much perfer the lighter weight. Of course Hot Wings is a MAT puppet and he is VERY light. But as a walk around the Boley board IS the best idea I have come across for helping out with the figure’s weight, so it does not bother me as much.