UNIMA Atlantic Journal for Sep-Oct 2015

In this issue:

  • Profile: Théâtre Alacenne
  • UNIMA Atlantic update from Tara Manuel
  • Mermaid Theatre heads back to Ireland
  • New Member: Louise Marmen

Profile: Théâtre Alacenne
by Tara Manuel – Shadowy Souls
Regional Director, Newfoundland & Labrador ACPA/AMCA 

As a woman who has done a lot of solo touring with puppetry in my home province of Newfoundland, and who is looking toward working with another puppeteer for my next show, I was curious to know more about these two women: Melanie Leger and Anika Lirette of New Brunswick’s Theatre Alacenne. They’ve been creating shows together for over a decade. and have been moving deeper into the world of puppetry. I recently caught up with Melanie and Anika to pick their brains a little about what they do!


Q:  How long have you been working together?
A:  We (Anika and Mélanie) met in high school and reunited at the Drama department of the University of Moncton, where we began working together. Our first production was in 2003, and was an historical comedy about the town of Shédiac, celebrating its 100th anniversary. It was called Shédiac… Qu’ossé qui s’a passé? (Shediac… What happened?)

Q:  Are your shows all puppet theatre shows? Are they exclusively for young audiences?
A:  We did many shows for adults before beginning to focus on young audiences. Our first show specifically for young audiences was created in 2011 and was called Banane fête (Banana Birthday). It was presented successfully all over New Brunswick! We explored puppetry in that show but, looking back, we were a little naive in certain aspects, and we wanted to go deeper into the world of puppetry performance. This is how Ally and the Forest was born…

Q:  Tell us about your new show – Ally et la Foret.
A:  That show will open on September 26 & 27 at the Théâtre l’Escaouette in Moncton! It’s the story of an alligator from Louisiana who finds herself lost in an Acadian forest. To adapt to her situation and to find a way home, she will have to make friends. An important theme is the environment. Our puppets and set design are all made out of recyclable materials. We believe, and try to demonstrate in the show, that together we can take care of nature and our environment. It is for 3 to 7 year olds.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 12.14.56 PM

Q:  How does your work reflect your Acadienne identity?
A:  We believe in what we do and we do what we believe in! Our work is linked to our values and a strong Acadian identity is a part of who we are. As Acadians, we want to be looking to the future. Because of our own history, we promote reconciliation and dialogue. We want to be peacemakers. We want to be part of our community. We have learned that working together will get us further!

Q:  Did you train in puppetry or are you self-taught?
A:  As we were developing the idea of making a new play with puppets, we felt we needed a mentor… and we found Jim Morrow, AD of Mermaid Theatre, just a few hours drive from Moncton! We undertook training at Mermaid, participating in the Animotion program offered every spring. It was an incredible learning experience. Jim Morrow is also helping us develop our play “Ally and the Forest”. We cannot thank him and the team at Mermaid enough for all that we have learned with them!

Q:  Do you tour?
A:  Yes. We are also planning to be on the road with “Ally and the Forest” and will be touring to many locations for the first two weeks of November, thanks to the contribution of the Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture of the Province of New Brunswick! In early November we will also be present at la Francofête in Moncton, where we will showcase for different vendors from the Maritimes, Canada and Europe.

Q:  What has been your greatest challenge with creating work (and making a living in the arts!) on the east coast?
A:  Passion is great, but it will only get you so far… You need so many other aspects to balance it all out and to make dreams a reality. Finding the right people to work with and reaching out to different communities is something we have been working on. There are great advantages in living in rural communities in the East Coast. We are warm, friendly and inviting. For an artist, it is very stimulating, and you feel connected to a community. Feeling connected makes you stronger and you can then work on your art while being free to look at the world through the movement of the ocean that is right in front of your eyes!

Q:  What has been your greatest success as a company?
A:  We are very proud of all the collaborative work we have done and the great partnerships we have built.  We are two different individuals who try to complete each other by working with each other’s strengths. We try to apply this logic to everyone we meet and collaborate with. “Ally and the Forest” is our first show presented in French or in English, to children from all three communities (French, English and First Nations). We want to continue to be bridge builders in our province! It will grow one step at a time in the hope that we can all learn from one another through the wonderful world of art.

Q: What advice can you offer to east coast theatre professionals who have an interest in puppetry?
A: Go to Mermaid Theatre and register for the Animotion training intensive! Or find someone else whose work you appreciate. Don’t believe you will become a puppeteer in a blink… It is a profound and hard art form. It requires a lot of work and commitment. Cultivate modesty and be proud of your progress as it comes… with practice!


To learn more about Annika and Melanie and Theatre Alacenne, you can visit their website: www.theatrealacenne.com

Here’s a link to the théâtre l’Escaouette web site where you can find more info about their play: http://www.escaouette.com/?page_id=1948

Thank you both for answering my questions and all the best with your new show!

UNIMA Atlantique Update – Tara Manuel

Thanks to investment from ARTSNL, I recently finished my second Puppet Slam Workshop project with a group of Corner Brook youth aged 11-17.

We explored several styles of puppetry including the neutral puppets I copied and built after my spring residency at Mermaid!

We made a short film with the neutral puppets called, The Great Grenfell Robber Mystery, which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78hxLUo3AfU

We built marionettes, this outstanding one was made by Aimee Knott and is called Dodskamp (meaning agony!): 


And I created a piece with my bird puppet, Florence VanderBeak, around the importance of being your own best friend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NXsbrIXAyQ

This fall, I will continue to develop Strangeblood,  my new shadow puppetry play for young audiences, and perform at several events as my alter-ego puppet Big Pink Pussy. 

Mermaid Theatre heads back to Ireland

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s poignant adaptation of Guess How Much I Love You & I Love My Little Storybook is slated for further international adventure. The company will return to the Republic of Ireland as featured performers at Galway’s prestigious Baboró International Arts Festival for Children in October 2015. The itinerary includes outreach performances at the Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo and the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire. First launched in 2004, the double bill has been termed “a magical, meditative experience” by a noted Nova Scotia reviewer.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 12.17.05 PMSam McBratney’s touching bedtime account of Little Nutbrown Hare, Guess How Much I Love You, has appeared in 53 languages, with more than 28 million copies in print worldwide since its publication in 1995. A second adored story, I Love My Little Storybook by writer/ illustrator Anita Jeram, features a whimsical menagerie of animals and imaginary creatures whose gentle adventures celebrate the joy of reading. Mermaid’s creative team has ably captured the enchantment of the storybook characters and their fanciful settings. Jim Morrow served as both director and production designer while Steven Naylor’s lively music score reflects the Celtic traditions shared by Nova Scotia, Ireland and Northern Ireland. The recorded narration showcases the storytelling skills of Beau Bridges.

Touring artists include puppeteers John Allen MacLean and Jeff O’Hara, and Kathryn McCormack in the capacity of stage manager. Morrow and General Manager Lisa Gleave will travel with the company, and oversee workshops and industry seminars. The tour was supported with assistance from The Canada Council for the Arts.

LouiseMarmenNew Member: Louise Marmen

Finally, we’d like to take a moment to introduce another member, Louise Marmen, from Edmunston, NB.  Just a brief note from her website for now (French only), though we hope to profile them in an upcoming JOURNAL:

Le théâtre de marionnettes ”GINÉLOU” vous raconte et vous fait découvrir les belles couleurs de l’amitié. Nous offrons des histoires incluant les valeurs suivantes : le respect,  l’entraide, la confiance en soi, L’amitié, la créativité et plus.

Nos thèmes sont:

  • les yeux du voyageur
  • le collier retrouvé
  • à la bibliothèque
  • voyage en acadie
  • les bulles magiques
  • un arbre, un ami pour la vie



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