Some people are scared of puppets. That’s a fact. But if you comb through the wooden cupboards and cabinets in many houses in Thailand, you’ll find an old discarded marionette or two. Some hold garlands and sport warm smiles. There’s certainly nothing to be afraid of when you see the collection of dolls owned by Ajarn Mai (Wilawan Sawetseranee) who is a puppetry teacher.
Ajarn Mai founded the Hobby Hut Marionette Troupe, which today has an international reputation and has won several awards.
Graduating with a degree in performing arts from Thammasat University in Bangkok, Mai applied for a lecturer position at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Chiang Mai University. With her educational background and personal interest in marionette theatre, she started to experiment with her students. She rented a garage to use as a workshop and a theatre. Their shows gradually became popular and finally the Hobby Hut troupe was invited to perform publicly, first around Thailand and then abroad.
Hobby Hut’s marionettes are a combination between Thai traditional puppets and those of Indonesia. They are clothed in hilltribe costumes or those of traditional Lanna folk. The puppets’ faces are painted so that they look like the faces you’ll see on the murals at famous temples, such as at Wat Pra Singh or Wat Buak Krok Luang. And their performances invariably include Thai traditional music with Lanna and
“The charm in working a marionette is when you try to express your feelings and
opinions through them. It’s like bringing them to life. The audience can sense it,” she says. Hobby Hut was awarded second prize at the International Marionette Festival
in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2008. To contact them, email firstname.lastname@example.org.