Thursday, July 05, 2007


Posted by Arna: Meant to post this weeks ago when it happened, so sorry it's late.

I was a lucky participant at an all day puppetry workshop in June at Puppetmongers Studio. I met a very cool bunch of people with tonnes of passion for their storyteller's art. Here are some of the shots I took at the event:

Above: David Powell of Puppetmongers and Brad Harley of Shadowland Theatre check out one of Eric Woolfe's puppets. Taken at the FRESH IDEAS IN PUPPETRY DAY, June 16, 2007 at Puppetmongers workshop.

Above: Eric Woolfe (THE BABYSITTER) and his crew...

Above: Ronnie Burkett reads from new work in progress, BILLY TWINKLE, REQUIEM FOR A GOLDEN BOY. BILLY TWINKLE is about puppeteers and promises to intrigue and mystify as did his shows: The Trilogy: TINKA'S NEW DRESS, STREET OF BLOOD, and HAPPY, and more recently TEN DAYS ON EARTH. You can read more about him here, and take a tour of Burkett's workshop.

Above: Panel on Story and Scripting. Members of the puppeteers group The Raucus Caucus ~love that name! Left to right: Ruth Howard, Brad Harley, Ann Powell, David Anderson. Turns out that storytelling with puppets presents many of the same challenges that animation storytelling does. Ann and David explained that they storyboard their shows together, working out ideas on the wall of their studio.

Earlier in the day we heard a discussion on directing, moderated by Anne Barber (Bread and Puppet Theatre, Shadowland Theatre). Directors Mark Cassidy (click here for current info), Michael Waller, and Jim Warren shared their insights. Eg: (I'm paraphrasing here, not actual quotes!!)

Mark Cassidy "Use puppets in a story to open up the telling of the tale, and create a situation that will bring out the unexpected".
Michael Waller "When giving direction, sometime it's best to talk to the puppet, not the puppeteer".
Jim Warren: 'When adding puppets to a dramatic production, integrate the puppets into the story and allow adequate time to develop the puppet designs!"
Funniest line in this discussion(I think it was Michael Waller's) :
" Little balls can make you cry".
The evening was given over to performances, which included Mark Keetch and Noah Kenneally performing their bittersweet piece on relationships: OUR TIME, Johan Vandergun of Lampoon PuppetTheatre and Pat Lewis of Meadowsweet Productions perform THE PARK BENCH and David Powell and his puppet Alex performing LONG LIFE AS BOUNDLESS AS THE SKY, (named for the Korean musical accompaniment) in which we saw Alex stand on his head. You really do believe that there are muscles and tendons in Alex as he goes through the various yoga-like positions.


Mommy Babble said...

Oh wow, how exciting! That looks like a lot of fun.

the doodlers said...

T'was indeed fun- inspiring stuff. Thanks for the comment, mommy b.

warren said...

I saw Ronnie Burkett's play 'Happy' and manoman was it intense drama. Really never imagined puppeteers would go into that kind of territory.

Incidentally, it predated 'Being John Mahlkovich' by a few years.

Interesting that there are so many correlations between animation and puppeteering. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised - some people think 3D animation is more 'computer puppetry' than anything...

the doodlers said...

Ronnie Burkett does gravitate toward rich dark and quirky storytelling. This new one he's developing deals with an aging cruise ship puppeteer and metaphors for life and death.

I think not just 3D animation, but Flash and Toonboom have much in common with puppetry. Honestly, the puppet workshop really helped me see strong connections between these types of storytelling.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that the directing panel was moderated by Jamie Ashby, a PhD student at the Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama at UofT, and an academic paper on Mummenschanz was delivered to open the day, by Dahlia Katz, an MA student in Theatre Studies at York University.

Anonymous said...

Ann McDougall also performed that evening.

the doodlers said...

Hi anonymous! Thanks for the additional info... of course I'd be happy to expand on the description of the night in the post. I'll do my best to make these additions to the post in the next few days. There were so many excellent performances. If there's anything else you'd like to add... just write it up and post it here. Thanks!

PS: Will you reveal your name or do you wish to remain mysterious? :)

Linda Rogers said...

Readers will be happy to know that the Spring Intensive Puppetry sessions will be offered again this year. Check out for details