Believe it or not, some vents in countries outside the United States actually believe that the only true ventriloquists are the ones who use the standard hard figures. While I have no problem with vents using the wooden, composition, or fiberglas figures made of hard materials, using soft puppets is not necessarily the hallmark of only the kidshow vent (although I think they are absolutely TERRIFIC for this audience). Times have changed and so has ventriloquism.
Decades ago the carved vent figure was the benchmark of our art. The cute, or “cheeky” boy was the foundation of almost every vent act and that was a good thing. In those days the producers of vent characters were limited as to the medium they could use. There was no foam rubber, or latex, or any of the materials so readily available today. With the advent of these new products vents found a whole new way to do an act or show. The case for the “soft puppets”, as they were called, became clear. They were lightweight, compact, could be seen from the stage easily, and transporting them was much easier. Also the array of characters changed drastically as well. We started seeing animal puppets, and even creatures we are still not sure about, cropping up in acts.
Just for kids? The list of professionals who use soft puppets is almost legendary. Names like Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator, Gary Hunter, Lynn Trefzger-Joy, Mark Wade, Steve Axtell, Brenda Hahne, Pete Michaels, John Kimmons, Ken Groves, Shari Lewis, Tom Crowl, Shane West, and thousands of others have done extremely well using a soft puppet. While I am not bashing the hard figures..they too have their place..soft puppets have opened up a whole new dimension for ventriloquists. When someone asks me if soft puppets are for kids or for adults I answer confidently..”YES!”.
To contact Mark Wade: firstname.lastname@example.org