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 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
  • The ACPA/AMCA maintains this blog/journal, as well as a Twitter feed: @AtlantiqueUNIMA and a Facebook Page:
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UNIMA Atlantic Journal – Winter 2016-17

In this Journal:

  • Update from Newfoundland
  • News from New Brunswick
  • Latest in Nova Scotia
  • Call for submissions: Puppetry International

Newfoundland Update

Tara Manuel, Shadowy Souls

In which I decry the lack of puppetry interest in NL and am quickly made a big fat liar!


Tara and the Lady

While visiting colleagues at Mermaid Theatre last month, Lee Lewis asked me what was happening in puppetry in Newfoundland.  I threw up my hands in a kind of exasperated fashion and said, “I think I’m it!”  Shortly after returning to western NL, I was invited to join in on a couple of puppetry grant applications, and had several  visiting artists drop in to my studio at the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook  to discuss their puppetry projects in development and to play with my latest creation.

I am in the process of developing a puppetry play for young audiences entitled The Lady of the Falls. I’ve been working on this project with my husband, Michael Rigler, and through a grant from ArtsNL was fortunate to travel to Belgium at the end of the summer to undertake a two-week puppet creation workshop, and then to travel to Mermaid Theatre to work with Jim Morrow and Struan Robertson to finesse the puppet design and discuss my plans for developing the show.


Lady in the gallery.  With Sara Tilley

I discovered the work of Natacha Belova while looking for content to share on the Unima Atlantic Facebook page. I was enchanted by the life-sized held puppets created in her workshops, by the realistic sculpted faces, and the playful street puppetry students would engage in with their creations at the end of the workshop.

Natacha, originally from Russia, is a theatre costumier, sculptor, and marionnetteist based in Brussels, though she offers her creation workshops all over the globe.  I joined 16 other artists from all over the world in Brussels where we gathered daily at the Theatre Galafronie in the St. Josse district of Brussels – both the most densely populated and the poorest neighbourhood in all of Europe. It was a wonderful experience! We began by improvising with some of Natacha’s puppets, and then had to create drawings of our designs before beginning to sculpt the heads with clay and then with two layers of thermoplastic. I have neither drawing nor sculpting skills to speak of – so every day was a challenge for me, and yet, with Natacha’s guidance, I succeeded in creating a puppet that I love, and who will be the lead character in our new play.

In mid October, I brought my Lady puppet to Mermaid, and Jim Morrow and Struan Robertson helped me change the body design, to give me more freedom to play, allow me to change hands, and to open up possibilities for performance, such as having another puppeteer manipulate her with me. I’m so grateful to have such resources here in my own corner of the world, and hope to spend more time in the loft at Mermaid as we further develop our show.

ALSO In development in NL

Sara Tilley traveled to Slovenia last year to spend six weeks mentoring with Puppetry artist Darka Elderji. Through this experience, Sara is developing a solo show – Hungry Little Shadow – a tabletop puppet show about homelessness and hunger, based on a Slovenian folk tale, for all ages.

Caitlin Bolduc-Whelan is working on an adult hand-and-rod muppet-style show called, Nan’s Kitchen, where artists drop in to play and give interviews.

Jake Mupp, a very young man, is currently filming his muppet-style puppet hosted talk show for all ages, which premiers on local Rogers TV St. John’s in January.

Ruth Lawrence’s company, White Rooster, has a puppetry show in development.  Clever Girls: Kate Crackerberry, features the work of Baptiste Neis, and will undergo a second development workshop in December and then be presented by RCA in March 2017.

Isle aux Mort’s Theatre Festival is currently developing A Fish Tale: A Puppet Lantern Play, in partnership with Qalipu First Nation to be presented during the summer of 2017.

Update from New Brunswick

Anika Lirette, Theatre Alacenne

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-11-16-13-amMerci Radarts – Theatre Alacenne était en tournée  au  mois de novembre avec leur spectacle Ally et la forêt – un spectacle pour la petite enfance de la maternelle à la deuxième année. Elles étaient  trois jours à Dartmouth et deux semaines au Nouveau-Brunswick à trois représentations par jour dans les gymnases des écoles élémentaires. Le spectacle est bien reçu. La thématique est le recyclage et le respect de nos forêts! 

Thanks to Radarts – Theatre Alacenne was on tour most of November with their show Ally et la forêt (en Français)- a puppet play for kindergarten to 2nd grade.  They played three days in Dartmouth and two weeks in New Brunswick presenting three shows per day in the elementary schools. The show is well appreciated. The themes are recycling and the respect for our forests! 

Update from Nova Scotia

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia


Jim Morrow receives the Order of Nova Scotia on October 14, 2016 — photo by Michael Creagen, Government House, Halifax

The Mermaid family is delighted that our Artistic Director (and president of UNIMA Atlantic) was recently awarded The Order of Nova Scotia, our Province’s highest honour. Recipients are residents who have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life or social or economic well-being of the Province and have excelled in any field of endeavour to the benefit of the people of the province or elsewhere.

The citation, shared at an elegant ceremony at Province House on October 14, 2016, was as follows:  “Jim Morrow’s adaptations of children’s stories, created at Mermaid’s headquarters in Windsor, are enjoyed by audiences around the world from Canada’s North to Bahrain, from Japan to Ireland and in every state and province in the United States and Canada.  Morrow and his shows serve as cultural ambassadors for Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia culture, with a healthy dose of humour, generosity and humility.”

Maritime Marionettes

Touring Journal November 21 to 27.
By Heather Taylor

All right Puppeteers, here is some news from Maritime Marionettes- a view into the past week on the road. We try to book no more than 4 days straight of touring, this past week was clearly an exception, we worked 7 days straight, whew!

We performed Molly and the Oak Island Treasure at Digby Elementary and Somerset and District Schools. At both schools we also did workshops with every class at the school. The younger classes have 30 minutes and the older 60 minutes. We spent 3 days at Digby and two days at Somerset.

The students from Primary to Grade Six use shadow puppets and marionettes in our workshop.  We have been doing this through PERFORM NS (a cost sharing program for the schools with Theatre Nova Scotia). The workshops have been growing and changing over these past three years. We have taken marionettes from shows we have retired and strung them lower so the kids can hold them. It is amazing to watch the children work the puppets, they are so excited to try them. We keep up with the tangles and repairs and for the most part they are very respectful of the puppets.

We do lots of fun things in the shadow puppetry part of the workshop: making sound effects for puppets with percussion instruments, and learning to move puppets realistically in different environments. The photos show it best.

We came home to Truro, at the end of the week to rehearse our 15 minute Nativity Show, and load it in the van with The Bremen Town Musicians. Saturday night we headed back to the Valley for shows on Sunday in Berwick. It was a full day, setting up two different stages: one at the Berwick Baptist church and the other at the Berwick Fire Hall. Both shows were sponsored by Meadowbrook Meat Market. The performing was very rewarding, we always love the public shows, and noted that there were more adults than kids at both performances.

*Touring Tip– One thing we want to share with all you puppeteers is something Darryll discovered after 30 years of touring. When unloading the van for the show, instead of climbing inside to pull each box or container from front to the back, we now use a long metal pole with a hook. (The pole we use is actually the metal pole used for rolling and unrolling the awning on the side of a trailer or motorhome.) It has been a lifesaver and we have had many a laugh over why we did it the hard way all these years! (Maybe some of you have already been doing this and it isn’t news, I hope it can help someone though.)

Sadly, our Nova Scotia school shows, may just be on hold until there is an agreement negotiated for the teachers. Let’s send them all our best wishes for a good outcome.

Upcoming dates:

The Nativity
December 2 (6pm – 8:30)
December 3 (6:30- 8:30)
December 4 (1pm – 3:15 pm) 

Alderney Landing, Dartmouth NS, Christkindlemarket
Free shows held on the hour and half hour.

The Bremen Town Musicians
Sunday, December 11, 2pm
Harbourfront Theatre, Summerside PE,

The Nativity
Sunday, December 18, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm
Christian Fellowship Church, New Glasgow
239 Abercrombie Road – Free will offering.

Note: The following call for submissions to the journal Puppetry International was recently sent along from Dawn Brandes, the Peer Review Editor for the journal.  Guidelines and details are included below if you’re interested.

PUPPETRY INTERNATIONAL reaches more than 5,000 puppet theatre performers, sponsors, producers, and enthusiasts. It’s distributed to UNIMA-USA members and is available at specialty newsstands (distributed by Ubiquity Distributors Inc. and Small Changes, Inc.), puppetry centers and festivals throughout the country. It’s distributed to arts councils and UNIMA Centers worldwide!

Call for Papers: Puppetry International #41: Africa and Puppetry

PUPPETRY INTERNATIONAL seeks brief articles (max. 2000 words) for its “Puppetry and Africa” issue. We intend a broad interpretation of the topic and a style that will appeal to general readers with a strong interest in theatre, art, and African culture.

Possible topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • An analytical profile of a specific director, puppeteer, company, production, or theatre tradition
  • Cultural intersections and explorations of African puppeteers in emigration or who are working abroad
  • Political and social forces that are changing traditional African puppetry
  • Puppetry’s relationship with other African performance genres

Personal essays and interviews are also welcomed.  If interested please send a proposal or query email to

Deadline for editor-reviewed submissions: January 31, 2017

Submissions for Peer Review

We strive to publish at least one double-blind peer-reviewed article per issue. These do not necessarily need to be on the theme of the issue.

The peer-reviewed section of Puppetry International aims to explore how the puppet functions dramaturgically, to investigate larger philosophical questions generated in response to puppets and performing objects, and to trace the integral place of puppetry in world performance culture. We especially seek work by scholars who are pioneering new discoveries based on archival, field, or practice-based research and/or who aim to generate fresh theoretical perspectives on how humans interact with objects in performance.

Submissions for peer review should follow the same length (2,000 words, including notes and bibliography) and style restrictions (MLA) as all other articles, but should demonstrate scholarly rigor and original research while remaining accessible to a broad readership. Longer versions of these articles can be published on our website.

Peer-review submissions should be emailed to peer-review editor Dawn Tracy Brandes ( and to general editor Andrew Periale (

Deadline for peer-reviewed submissions: December 15, 2016

Book and Performance Reviews

We also seek BOOK reviews (500 words max.) and PERFORMANCE reviews (1, 000 words max.)  Send performance reviews to editor Andrew Periale:; send

book reviews to John Bell Word documents preferred.

Deadline for book and performance review submissions: January 31, 2017

For All Submissions – NOTA BENE!

  • Subject line on email: PI 41, author’s last name, key word(s) from title.
  • NO FORMATTING (no columns, embedded images, exotic fonts, different sizes of text, etc.), please.
  • Please note: While we generally publish new, original writing, we occasionally accept translations of previously published articles if they have not yet appeared in English.
  • For complete submission and formatting guidelines, please see:

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!

It’s easy to join UNIMA Atlantic:
Get the details & registration form at

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ACPA/AMCA Journal – Summer 2016

Le Théâtre Alacenne
Opens at Grand-Pré
by Anika Lirette

The Moncton-based company, Le Théâtre Alacenne, has announced the launch of a bilingual puppet production entitled LA TERRE – THE LAND and wishes to acknowledge the collaboration of Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia.

La Société promotion Grand-Pré, through support of Parks Canada and Canadian Heritage, will host the twenty-minute production in an intimate theatre situated in the Visitor Centre of the Grand-Pré National Historic Site. The play will be presented every Tuesday to Saturday from 2 July to 25 August 2016 at 10:30, 12:30. and 1:30 PM.

The play follows the story of Rita, a muskrat, and Charles, the seagull, a long-time married couple who cross the ocean to seek adventure in new lands. Anika Lirette wrote the script, and co-directed the piece with Jim Morrow. Music was created by Jean-François Mallet. The talented university students who have learned the art of puppetry include Franziska Glen, Ryan Myers and Ana Martin, along with stage manager Jamile Smith.



Ana Martin, Ryan Myers and Franziska Glen in a scene from La Terre / The Land (photo: Anika Lirette)


Le Théâtre Alacenne signe la direction artistique du spectacle de marionnettes bilingue LA TERRE – THE LAND et souhaite remercier la collaboration du Mermaid Theatre de la Nouvelle – Écosse au projet.

La Société promotion Grand-Pré, grâce à un soutien de Parc Canada et Patrimoine Canada, présentent la pièce d’une durée de 20 minutes à l’intérieur du petit théâtre dans le centre d’accueil au Site historique de Grand-Pré. La pièce sera présentée tous les mardis au samedis du 2 juillet au 25 août 2016 à 10h30. 12h30. 13h30.

C’est l’histoire de Rita, la rate musquée, et de Charles, le goéland, un couple marié depuis plusieurs lunes qui ont traversé l’océan afin de s’adapter à de nouvelles terres. Anika Lirette signe le texte et a collaboré sur la mise en scène avec Jim Morrow. Jean-François Mallet signe la musique. La pièce sera présentée par 3 étudiantes d’été en plus d’un régisseur (Franziska Glen, Ryan Myers, Ana Martin, et Jamile Smith). L’objectif de la pièce bilingue était d’unir les jeunes francophones et anglophones dans la même salle pour vivre une expérience commune. La marionnette permet moins de mots, plus d’images, moins de barrières.

A First-hand Report
From the UNIMA 22nd World Congress
Festival & Symposium

by Jim Morrow

From May 27 to June 4, 2016 I travelled to San Sebastian, Spain, to attend the UNIMA XXII Congress and Festival, and to represent UNIMA Atlantic as its President and UNIMA Canada as a voting Councilor. I previously attended the Festival in 1988 in Japan, and 1980 in Washington, DC, as performer for Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia.

During my first two days in San Sebastian, I participated in a symposium at the historic Palacio Miramar on the history of Spanish puppetry and in particular the ‘maquina real’ or ‘royal machine’. This event was supplementary to the Festival and Congress and attended by fewer than fifty people but I found the experience very informative as it gave those present a rare opportunity to explore the richness of Spanish puppetry.

Pedaleando Hacia el Cielo - Tol Theatre, Belgium

Pedaleando Hacia el Cielo (“Pedaling Skyward”) – Tol Theatre, Belgium

We learned that the most unique feature of this history was the creation of “royal machine,” an almost unknown phenomenon until recently, but an invention of great social and historical significance in the territories of the Iberian Peninsula (including Portugal), Latin America (Mexico, Peru, Argentina) as well as the territories that were part of the Spanish monarchy, such as Belgium and Italy. The “royal machine” is considered a marvel of the first importance in the history of European puppetry, and the International Symposium provided a stimulating forum for researchers, specialists and scholars from a number of countries to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the topic.

Festival Club program

Festival Club program

Following the Symposium, three hundred international delegates gathered during the day in the neighboring town of Tolosa to participate in the Congress, and returned to San Sebastian in the evenings to attend a number of world-class puppetry performances in the city’s many excellent theatres. We also spent the late evening hours together in a reception space to view smaller shows from around Spain and, in particular, those from the Basque region. In this way, delegates were afforded the time to meet one another in an intimate setting and the opportunity to discuss matters related to puppetry and puppet/objet theatre.

Festival Club program

Festival Club program

The four days at the Congress were long and sometimes intense. The meetings were simultaneously translated into the three official languages of UNIMA, English, French, and Spanish. There were between forty to sixty countries represented and Canada had a delegation of five – four from Quebec and me. Of the five, three of us (including me) were voting members and were expected to consider a number of issues including the election of new Councilors, the President, the Treasurer and the new Secretary General, as well as agenda items pertinent to the future of the organization. One of these was the ongoing work of the many Commissions set up to deal with matters relating to puppetry and its positive affect on communities and cultures. Just prior to our arrival, two local Basque puppeteers had been imprisoned for their political views, leading to animated discussion centering on the importance of human rights and freedom of speech.

Each night, at the conclusion of the Congress sessions, we drove a half hour on three busses back to San Sebastian to catch the performances. They included: Red Earth Revisited from South Africa; Animare from Japan; Oscar, El Nino Dormido from Spain; Les Funambules from Sweden; Spartacus from France; I Sisyphus from Bulgaria; Peregrinacao from Brazil; and the outdoor spectacle, Pedaleando Hacia El Cielo from Belgium. My favourite by far was the quirky, dark, and superbly designed and performed, Spartacus.

My trip to Spain provided an excellent opportunity for me to immerse myself in the exotic Basque culture, to meet new colleagues, to become inspired by the wonderful performances, and to promote Mermaid Theatre, UNIMA Atlantic, UNIMA Canada, and Nova Scotia. I’m confident that the experience will pay significant dividends as we move forward to promote the art form here in Atlantic Canada, and extend my personal as well as Mermaid Theatre’s appreciation to the Artistic Innovation Program for the support, which facilitated my participation.

–Jim Morrow
Artistic Director (Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia)

News From Newfoundland & Labrador…

An update from Shadowy Souls Inc.
With investment from NLArts, Tara Manuel and her partner Michael Rigler are currently developing a new puppetry play for young audiences, tentatively entitled Strangeblood. Tara will be traveling to Brussels in August to undertake a two week puppet creation and performance technique workshop with Natacha Belova. The workshop will host 15 students from around the world and will facilitate the creation of life sized held puppets with a body that is one with its manipulator.

Here’s a video of Natacha Belova’s incredible workshop:


Tara Manuel, Shadowy Souls Inc.  / Twitter: @MrsShadowysouls


Newfoundland Puppet Collective

We welcome the Newfoundland Puppet Collective to UNIMA Atlantic.  The Collective is a group of visual artists, performers, storytellers, educators, and anyone interested in puppets devoted to the practice of puppetry arts within the unique and distinct cultural environment of Newfoundland.

Here’s an overview of current activities – please visit their informative website:

Newfoundland Puppet Collective

Members of the Newfoundland Puppet Collective, including Baptiste Neis (right), are facilitating workshops in puppetry, with the goal of presenting a show at the LSPU Hall at the end of July.

The Newfoundland Puppet Collective invites community members to come create a show. No prior experience necessary.

From July 18-July 29 in the afternoons Newfoundland Puppet Collective will facilitate sessions in the design and creation of large-scale, illuminated puppets. In the evenings exploratory exercises in puppet articulation, mask and story devising, are being offered. Workshop facilitators include Dave Lane of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, our own Andy Jones, Baptiste Neis, Mary Fearon, Ruth Lawrence, Kathleen Parewick, Sara Tilley, and Pia Banzhaf.

Through this workshop process participants will be further developing Jack and the World’s End Water a hilarious adaption by Andy Jones and Mary Fearon that premiered at the Lantern Festival in 2015. The exploratory work developed will have an indoor showing at the LSPU Hall on Friday, July 29 and then an outdoor showing, the following evening, July 30 as part of yearly festivities at Victoria Park. Stipends will be provided for core participants.

Location: LSPU Hall at 3 Victoria St. in St. John’s
Dates: July 18 — July 29

Open House and Performances: July 29 (LSPU Hall) & July 30 (Victoria Park)
For more information about varying levels of participation and specific sessions interested community members can visit: — For more information or to request an interview please contact: Baptiste Neis (709) 682-4106 or

Generously Supported by The Canada Council For the Arts and Arts NL and City of St. John’s.


Added Bonus – Jack Camp
Resource Centre for the Arts and The Newfoundland Puppet Collective have decided to take advantage of this opportunity and offer a camp for kids 8-14 interested in puppetry. Kids will work and play on the big stage at LSPU Hall — each day will be filled with creative expression including improv, acting, and puppet/mask construction, led by our team of professional actors and artists.

July 18-21, 9am-1pm daily.  For More information contact Laura Huckle at: (709) 753-4531

Have a great summer, everyone.  UNIMA Atlantic members are reminded that they can send us updates any time about your puppetry-related activities to be included in a future JOURNAL.  Cheers!

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UNIMA Atlantic Journal – Spring 2016

Libby Broadbent: Mermaid’s Tears
Théâtre Alacenne: Ally et la forêt
Mermaid Theatre returns to Singapore


Libby Broadbent: Mermaid’s Tears

profile by Tara Manuel, Shadowy Souls

An original puppetry show recently made its debut at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool, NS. The show is called Mermaid’s Tears, and is produced by Winds of Change; a Nova Scotia-based amateur theatre company. The production will also be featured at the Liverpool International Theatre Festival in May. After seeing pictures of the piece, I was curious to find out more, and contacted the creator, Libby Broadbent, to ask her a few questions. I discovered that, not only had she written the script, but she also designed and built the puppets and performed in the piece as well! Now, tell me this woman can’t multi-task!

TM: Would you mind giving us a brief description of the story of Mermaid’s Tears?
Mermaid’s Tears is the story of two families torn by grief, and redeemed by sacrifice. It is the story of Morna, who escapes the dark abuse of her mother’s home through her friendship with a mermaid, and also the story of The Grandfather, whose grieving for his dead wife cripples his relationship with his son. Morna falls in love with a selfish boy and is left to fend for herself when she bears their child. The story is narrated by two human (non-puppet) characters, Morna’s young daughter, Esme, and The Grandfather as he tells her the story of her birth. The story alludes to the classic fable of the Fisherman and the Mermaid, where wishes or gifts are bestowed on the person who releases a mermaid once they have been caught. Mermaid’s Tears unites three levels of story-telling as Esme visualizes the story her Grandfather weaves for her; from the fable-like tale told by the two narrators, to the fantasy re-enactment of the puppets, to the distant memories characterized by shadow puppets.


merms1TM: Libby, what is your background in puppetry, and what inspired you to make this a puppet play?
Hahaha! That’s funny! I don’t have a background in puppetry! I am a high school English teacher who likes to write books and play with paper maché… writing and creating a puppet play was just a really neat project that fell into my lap, and I was lucky enough to be supported by the Winds of Change in making it a reality. I was approached over a year ago by the WoC as they were planning their entry for the Liverpool International Theatre Festival, 2016. They were interested in doing a puppet play, and asked if I would help build the puppets. Of course I said yes, but when I asked what the play was, they didn’t have one.

We tossed about several ideas, but there wasn’t a script that we felt would meet our needs regarding the various restrictions of the [Festival] (less than 50 minutes, max 12 people, appealing to a non-English speaking audience, etc)… so I decided to write one. I wanted the puppets to be mostly non-verbal, so that the main impact of the play wouldn’t be dependent on language, and I wanted them to be made of paper maché since that is the medium I enjoy the most.


TM: Where did you come up with the design ideas for your puppets? Is the design successful?
When my children were little, I would drape a big sweater over two of them, with one child being the head and other child being the hands so that it looked like one person. They would then have wildly raucous times demonstrating “How to Wash Your Face”, or “How to Eat a Banana” with little or no connection between the head and the hands. I also always loved the Swedish Chef, from the Muppets… so I knew I wanted to make puppets that had real hands. I also wanted the puppets to be manipulated by one person, and to be life-sized. So, I researched. Pinterest is my best friend! I saw lots of examples of the Bunraku style of puppetry, but I wanted to eliminate the necessity of having two puppeteers. I then found a clip of “Lemonia” by the Greek Nevma Theatre Group. Problem solved. I built the heads out of paper clay… with much trial and error to get them lightweight, the right size, and to create eyes that came to life… and then built a frame for the torso, and a harness for the puppeteer’s head and shoulders. I made several prototypes before I got it right! Initially, the head harness was painful because I had built the wires too close to the front, but then one of our cast members, Sarah Webber, altered her harness by moving the wires down the side of the head for greater comfort and mobility and the design changed. I may have made the heads, but these puppets were definitely a group effort as each one had to be altered to fit each puppeteer, and the costume ladies were indispensable in fixing the clothing so they looked right. We initially had a problem with their arms being too “noodley”, but repeated efforts by various cast members straightened out that problem. I’m very pleased with the final design, because it allows great mobility and dexterity for the puppeteer, and I think the illusion is successful because there is only one body manipulating the puppet.

TM: How successful was your work with training actors to be puppeteers?
I think that’s a better question for Susan Lane, our Director, since I was one of the puppets myself! The biggest challenge of being a puppet was having a limited range of vision, and not knowing what we looked like as we moved. We had to be told how high to raise our arms, for example, so we didn’t look like we were dislocating the puppets’ shoulders every time we moved!

TM: What was your greatest challenge with this show?
I think the greatest challenge has been designing the set. Any theatrical performance relies on the talents and energy of a great number of people, and our set people have worked tirelessly to create a fantastically beautiful set which enhances the mystique of the story.

TM: What does it mean to this group of creators and performers to present this show at the Liverpool International Theatre Festival?
Our little town of Liverpool has been hosting the LITF for many years, although there have been several festivals without an entry from The Winds of Change. Being able to enter an original play, in competition with other troupes from around the world, is terrifyingly exciting! It is my greatest hope that audience members with little or no English language will be able to interpret and enjoy the performance… to me, that will mean we have been successful in creating the illusion, and sharing a visual narrative that transcends language.


I want to thank Libby for sharing her work, and also wish her group all the best for their performance in May. The Liverpool International Theatre Festival runs from May 18-22 at The Astor Theatre in Liverpool, NS. Tickets will go on sale soon at


Tara Manuel is a western Newfoundland based artist, and the NL rep for the Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association.


Théâtre Alacenne – Ally et la forêt

La marionnette ; un voyage parmi les cultures qui dépassent les barrières.

(English version follows)

Voici une réflexion personnelle suite à une tournée avec le spectacle de marionnettes pour la petite enfance Ally et la forêt – Ally and the Forest– le dernier spectacle du Théâtre Alacenne.

alacenne3Un geste et un regard sont tout ce qui est nécessaire afin que l’on puisse comprendre l’émotion de la petite Ally perchée sur son arbre. Ally est arrivée de la Louisiane et se retrouve dans une forêt acadienne, elle est perdue et elle doit s’adapter à ce nouveau territoire et à tous ses changements. Comment le fera -t-elle ? Elle se débrouille en se faisant une nouvelle amie Mouffy, une moufette qui n’est pas habituée d’avoir un étranger sur son terrain! Nous pouvons trouver plusieurs sous-textes et plusieurs comparaisons dans cette petite et simple énoncée, c’est comme ça que j’aime travailler ; dans les métaphores. À la rencontre de ceux qui arrivent, ceux qui sont en mode changement, à la rencontre de l’amitié ou à la rencontre de la vie, peu importe nous devons tous à un moment donné s’adapter à du nouveau ou à un changement.

Mouffy, fabriquée avec des sacs de poubelles, un rouleau de peinture et un filtre à café (entres autres) sort de sa cachette avec une musique magnifiquement composée par Justin Gauvin, sur une vitesse d’empressement. Cette image nous donne le ton qu’elle a des choses à faire et ça presse. Tout ça, sans un seul mot parlé. Sans même le dire, nous prônons deux messages : le recyclage et l’environnement puis l’urgence d’agir. Vive l’art de la marionnette. L’image est plus forte que la parole, nous pouvons communiquer à travers les cultures.

alacenne2Ally et la forêt a tourné deux semaines au Nouveau-Brunswick dans les écoles francophones, anglophones et autochtones en novembre 2015. Ally est allée rencontrer les écoles d’immersions en Louisiane en février 2016 aussi. Que l’on comprenne la langue ou non, la musique, les marionnettes, les intonations et les regards de notre histoire sont clairs. Ce sentiment de connecter avec n’importe quel jeune, peu importe son contexte scolaire, son contexte culturel ou son contexte sociétaire, nous rend fière en tant qu’artiste de théâtre. Le Théâtre Alacenne travaille fort depuis plusieurs années à créer des liens et à aller à la rencontre de différentes cultures, que ce soit en notre duo de compagnie ou à titre individuel. Nous sommes fières de notre dernière création, c’est pourquoi je sens le besoin d’écrire ce blogue.

Mélanie a vécu et a travaillé le théâtre à divers endroits comme en Uruguay, au Guatemala, en Guyane française et au Cameroun. De mon côté, j’ai eu la chance de rendre mon art pratique en Croatie, au Macédoine, en Ukraine et dans la francophonie américaine soit au Maine et en Louisiane. Le corps, l’émotion et la rencontre humaine sont universels, nous sommes tous faits de chair et d’os, nous avons tous besoin de nous sentir connectées. Qui sommes-nous sans la connexion à une communauté, à une histoire collective ou à une mission personnelle ? La rencontre est nécessaire. Que ça soit les rencontres que nous créons par l’entremise des arts ou des sports à l’intérieur de nos communautés, peu importe la langue que l’on parle, se rejoindre est un besoin essentiel.

Quand j’assiste à des rencontres religieuses, je suis toujours inspirée; c’est la ressemblance à ce que je veux contribuer et partager par mon théâtre. Ce partage sacré collectif, cette rencontre nécessaire afin de soulever l’esprit, afin de se propulser plus haut vers quelque chose de plus grand que nous, ensemble. C’est le sentiment qui me fait vibrer quand je joue sur scène, quand je manipule notre chère Ally devant les enfants et quand je m’engage dans mon rôle d’artiste.

Au nom du Théâtre Alacenne, nous souhaitons remercier tous nos partenaires. Sans eux, nous ne pourrions pas faire ce partage, créer ces liens avec les communautés autochtones ou avec les écoles d’immersions, les théâtres, les communautés ; nous allons continuer à bâtir des ponts. L’art a un rôle à jouer dans nos sociétés, pour mieux nous comprendre, pour briser l’isolement et pour adoucir les changements que nous devons tous vivre collectivement. C’est le miroir de qui nous sommes. Merci au Ministère du Tourisme, de la Culture et du Patrimoine du Nouveau-Brunswick, au Conseil des arts du Canada, au Conseil des arts du Nouveau- Brunswick, aux Caisses populaires acadiennes, au théâtre de l’Escaouette et au Mermaid Theatre d’avoir fait partie de notre dernier projet Ally et la forêt. Merci surtout aux communautés de Tobique et de Eel Ground qui nous ont ouvert les bras grands ouverts. Notre séjour m’a marquée et nous avons beaucoup à partager. Merci spéciale à Natalie Sappier de nous avoir donné la confiance d’agir. Nous en sommes reconnaissantes et ce n’est pas fini. Notre voyage théâtral ne fait que commencer.

Anika Lirette
Théâtre Alacenne


Puppetry; travelling through cultures and breaking barriers

Here is are some personal thoughts from our experience with Theatre Alacenne’s last show Ally and the Forest – Ally et la forêt, a puppet play aimed for very young audience.


A look and a attitude is all that is necessary in order to understand the emotion that little Ally is having on top of her tree. Ally arrived from Louisiana and has landed in an Acadian forest. Lost, she needs to adapt to her new territory and to the new changes that surround her. How will she do it ? She manages to find a new friend, Mouffy, a skunk who is not used to having strangers (unfortunately!) on her land! We can find many meanings or subtexts about this small and simple statement. This is how I like to work, in metaphors. Meeting the new ones who arrive or for all the ones who are in changing mode, meeting the notion of friendship or life itself, no matter what, we all need at one point or another adapt to something new or to change.

Mouffy is made out of plastic bags, a paint roller and a coffee filter (and many other materials). She comes out of her hole with a magnificent music composed by Justin Gauvin in a very rushed rhythm; all of this, without one word spoken. Without even saying it, we give out two messages: recycling or thinking of the environment, and the urgency to act. The image is stronger than words, we can communicate through different cultures. Language is not a barrier with puppetry.

Ally and the Forest toured two weeks in New Brunswick in the French, English and First Nations schools in November 2015. Ally also went to the Louisiana’s immersion schools in February 2016. Whether we understand the language or not, the music, the puppets and the intentions of our story are clear. That feeling of connecting to any youth no matter what their education background is, cultural setting or society that they live in, makes us proud as theatre artists. Theatre Alacenne works hard since many years to create links and to connect, either with our theatre or individually. We are proud of our last production, this is why I wanted to write this blog.

Melanie lived and worked theatre in different places like Uruguay, Guatemala, French Guyanaand Cameroon. On my side, I had the chance to work my art in Croatia, Macedonia, Ukraine and in the French Americas like Maine and Louisiana. The body, the emotion and the human connection are universal, we are all made of flesh and bones, and we all need to feel connected. Who are we without that link to the community, to a collective history or to a personal mission? Meeting the other is necessary. If it is either being in a gathering that we create in sports or in arts inside our communities, no matter the language that we speak, connecting is crucial.

When I assist to religious gatherings, I am inspired always; it reminds me of what I wish to contribute and share with my theatre. It is this sacred collective feeling, this necessary meeting to elevate the spirit, to send us higher to something bigger, together. This feeling makes me vibrate when I am on stage, when I handle Ally in front of the kids and when I engage into my role as an Artist.

Theatre Alacenne would like to thank all their partners. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to share, to create links to the First Nations communities or with the French immersion schools, with theatres and with communities. We are going to continue to create links. Art has a role to play in our society, to better understand us, to break isolation and to accompany change that we all need to live collectively. It is the mirror of who we are. Thank you to the Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture of New Brunswick, to the Canada Council of the Arts of Canada, to the New Brunswick Arts Board, to the Caisses populaires acadiennes, to the theatre l’Escaouette and to Mermaid Theatre for being part of our last project Ally and the Forest. Thank you to the Tobique First Nation and Eel Ground First Nation community for greeting us with open arms. Our experience inspired me and we have so much to share. Than you to Natalie Sappier for giving us confidence to act. We recognize it, and it is not finish. Our theatrical experience together is only beginning.

Anika Lirette
Théâtre Alacenne


Mermaid Theatre returns to Singapore

IMG_1187The company will return to Singapore for the eighth time between March 5-13, presenting 14 performances of The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favourites at the elegant Drama Centre.  A duplicate of the show is currently on tour in the United States and Canada, enabling Mermaid’s Caterpillar to delight audiences on two continents simultaneously.

On the road since 1999, Mermaid’s compilations of Eric Carle stories have been seen by more than 3.5 million spectators in 15 countries. The award-winning production was adapted, designed and directed by Jim Morrow, with music by Steven Naylor and narration by Gordon Pinsent. Company members for the Singapore-bound show include stage manager Jessica Lewis, and seasoned performers John Allen MacLean and Jackson Fowlow, while the U.S. touring version features stage manager Christine Oakey and veteran artists Graeme Black Robinson and Simon Rainville.

The Mandarin-language edition will return to the People’s Republic of China in the summer of 2016 following last season’s highly successful debut.

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 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
  • The ACPA/AMCA maintains this blog/journal, as well as a Twitter feed: @AtlantiqueUNIMA and a Facebook Page:





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UNIMA Atlantic Journal – December 2015 – January 2016

In this issue:

  • Profile: Pia Banzhaf
  • Update: Sara Tilley
  • Update: Tara Manuel
  • Update: Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia
  • UNIMA Canada postcard contest

Profile – Pia Banzhaf

by Tara Manuel – Shadowy Souls
Regional Director, Newfoundland & Labrador ACPA/AMCA 

After joining the Newfoundland Puppet Collective Facebook group last year, I soon noticed a lot of interesting puppetry-related posts by Pia Banzhaf. Who is this mysterious puppetry enthusiast, I wondered? And how did she come to reside on this windswept island? Banzhaf is not a common NL name, and as Pia has surely discovered by now, Newfoundlanders want to know who your people are, where you came from, and what you are doing here. So, I was very pleased when she readily agreed to share a bit about her background in puppetry with me. Pia was born to a Vietnamese mother and German father in Germany, and came to Newfoundland in 2004 after her husband started a position at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She lives in St. John’s and is working to complete her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. As part of her doctorate, she is creating the Poetics of Puppetry which emphasizes the cognitive psychology and neuroscience of perception of animate and inanimate objects.

 TM: What is your background in puppetry?

PB: My background has been foremost as a spectator. From a young age live puppetry performances were part of the culture I grew up in and then later there were marionette shows on TV as well. As I am currently developing a cognitive aesthetics of puppetry art for my PhD research project I am concurrently studying the practice of puppetry arts. In Prague, I learned to carve a marionette in the Czech tradition with Mirek Trejtnar of Puppets in Prague; I learned from generous teachers like the folks of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop at the New England Puppetry Intensive, and from marionettiste Frank Soehnle. Neville Tranter and his puppet Zeno taught me a lot and studying with shadow/light theatre master Norbert Goetz was eye-opening to the possibilities of contemporary shadow theatre and live light painting.

 TM: Can you tell us a bit about your research as it relates to puppetry?

PB: My research is multi-faceted. One angle I am taking is the investigation of the perception of puppetry from the standpoint of the spectator. I am asking questions like: Why does a spectator grant agency to an inanimate object? When does this happen? When does the projection not work? I am suggesting turning to cognitive psychology and neuroscience to explore these questions. Animacy perception has been an ongoing interest in developmental psychology and recently has come to the fore as well in robotics. So, I am harnessing the research that is being done in these areas and apply it to puppetry. It is my contention that understanding the cognitive underpinnings will offer puppetry artists the opportunity to tap into these insights and create stronger work that respects the specific aesthetic properties inherent only in performances with puppets.

My hope is to some day participate in a trans-disciplinary cognitive neuroscience project that involves the investigation of perception of puppets as well.

(8) Illuminated Jack puppet

Illuminated “Jack” puppet.  Photo by Alick Tsui.

TM: Are you involved in any puppetry performance development here in NL? If so what?

PB: I am involved with the Newfoundland Puppet Collective, a group founded in St. John’s last year. Our first project was to develop a stronger narrative element for the fire show at the end of the Victoria Park Lantern Festival. We had the very good fortune of collaborating with wonderful story-tellers Andy Jones and Mary Fearon for the most hilarious Jack tale script ever and created gigantic lantern puppets to tell the story. This year we explored building techniques for articulated illuminated puppets and were very pleased with the small teaser we were able to put out. Next year we are going to develop the play further, adding more scenes from the play in the evening performance. We have workshops coming up in the spring with Brian Woltjen, a UK based Australian puppet builder and set-designer with a lot of experience with community projects and giant puppet builds. David Lane from the Old Trout Puppet Workshop will be joining us again for the performance workshop. David lane and Sara Tilley will be co-directing and the story-tellers will have constant input. Once fully realized, it will create a transformative experience for the audience. There is something truly serene and moving to see the illuminated puppets spring to life an tell a story..


TM: Are you a puppet builder and performer as well as having an academic interest in puppetry?

PB: I built quite a few puppets but these rarely had a chance to perform, but during my studies at Queen’s, I was able to attend a course entitled “Storytelling with Puppets” for which I developed a script based on my interpretation of the Kafka short story “The Judgement.” I built the main character as a marionette and we had several shadow puppets as well. My goal was to translate the literary devices Kafka used to produce the emotions the reader experiences when reading the short-story into a play that did not use language. This was a great experience and actually made me change my original research project and switch to the investigation of puppetry instead.

I performed with the ODD Puppet Collective, an Ontario-based group I am a member of. We wrote as script based on the Greek myth of the judgement of Paris and translated it into the context of the Midland Butter Tart Festival competition and needle-felted all the Bunraku-style puppets and built the stage in the shape of an old stove. I also did a very short piece at the OUF! in Montréal in the context of the fantastic UNIMA-Canada immersion project and of course built and performed with the Newfoundland Puppet Collective. I certainly still consider myself an emerging puppetry artist as my theory is more advanced than my manipulation and building skills, but I believe that the theoretical understanding I have achieved has helped me enormously with my practice. I have a strong interest in conceptualizing and directing, so I am looking for opportunities to learn wherever possible.


TM: What are your puppetry plans for the future?

PB: I am primarily interested in performances that are not language-based. Since the Kafka show I have been dreaming of a developing five Kafka short stories for an evening of Kafka and puppetry. That is something constantly in the back of my mind. But I always have a lot of ideas floating around. With my expanding tool-box there are many more ideas that I think I can explore via the medium of puppetry. Another project is a contemporary shadow/light play on the topic of evolution. But before I get to that I want to delve into the depths of live light painting. So in the meantime I am planning to tell the Grimm’s tale of “Yorinda and Yoringle” as a contemporary shadow theatre. In contrast to traditional shadow plays, in contemporary shadow theatre the figure is liberated from the screen and the puppeteer can be visible as well. I commissioned a Swedish artist to create the character silhouettes that will be combined with 3D objects and figures to tell the story with the help of a narrator and a soundscape.

Right now, however, I am in the intense writing phase of my dissertation and until that is finished, all of these projects are on hold and I am living the life of a hermit.

Many Thanks to Pia. You can view some more of Pia’s puppets here:


Update: Sara Tilley

Sara Tilley, member from St. John’s, was the recipient of a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council in order to travel to Europe for three months this past summer and fall.


Shadow, the kitten heroine.   Photo by Sara Tilley

The grants allowed Sara to undertake two mentorships of six weeks each – one in Pochinko clown with Ian Wallace in Sicily, and one with Darka Erdjeli in Maribor, Slovenia, on puppetry, focusing specifically on design and building as well as generating content for puppet performance. Under Darka’s mentorship, Sara learned about various styles of puppets being made and used today, watched a wide array of performances from Eastern Europe, and designed and built a show for one performer based on a Slovenian folk tale.


Mrs. Badger.  Photo by Sara Tilley

The piece takes place on a restaurant table set for one, and is designed to be performed in small spaces, like kitchens and cafes, for an intimate audience, and to pack into one carry-on bag, yet without any compromise to artistic integrity. Combining storytelling, object animation, and both tabletop and shadow puppetry, Hungry Little Shadow is currently in development. Sara hopes to premiere the work in 2016 in St. John’s, and to take it wherever it’s invited after that.

Update: Tara Manuel

Tara Manuel is a multi-disciplinary artist and puppeteer. She lives on the west coast of Newfoundland and works as a Behavioural Aide to adults with intellectual disabilities.

Tara is currently collaborating on a site specific puppetry performance with Parks Canada for the Iceberg Festival which takes place at the Northern tip of the island in June. She is also very happy to be one of two UNIMA members from Atlantic Canada to win the UNIMA Canada lottery to volunteer at the Castelliers Festival in Montreal in March. Tara recently started working full time as a Behavioural Aide to adults with intellectual disabilities, and is developing ways of implementing arts into the programming, beginning with explorations in shadow puppetry storytelling.

Update: Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia

Launched in 2008 and housed in the Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Centre (MIPAC), The Mermaid Loft is an open concept space dedicated to the pursuit of puppet excellence and the advancement of puppetry as an art form. Mermaid offers cost-free residency opportunities to individual theatre artists, organizations, or companies with a desire to use objects as a medium for telling stories. By sharing its facilities, creative and administrative skills and other resources, Mermaid continues to invest in the development of emerging theatre artists and companies here in Atlantic Canada, across the country, and beyond.

IMG_20151203_154057Currently in The Mermaid Loft, two talented puppeteers are working on their latest project. Silent Protagonist is a Toronto-based theatre company that explores storytelling through a variety of theatrical forms, including mask, clown and puppetry. Silent Protagonist was  founded in 2013 with its inaugural production Or Be Eaten.

IMG_20151203_154249Two members of the company have spent the past week in the Mermaid Loft developing a new project: Cryptids of the Canadian Shield, a nature show featuring a cast of imaginary creatures conceived of and constructed by company founder and puppet builder Graeme Black Robinson.


A selection of “Cryptids” from the Silent Protagonist company.

Graeme was born in Scarborough, Ontario and is a graduate the George Brown Theatre School. He attended the Mermaid Institute of Performing Arts Animotion program in 2014. Since then he has toured Mermaid’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites throughout the United States, Canada and China.

German-born, Alberta-raised, Toronto-based writer and performer Scott Garland is also a George Brown graduate. Best known for his work with Pea Green Theatre and their award-winning production of Three Men in a Boat, which had its international premiere in Mumbai last November, and continues to be performed across Canada.

Graeme wanted to add the following note: “Silent Protagonist is extremely grateful to Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia for donating their time, facilities and expertise. This kind of mentorship is invaluable to the growth of a rich national theatre culture and as an emerging company, we cannot begin to express our gratitude.”

UNIMA Canada Postcard Contest

UNIMA Canada is launching a contest to produce a series of puppety-themed postcards for their promotional use.  See the image below for details (or check out their blog at  Contest is open to all UNIMA Canada members — submissions are due by Wednesday, December 9.


Finally, we’d like to congratulate Tara Manuel and Marie-Ève Cormier, who won the UNIMA-CANADA MMM Breakfast Lottery for members who live outside of Montreal.

Tara and Marie-Ève, along with a third UNIMA member from Montreal, will host the breakfasts for the Casteliers guests in exchange for a room, breakfast and a take-away lunch and a wonderful Casteliers Festival Passport !!! Bravo !  Details about the festival are online at


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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:

Here’s a link to the théâtre l’Escaouette web site where you can find more info about their play:

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:

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:

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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UNIMA Atlantic Journal for July-August 2015

In this issue:

  • Profile: Maritime Marionettes
  • UNIMA Atlantic update from Tara Manuel
  • Andy Jones’s The Queen of Paradise Garden in Wolfville, NS, July 10
  • Des nouvelles du Théâtre Alacenne
  • Mermaid’s signature performance returns to China

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

It is certainly humbling to trawl through the expansive archive of original work on Maritime Marionettes’ website. Founded by husband and wife team Heather Bishop Taylor and Darryl Taylor in Truro, Nova Scotia nearly 30 years ago, Maritime Marionettes is the quintessential Mom and Pop puppetry company.

Maritime Marionettes - Petrouchka

From “Petrouchka – a Musical Marionette Ballet”

 Heather’s interest in puppetry began at age 11 and she has developed her beloved childhood hobby into an impressive career. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts in French at Acadia University, she went on to study theatre at Dalhousie and take the Foundation year at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. All of her studies in music, theatre, French and art have been adapted and directed toward her love of marionettes. Darryl developed an interest in marionettes after working primarily with hand and rod puppets. He comes from a strong family tradition of music and storytelling, and has brought these skills to bear in creating the music as well as original scripts for several of their productions. The couple struck out on their own after apprenticing with David Syrotiak’s National Marionette Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, where they learned to build and perform shows. To date, they have created eleven shows, in French and English, each production created by Heather and Darryl from concept to finished product.

Their shows are inspired from Children’s literature–from folktales and fairytales to a ballet! Some of the work combines traditional marionette puppetry with shadow puppetry, used to wonderful effect in Jack and The Beanstalk. They have performed at numerous international events and puppetry festivals including the Festival Mondiale des Marionettes, (Charleville-Mezieres, France 1997 and 2000), and Hsin Kang International Children’s Arts Festival, (Taiwan, 1998 and 2003). They have also toured this country extensively from the Yukon Territory to Newfoundland and most places in between.

I had to ask Heather and Darryl a few questions about their work.

T: How many shows do you currently have in your repertoire?jack-beanstalk

H&D: Currently, we are rehearsed in 5 shows: Rumpelstiltskin, The Lonely Leprechaun, Molly and the Oak Island Treasure, The Bremen Town Musicians, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Petrouchka and the Nativity Story can be performed but we need rehearsal time, as they are special occasion performances more so than what we do in our usual touring.

T: I wonder what advice you could offer to puppet theatre artists working in the Atlantic region?

H: Know that you have a passion for your art form, and continue to be curious and grow and explore throughout your career. Find an accountant you trust and like. Listen to people’s suggestions about any business or artistic decisions, and then take time to decide what is right for you. Be wary of working for low pay or no pay, for the “exposure”. Inflated ego and severe self-criticism will get in the way of your art, they are very sneaky and usually nearby, which is why I need to stay in touch with what keeps me grounded. Stay connected with what keeps you grounded- if that be time in nature, time with your pet, time in prayer or meditation, playing sports, music, or time with friends who really know you, (if you don’t have them, find them!). Be willing and able to travel, to work long days and enjoy the land and scenery you will be seeing. Teach and work with others and learn from your experiences. Ask for help when needed. Follow your heart and listen to intuitions. Watch other puppet performances and all performance arts and connect with other puppeteers and artists. D: Always respect your audience. Learn to secure your own work and get the word out about your work, as you can’t always depend on anyone else to do that for you. Puppetry is a process of experimentation. Be prepared to fail, learn from your failures, and keep moving forward.

T: What has been the greatest artistic challenge in your work so far?

H&D: We have had two major artistic challenges: 1: Producing Molly and the Oak Island Treasure – This was fairly early in our careers and we were working with a big vision for that show. We had many artists working with us and found we spent more time managing than hands-on creating, which was challenging. Financially we were quite over-extended, and we were trying to do a magnificent project with every idea we had at once. The show turned out to be quite beautiful and we still perform it, as people are very moved by it. We learned from the process to try to keep it simple. 2: Producing Petrouchka for the Lubbock Texas Symphony was our most challenging project, as it is done almost entirely to music with a cast of 23 marionettes. Thanks to the choreography of Mary Lou Martin though, we developed lovely dance moves for the marionettes in each Tableau.

T: What’s been your greatest business challenge so far?

H&D: Our trip to Dubai was the riskiest business challenge of our careers. The clients requested the five shows in our repertoire, to be rotated over a period of 2 weeks. The engagement came up in very short notice, and we left the country a week after shipping our puppets by air cargo. We realized that if anything happened to that shipment we would have lost our livelihood, and would have needed to build a new show to get going again. We would not ship all our shows at once ever again, but it was a great experience all in all, to perform there and to see that part of the world.

T: What has been your greatest accomplishment in your work?

H&D: The highlight of our performing was presenting Petrouchka at the 100th anniversary of Les Ballets Russes in Monaco, 2009. We were so honoured to hear the ballet dancer’s enthusiastic observations about the choreography and moves of the marionettes. Princess Caroline of Hanover, (daughter of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III), came to see our show and requested a private audience with us after the performance. She was friendly and gracious. We brought our marionettes to meet her and she eagerly accepted the opportunity to try one. She showed a boldness and playful sensibility with the marionette that impressed us. She chose to come to our evening performance from the recommendation of her daughter Princess Alexandra, who had seen Petrouchka at school. This was all a surprise to us as well as the organizers of the festival. We received three curtain calls from a most appreciative mixed audience of children and adults, and felt so proud of our work.

Many thanks to Heather and Darryl of Maritime Marionettes for taking the time to engage with me, and for sharing their lovely work, and their very valuable insight and experience! Check out their website for a list of links to samples from their many shows:



UNIMA Atlantique Update – Tara Manuel Tara Manuel is very glad to have a summer work home in the Fine Arts Building at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook, NL. She is in the process of developing a new original shadow puppetry play for young audiences called Strange Blood. Its’ central themes have to do with interconnectedness, sustainability, communication and working together. She is experimenting with new materials for building shadow puppets, and planning to create a multi-layered world for them to inhabit. She hopes to have a rough first version ready to share at the end of the summer.

Shadowy Souls Theatre

Tara and Big Pussy

She will also be holding a “Puppet Slam Workshop” group for teenaged youth through the summer during which they will explore building and performing with different styles of puppets for local live shows and web videos. And to make her work therapy summer complete, Tara will be directing the shadow play passages for an inter-arts performance piece with Gros Morne Summer Music, NL’s Classical Music Festival.

The Queen of Paradise’s Garden
A Traditional Newfoundland Fairy Tale
With Puppets by DARKA ERDELJI
Music by Monique Tobin
Running time: 30 mins.

Friday July 10 at 4:30pm Wolfville Farmers’ Market (Elm Street)
Open to the public. Followed by Q & A with the company and the publisher

CHILD, YOUTH, and PLACE in Atlantic Canadian Literature
A conference at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS (July 9-11, 2015)

This production was a big hit at the recent St. John’s Storytelling Festival and it really is a show for all ages — three to 93! At the Storytelling Festival the three year olds were as captivated as the older children, the teenagers and the adults. Andy Jones, of course, always seems to draw the whole audience into a story.

The performance is about a half hour in length and it involves Andy Jones telling and acting out the story beside a kitchen-table sized box that is the set – the set has compartments that open and the box is turned around to create a different scene for parts of the story. Darka Erdelji brings the hand-held puppets to life during the storytelling and there are some live sound effects to create a magical atmosphere. It is a very sweet show and elements of Christmas are included.

The show features puppets by Slovenian Theatre Artist Darka Erdelji, who has her Masters in Puppetry and Andy Jones tells the story of Jack in the Queen of Paradise’s Garden. “Jack” is a well-known figure in traditional Newfoundland fairy tales – (Jack Meets the Cat) and these are stories which Andy has learned over the years from an older generation of Newfoundlanders that he turns into wonderful theatrical storytelling productions. The story is a free adaptation of a tale told by Albert Heber – Keeping of Grand Bank, which he got from Billy Quann of Sagona Island; Keeping’s version was published in Herbert Halpert and John Widdowson’s seminal collection, Folktales of Newfoundland.

Email for booking information.
(reprinted from Andy Jones’ website)

Des nouvelles du Théâtre Alacenne
Anika Lirette et Mélanie Léger

À l’été 2015, le Théâtre Alacenne est en production du spectacle Ally et la forêt dans la salle de répétition du théâtre de l’Escaouette à Moncton au Nouveau-Brunswick.

Cette création de théâtre et de marionnettes est en développement depuis un an. Notre public cible est de 3 à 7 ans et nous collaborons avec plusieurs partenaires que ce soit à l’échelle régionale, provinciale et nationale. Avec ce spectacle, nous souhaitons rejoindre le maximum de jeunes à l’est du Québec. Nous sommes l’une des rares compagnies de théâtre acadien qui créent pour ce public. Le spectacle sera aussi traduit en anglais à la fin juillet.

Theatre Alacenne

Photo: Anika Lirette, Anne-Marie Sirois, Mélanie Léger

Dans la dernière année, nous avons suivi un stage de trois semaines intensives au Mermaid Theatre et la collaboration continue alors que nous nous préparons à accueillir Jim Morrow comme conseiller aux marionnettes! Le théâtre l’Escaouette est aussi un partenaire important. Après un premier laboratoire de création à l’été 2014 dans leurs locaux, nous poursuivons avec la production à l’été 2015.

Nous entraînons les spectateurs dans l’univers d’une forêt bricolée, reconstruite grâce au travail de deux bricoleuses qui ont fait un grand ménage pour embellir la nature. Le décor, les marionnettes et tout le processus de création mise sur le recyclage et la réutilisation. Nos thèmes centraux sont l’entraide et l’environnement.

Une découverte est le travail avec les artistes visuels que nous avons pu embaucher pour à la réalisation de notre décor et des marionnettes. Nous réalisons le potentiel de collaborer avec des artistes qui ont à coeur de « fouiller les poubelles » pour trouver des matériaux originaux! Ils amènent un tout autre regard à notre univers théâtral et nourrissent nos personnages. C’est rafraîchissant d’avoir des nouvelles énergies dans le projet.

Jean-Denis Boudreau signe les structures principales de notre décor et Anne-Marie Sirois a réalisé les marionnettes. Le tout avec des matériaux recyclés qui est une grande thématique de ces artistes de la récupération! Anne-Marie est une véritable passionnée de la marionnette et elle a déjà collaboré à plusieurs reprises avec Roland et Monsieur Crapaud pour la création de marionnettes. Merci Anne-Marie pour tes doigts de fée et tes yeux d’enfants qui sont arrivés à voir Ally à travers autant de bouteilles de plastique…!

Le spectacle « Ally et la forêt » sera présenté à l’automne au théâtre l’Escaouette. Une tournée est prévue au Nouveau-Brunswick et nous nous rendrons en Louisiane en 2015-2016 avec nos marionnettes pour animer des séances dans les écoles d’immersions françaises. À bientôt!

Mermaid’s Signature Production Returns to China


The Mixed-up Chameleon catches the fly!

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s signature production will return to the People’s Republic of China to undertake an ambitious five-week tour to thirteen major centres. Regarded as one of North America’s favourite family shows, The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favourites will appear at the Inside Out Theatre in Beijing from July 15 – 20, 2015 followed by performances in Jinan (Shandong), Shanghai, Nanjing, Ningbo, Changzhou, Wenzhou, Changsha, and Shenzhen.

Performers Kat McCormack & Graeme Black-Robinson and Stage Manager Christine Oakey will be joined by Artistic Director Jim Morrow and General Manager Lisa Gleave who will oversee logistic details and public relations.

Arrangements for the engagement have been facilitated by the Shanghai International Arts Festival Public Relations Company.

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