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The work of a ventriloquist differs from puppetry and marionettes in that the ventriloquist creates the illusion that the puppet can actually talk, while remaining in full view of the audience throughout the presentation. Ventriloquists use near life-size figures with which they create a life-like illusion.

Many people believe that ventriloquists have a special throat, giving them the extraordinary ability to create another voice. This is not so. Ventriloquism is a projection of the voice. As with singers, ventriloquists need to practise regularly and to breathe correctly in order to succeed.

There are six letters of the alphabet known as labials, which require movement of the speaker's lips: P, F, M, B, V and W. Ventriloquists replace these letters with another sound almost like them; for example, they replace an "f" by the "th" sound. This is how they avoid using their lips.

Ventriloquists usually work indoors, on a stage or in a hall. Sometimes they work outdoors, on open-air stages.

Satisfying Aspects
- entertaining and amusing people
- making people believe that the puppet is doing the talking
- being able to get across a message of humour, satire, etc, but in the name of the puppet character

Demanding aspects
- working irregular hours
- low income
- travelling and thus being away from home for long periods

A ventriloquist should:
- have a clear and pleasant voice
- be well-spoken and have an excellent memory
- like people and enjoy entertaining them
- have confidence and the ability to perform
- an artistic background is an advantage.

No formal training is available. This is a skill and talent that needs to be practised. Contact with an experience ventriloquist is beneficial for learning and developing techniques and methods.

- councils for performing arts
- privately owned theatres
- television and film industry
- entertainment agencies
- self-employment, as a freelancer

National Television and Video Association of South Africa (NTVA)
P O Box 16140
Vlaeberg, 8018
Tel: (021) 424-7575 Fax: (021) 424-7580

Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA)
PANSA National and Gauteng:
Postnet Suite 114
Private Bag X 7
Parkview, 2122
Tel: (011) 880-5486 Fax: (011) 880-5486

PANSA Eastern Cape
Tel: (046) 622-3897
Fax: (046) 636-1582

PANSA Free State
Tel: (051) 401-2815
Fax: (051) 448-3942

PANSA Kwazulu-Natal
Tel/Fax: (031) 261-5518

PANSA Limpopo
Tel/Fax: (015) 295-8924

PANSA Western Cape
Tel/Fax: (021) 674-0520