Journal – Summer 2018

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 for the congress and World Puppetry Festival  – the 2020 event will take place in the Gianyar regency of Bali, Indonesia.  Mark your calendars!

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 is online at unimacanada.com

The ACPA/AMCA maintains this blog/journal, as well as a Facebook Page: facebook.com/UNIMAAtlanticCanada

Summer Journal editors: Pam Moore and Julia Dunn

Newfoundland and Labrador Update

News from Tara Manuel, Shadowy Souls Inc.

I am very pleased to share that after a successful debut performance, my recent puppetry play for all ages, “The Lady of The Falls”, has been offered a provincial tour of NL’s Arts and Culture Centres during the winter of 2019.

The play was created during a residency at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture centre in 2017/2018 by myself and a team of local NL artists including Michael Rigler (Artwork and shadow puppets), Michael Waller (Director and Chair of Theatre at Grenfell Fine Arts – MUN), performers Louise Gauthier and Adam Brake, and editor Lou Macdonald.

We headed up to the tip of the island in md-June to perform the show in The Iceberg Festival – to test the road worthiness of my set!  I’ve been awarded a grant from ARTSNL to further develop the piece prior to the ACC tour, to add a proper climax scene, and refine some elements of the story.

I’m also thrilled to share that I’ve been awarded a grant from ARTSNL to attend The New England Puppetry Intensive in Massachusetts this summer. The fifteen- day intensive, taught by founding members of The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, focuses on puppetry performance techniques and also includes a studio element, during which I hope to begin creating a new solo puppetry work.

Here’s a link to some info about the NEPI: http://www.newenglandpuppet.org/index.html

And here’s a picture from my show with my Lady:

Image: The Lady of the Falls

Note: Tara Manuel is a performer, puppeteer, and writer. Tara is the 12th child from a family of 15 children from the west coast of Newfoundland. She is a graduate of The National Theatre School of Canada, and worked as an actor in various Theatre, Film, and TV productions in Canada, the US, and Europe before returning to Western NL in 2000.

New Brunswick Update

Théâtre Alacenne

Le Centre de ressources familiales du Grand Moncton au Nouveau-Brunswick a fait appel au Théâtre Alacenne ( Anika Lirette) pour développer un nouveau projet de marionnette en 2018. Ce personnage (en développement sur la photo) aura comme objectif de rejoindre les six centres de la région dans les deux langues officielles. Sous forme de bande sonore narrative et de manipulations spécifiques par l’entremise des conseillères sur place, des thématiques auprès des jeunes de 3 à 5 ans seront abordées. Le Théâtre Alacenne travaillera à former les conseillères dans sa manipulation pour que la marionnette devienne un outil de communication essentiel. Une trame sonore est en composition pour déterminer la personnalité de ce nouveau personnage. Ce projet est financé par le gouvernement provincial et on souhaite que ça fasse une suite pour les autres régions de la province.

Pour plus d’informations veuillez rejoindre: theatrealacenne@gmail.com ou visitez www.theatrealacenne.com.

Nova Scotia Update

Ross Creek Centre for the Arts

The Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Canning, NS recently hosted a puppetry residency as part of its Breaking Ground Residency series supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. Working with a range of artists interested in construction, manipulation, and public interaction with puppets, the focus of the residency was on the potential of cardboard and other found objects, which could inspire our community to think of puppets in the new way. The residency was facilitated by Montreal-based Zach Fraser, and involved Sébastien Poissant Labelle (Nova Scotia), Brian Riley (Nova Scotia), Laura Stinson (Nova Scotia), Chun Shing Au (Hong Kong and Canada), and Christopher Peck (US). The residency examined the local community and settled on creating what are commonly thought of as pests in an agricultural setting, creating dynamic and engaging puppet pests along with a farmer. The week also included a research and field trip to Windsor’s Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia and culminated in participation in the 86thannual Apple Blossom Festival Grand Parade, where coyote, skunk, raccoon, eagle, and ticks thrilled the parade-watchers. Ross Creek was delighted to offer this residency and opportunities for puppet exploration and community-building and hopes to make it an annual program, along with other opportunities for individual and collaborative independent puppet residencies with studios, accommodation, food, and thanks to Christopher Peck, cardboard puppet-making workshop supplies.

Website: www.artscentre.ca

Théâtre du Poulet

Théâtre du Poulet has been engaged in honing their production of The Extinction of Hong Kongerswith support of the Arts Nova Scotia and the  Canada Council for the Arts. The work-in-progress was staged on Saturday, June 9, 2018 at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts prior to heading for the Festival circuit in Toronto.

Hong Kong natives Chun Shing (Roland) Au and Carmen Lee, creators of the work, sharea passion for theatre and puppetry arts with a message for environmental awareness. After travel to Ireland and Canada, they have settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Extinction of Hong Kongers is a 40- minute puppetry & documentary-style production. A first version was performed in 2017 – twenty years after the United Kingdom handed sovereignty of the city to China. The play explores the ongoing tensions between Hong Kong’s pan-democrats and the Chinese authorities, and examines whether the promise of “one country, two systems” has been realized.

With the use of recycled materials and cardboard, audiences are offered a glimpse of the past, as performers build the old Hong Kong. Subsequent scenes use puppetry to portray how Hong Kong’s unique culture faces erosion and possible extinction.

Notes from Struan Robertson, Education and Outreach Director, Mermaid Institute of Puppetry Arts 

In addition to my duties as production associate at Mermaid, over the past seasons I’ve been increasingly involved in promoting the art of puppetry through a myriad of outreach activities. And while it has certainly been stimulating to work with children and their families in the People’s Republic of China, I equally enjoy the opportunity to share my skills and enthusiasm for bringing inanimate objects to life in rural centres closer to home. This was the case in the spring of 2018 when I spent three weeks working with students and staff at Lakefront Consolidated Elementary School in Tangier, NS.

The tiny community, now formerly administrated by the Halifax Regional Municipality, is reached by travelling on a rural highway, Route 7. The town has limited amenities. There are two churches, a post office and a fire station with an attached hall. The school was originally built in 1954, expanded in 1963, and serves students – thirty in total – from grades primary through six. It’s the oldest remaining school building on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, and its days are numbered.

The residency was my third, and proved to be especially meaningful as all those involved will soon continue their education by being bussed to larger centres. The fully engaged staff was eager to celebrate rather than mourn the loss of their unique fellowship by creating a series of collaborative theatrical pieces. I was honoured to oversee the project, particularly as the students already had an understanding of puppetry and object movement. We were able to build upon knowledge garnered from our earlier work together, as well as benefit from the participants’ demanding four-hour road trip to Mermaid’s headquarters where they marvelled at a preview performance of our new ‘black light’ puppetry production, The Rainbow Fish.

We began with a daylong introductory planning session, where we explored possibilities for design and content. To help motivate the students, we studied images of various puppetry styles reflecting differing cultures and historical periods. We watch puppet videos to encourage awareness of broader approaches beyond ‘muppets’ and marionettes. Students were introduced to basic movement techniques including breathing and focus through fun exercises.

I was fortunate to be granted six full days at the school but we still had a few interruptions necessitated by fluoride treatment and gym class. For the sake of expediency, as well as to reflect age-related skills, we divided the participants into three groups with each choosing a theme. The younger pupils (primary through grade two) were assigned the Aesop fable, The Shepherd Boy, which became The Shepherd Girl. Grades three to five were inspired by music, and focussed on the Jurassic Five instrumental track, What’s Golden. The seniors in grade six were challenged to develop their own original stories and chose two – Jungle Walk and Two Bunnies.

Days Two and Three were devoted to puppet and set building. Each participant created an original puppet, with a base built of cardboard and ‘found’ (i.e. recycled) materials used for decoration and texture.

Day Four was Play Day. We were introduced to each student’s puppet, with the creator answering questions about characteristics such as age, provenance, and rationale for inclusion. The responses provided clues as to how the puppet might most effectively be manipulated, and exercises were devised to teach puppet ‘language’ and movement.

Day Five was dedicated to the challenge of blocking, the theatre directing technique in which the students learn to map out their movement and position on stage. The session marked the first time all the puppets appeared on stage together and began to work as an ensemble.

Day Six was set aside to showcase our efforts. Each group had a short rehearsal period where we ran through the show and worked out segments that needed a little help. After lunch the whole school rehearsed together, providing a first opportunity to see one another’s work. Our final event, the evening Puppet Showcase was a highlight, shared with approximately eighty friends and family members who joined us to help celebrate the art of puppetry.

It was one of my most memorable teaching experiences, largely because of the outstanding collaborative support of the principal and teaching staff. Their eagerness to ensure that their young charges would have a rich learning experience despite their physical isolation is highly commendable – and ultimately life changing.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia Returns to China

Mermaid Theatre’s unique adaptations of children’s storybooks have delighted more than six million spectators in nineteen countries on four continents. The enthusiastic response to the company’s first showcase appearance at theShanghai China Performing Arts Festival in 2014 has resulted in annual return engagements, with two separate productions touring in the summer of 2018. The company’s Eric Carle Classics has just completed a twenty-four-performance tour, which visitedBeijing, Shijiazhuang, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Shanghai, and Xiamen, while Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunnywill appear in Shanghai, Hefai. Hangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, Ordos, Taicang, Wenzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen and Guangzhou during July and August.  The ability to offer Mandarin–language performances featuring recorded narration by Dashan (Mark Rowswell), the legendary Canadian stage and television performer acknowledged as the most famous foreign artist in China, has been a major factor in the company’s popularity with family audiences in more than fifteen cities.

In addition, Mermaid’s training wing, The Institute of Puppetry Arts, will again offer workshops to family participants at under the auspices of the Shanghai Children’s Art Theatre. Mermaid’s principle workshop leader, Struan Robertson will return to China to conduct these ‘found object’ sessions.

Pictured below:
Jim Morrow, Mermaid’s Managing Artistic Director, welcomes audiences in Hangzhou.

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