About UNIMA International
The Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA) is the oldest international theatre organization in the world with 6000 members in 100 countries. The organization represents an incredibly strong and diverse network of passionate artists, researchers and educators working in over 100 countries. Every four years, representatives from member countries convene – there will be a strong Canadian presence at the 2020 UNIMA World Congress and the World Puppetry Festival to be held from April 13 to 19 in Gianyar, Bali (Indonesia)
Fall Journal editor: Pam Moore
Newfoundland & Labrador update
News from Corner Brook: Tara Manuel, Shadow Souls Inc.
Tara reports that she introduced her new work-in-progress recently at CBNuit – Corner Brook’s nighttime art festival. She’s also shared news that her new touring show, The Lady of the Falls, has been offered a grant from Arts NL’s school touring program to tour to ten schools on the central north coast of Newfoundland in the spring.
New Brunswick update
News from Fredericton: Grey Rabbit Theatre Company
Laura-Beth Bird is a graduate of the Mermaid Institute of Puppetry Arts Animotion program. She recalls her first visit to Mermaid Theatre in December 2018 when she spent a week in residency at the Mermaid Loft with the goal of seeking advice about puppet construction. Her experience convinced her to enroll in Animotion with the aim of attaining formal training in in a professional setting. She subsequently launched Grey Rabbit Theatre Company’s Caravan project.
“We’ve done a small show in Moncton at the Kreativ Children’s Festival. A brand new, children focused event held at the Aviner Center hosted by The School of Atlantic Ballet. The Company has also performed two shadow puppet shows at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery Family Day and The Fredericton Public Library. We have also worked in residency with Solo Chicken Productions at the Fredericton Arts Alliance Casemates.
It’s slow going, life gets in the way, (was in England for the last few weeks) but work is starting to come out into the public sphere now. The two puppeteers and solo chicken performers I have been using are Naomi Thais Mercedes Mcgowan and Dustyn Forbes. Both are physical theatre trained but have taken to puppets like a duck to water.
Other than that, I have been hired more frequently to direct new shows with puppet elements and was able to use it predominantly at the notable acts theatre festival. The one acts featured a monster, and I got to be that monster.
The performers are myself and Brenna Gauthier. The show is Gullywhump written by Greg Everett and Directed by Miguel Roy for the NotaBle Acts Theater Festival. Photo: Miguel Roy
On the personal employment side, I am currently the Theatre Teacher at the School of Atlantic Ballet, so that’s pretty neat. I work with over 100 students and community members each quarter with summers for my own research and development; couldn’t have asked for a better gig right now. I also teach workshops on the side with the occasional freelance set or prop building.”
Nova Scotia update
News from Halifax: Theatre du Poulet
Settle Elsewhere is an innovative and timely new production by Theatre du Poulet. Combining character mask, site- specific performance and documentary theatre with live music, Settle Elsewhere explores the wide scope of stories and day-to-day struggles faced by immigrants to Canada. Beginning at the historic Pier 21 Museum of Immigration, this immersive piece will take the audience on a journey to locations around Halifax, giving a glimpse into the rarely shared daily lives, stories, and experiences of those who are coping with the heartache of leaving home and the challenges of settling elsewhere.
The show’s director notes:
“We have worked hard to maintain some exciting surprises in this show, so, please allow… NO SPOILERS… to be shared with those who have yet to see Settle Elsewhere.”
Theatre du Poulet was founded by Carmen Lee (Executive Director) and Chun Shing Roland Au (Artistic Director) in 2016. Originally from Hong Kong, they relocated to Nova Scotia in 2015. After living and working at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, and Roland’s participation in Mermaid Theatre’s Animotion program, they set about to launch their our own theatre company.
Theatre du Poulet is the first theatre in Nova Scotia that is operated by Asian immigrants. Their stated interests interests lie in connecting political and social issues with art and using puppetry and physical theatre as a language-free method to reach the widest audience.
The Mermaid Loft – Windsor, NS
Jim Morrow, Mermaid Theatre’s Managing Artistic Director oversees the Mermaid Loft’s unique mentoring program. His annual report (2018-2019) summarizes a busy year:
“We experienced the busiest schedule to date with six individuals and companies residing in Mermaid’s Theatre Loft, having travelled from across North America to receive training and mentoring in aspects of puppetry construction, manipulation, play creation, process development, and organizational planning.
Participants included: Three Gallows Theatre (Oregon); Struan Robertson/Michelle Urbano (Windsor/Toronto); Laura Stinson (Halifax); Jenny Rogers (Michigan); Laura-Beth Bird (Fredericton); and Steve Day (Montreal). We are currently welcoming new participants and negotiating with a number of others who we expect to travel to Windsor in the season ahead.”
Notes from Loft Participants:
The Mermaid Loft most recently welcomed Kaitlin Morrow, a Mermaid alumna and a dynamic multi-faceted performer with the Toronto-based Fringe favourite Sex-T-Rex theatre company. She shared her thoughts about her recent experience.
“I had a wonderful time during my residency at The Loft. I was commissioned to design and build many puppets for an upcoming project in Toronto and it was great to get away from the distractions and noise of the big city and to have the privilege of breathing fresh air while working in such a beautiful and quiet part of the country. Mermaid Theatre’s Loft program provided me with my own studio, access to tools and resources and most importantly, mentorship from Mermaid’s expert staff who helped me develop my ideas and hone my skills. The most remarkable thing about this program is that these services are offered without charge to emerging artists. I would highly recommend The Loft to any puppeteer looking to advance their craft.”
Logan Robins of Halifax followed his participation in the 2019 Animotion sessions with a recent residency at the Mermaid Loft.
Here are his comments about an ambitious project:
“After the lofty proposal of an original extinction -themed puppetry show for Halifax’s Nocturne Festival, I knew that I would need a lofty solution. After spending a week in the Loft engaged in building, tearing down, re-building and experimenting, I was able to craft prototypes of three different creatures. Since the residency I’ve been hard at work sharing the puppets and their stories at galas, recording music and stories to accompany the performance, and writing the script. My stint at the Loft has allowed me to build on lessons learned, and to create bold, engaging, and innovative puppetry to share with the masses. What the Owl said to the Orangutan will premiere (one night only) October 19th, 2019 at the Propeller Brewery 6pm-midnight.. Watch for next steps!”
The Institute of Puppetry Arts – Windsor, NS
Notes from Struan Robertson, Director of Director of Education and Outreach
The Institute of Puppetry Arts at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia engages the community by providing unique creative and educational opportunities for participants of all ages and abilities. Diverse programming fosters the growth of personal skills and confidence, as well as facilitates positive social interaction in a safe and nurturing environment.
Some examples of the Institute’s well-received community-based activities range from sessions directed to preschoolers (and their parents), outreach workshops at elementary and middle schools throughout the immediate region, and Puppet Nights for Grownups at which we partner with Windsor- based enterprises such as Schoolhouse Brewery to provide both fun and instruction with a local spin. The YouTheatre puppet sessions offer local adolescents a voice to share their own stories, as well as provide access to arts programming not generally available in rural Nova Scotia. In the season ahead, the Institute hopes to offer instruction to Seniors.
With the launch of the Institute’s attractive storefront studio, the community now enjoys enhanced opportunities to explore the world of object movement while reaping the benefits of personal and collective creative endeavour.
About UNIMA Atlantic:
The Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association /Association des marionnettistes du Canada atlantique)
Don’t forget that the ACPA/AMCA members are encouraged to send updates about your puppetry-related activities in the region.
You can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in a future Journal. Submissions can be in either English or French (or both!).
UNIMA Canada maintains an excellent website, with updates, events, and interesting stories from the world of puppetry. It is online at unimacanada.com The ACPA/AMCA maintains this blog/journal, as well as a Facebook Page: facebook.com/UNIMAAtlanticCanada