Journal – Spring 2017

Update from Newfoundland & Labrador:

Tara Manuel, Shadowy Souls

Workshop at Grenfell

Our fledgling Western Newfoundland Puppetry community recently had the pleasure of working with Mermaid AD Jim Morrow.  Through a partnership with Grenfell Fine Arts (Memorial University’s Corner Brook Campus), Theatre Director, Performer, and Grenfell Prof Alex Fallis, and myself, we were able to bring Jim over for several days…even in spite of the truly inclement winter weather!

Jim conducted an Intro to puppetry performance Workshop at Grenfell with a mix of theatre students and local theatre professionals.  The one day session was just enough to give participants a taste of  the possibilities of puppetry, and it was a delightful experience for all involved.

Tara, Louise and Lady

We were fortunate to have Jim workshop with myself and my partner Michael Rigler on our play in development, The Lady of the Falls.  This was an excellent and productive experience for us. Michael is designing the show and building the shadow puppets, and also building and performing Raven, one of the main character puppets who exists both in shadow and in front of the screen.  I am producing the project, creating the story, and now learning to puppeteer the main character, a Bunraku style life-sized puppet, Lady, with local performer and clown teacher, Louise Gauthier.

Shadow puppet testing

These few days with Jim exploded open our notion of what a puppetry play could be, and I finally understand why, when creating a puppetry play, you have to start with the objects themselves and then build the story and the script through exploration. We are so excited to expand on this work with Jim and will be undertaking a residency at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Center this Fall to develop the show, and perform it’s first iteration in November. (Dates TBA)

In Other NL News:

Big Pink Pussy and her Tomcat will be going on a 2-stop tour this spring, performing at the Trails, Tales, and Tunes Festival in Gros Morne National Park on May 26th, and then at The Iceberg Festival at the Northern tip of the island on June 10th.

Newfoundand Actor and Producer Ruth Lawrence’s company White Rooster recently debuted a puppetry play for young audiences.  Adapted from a Scottish folktale collected in the Orkney Islands,  Kate Crackerberry is about the love between two stepsisters, a sheep’s head, and a prince under a fairy spell.

Kate is good, kind and clever enough to survive in the woods, gain work in a palace, and take care of her sister. She rescues her sister from an evil enchantment and outwits the fairies to save the prince from a wasting sickness.

Kate Crackerberry (Ruth Lawrence, White Rooster Company)

Through their journeys, each character gains a different view of the world.  Kate Crackerberry presents a positive perspective on fearlessness as the siblings grow to care for one another, discover the dangers of gossip, and learn the importance of loyalty, love, and understanding.

After a sold out run at RCA’s LSPU Hall in March, White Rooster Theatre takes Kate & her cohorts to Eastern Front Theatre’s Stages Festival, playing at 10 am from May 16-20, 2017 in the Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre, 6101 University Avenue, Halifax, NS.


Updates from Nova Scotia

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia

Collaboration with The Highbury Education Centre

Mermaid’s Institute of Puppetry Arts continues to partner with the Highbury Education Centre in Greenwich, NS. The Centre provides a unique educational and social experience for a small group of teenagers who are unable to attend regular junior high school classes. Celebrating four years of collaboration,  around fifteen students participated in a two-week, intensive puppetry workshop in April 2017 directed by Mermaid’s principal instructor, Struan Robertson.

Most of the participants have had little or no experience with theatre, puppetry or object movement, so it’s Mermaid’s job to introduce them to that world. The project began with Struan visiting the Centre, and leading a group brainstorming session about the project’s objectives. He then met with each student individually and helped them to storyboard their ideas.


The first session included an introductory tour of the Mermaid facility, the opportunity to meet the Theatre’s production staff, and a firsthand look at the prototype puppets and props being created for the company’s new production of The Rainbow Fish.

Several days were spent in the Theatre Loft, a spacious studio dedicated to the development of new work where the students used donated everyday recycled materials to design and build their puppets. The rest of the work was done on the beautiful stage of MIPAC (the Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Center), which for some marked their first visit to a theatre, and the first occasion on which participants were comfortable enough to communicate in a public setting. Rehearsals for a collective creation called Moments in Time prefaced a well-received performance for teachers, friends and family.

Reflecting on another successful collaboration, Struan had the following observations:

“This have been one of the most challenging and rewarding workshops. As artists we often measure our work by the finished project, such as a show or gallery opening. This is not the case here. We were rewarded by taking small steps and meeting personal challenges such as speaking in front of people or finding the energies to compete a project. This program to be the only one of its kind in the Atlantic Region and the stepping stone for more great workshops to come at Mermaid’s Institute of Puppetry Arts”.


Update from Jamie Bradley

Uncanny SquirrelLast summer I built and performed a ‘budget-less’ puppet of a nutty squirrel (sorry about that) in Taboo Theatre’s The Uncanny: When Fantasy is Too Real. I am presently mulling over a draft of a script about a little robot with an empty bell jar for a head, as well as a concept for a table-top puppet show and am revisiting my idea for The Island of Doctor Moreau.


Other puppetry notes…

  • The Casteliers Festival recently brought puppetry professionals from around the world to Montreal – this annual event was a great opportunity for lots of us, both inside UNIMA and out, to connect and learn more about what everyone else is up to.  Thanks to all who participated.
  • 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 acpa-amca@mermaidtheatre.ca 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’s online at unimacanada.com
  • The ACPA/AMCA maintains this blog/journal, as well as a Twitter feed: @AtlantiqueUNIMA and a Facebook Page: facebook.com/UNIMAAtlanticCanada
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