Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Puppets Up! Day 2

Well, on the second day I got to do some more balcony puppeteering. Both of these puppets were built by Noreen Young and I performed the little grey OPP dog on the right (that is a scarecrow on the left). I am surprised how much I enjoyed doing the balcony puppeteering.

We were even able to get a few passing cheerleaders to stop and do some cheers. I made it a point to challenge their spelling skills. No simple "Gimme' a W-I-N here!". They were great. In fact moments later I had the puppet complaining about being hot and wanting a "freezee" (these are really called MrFreeze ice pops, but all my life I have known them as "freezees") and these young ladies happened to be selling them in their blue cooler. Well wouldn't you know it, a kind little boy came out of the crowd and brought one up for me. He ended up doing some puppeteering for a while himself. It was a very memorable moment.

During my (and my wife's) stay in Almonte, we shared accommodation with one of the puppet troupes. I was told that a couple of puppeteers from Vermont would be in the same bed and breakfast as my wife and I (Menzies House B & B). I knew nothing about the pair so I decided to go and see their show at the end of day 1.

Their names are Jamie Keithline and Bonny Hall and they are amazing performers. Their company is called The Crabgrass Puppet Theatre. Hands down their show was one of the most entertaining puppet stage shows I have ever seen. Done using shadow puppets and marionettes (all created by Jaime and Bonny). Their show was called The Breman Town Musicians and it was awesome!

The music was top notch (new lyrics to oldies favourites) and each show they did was live. No pre-recorded stuff here. They are true artistic professionals and after talking with them it is clear that they are as passionate about puppetry as they are talented. It was great meeting them and I wish them continued success.

As the day came to an end, their was a final parade down main street. Many of the people who had been keeping the buzz around town came together and showed some of the wonderful puppets and costumes that they used. This was a time for me to sit back and take in all of the craziness that had been around me for the past two days. As well as some of the amazing artists that I had the pleasure of seeing perform over those two delightful days.

There was/were...

Shop owners with their look-a-like puppet counterparts.

Bob Stutt and Iggy the Iguana...

Jacob Blue Jay and Stephen Brathwaite...



...and dogs.


And flying bicycles?!

But that's not all! There was/were...

...local television personalities...

...the town mayor in shorts...


...stilt walkers...


...Noreen Young with Gloria Gopher, news media, mascots...

...more mascots, and cheerleaders...

...and a pair of fuzzy dice.

It was a beautiful day and a wondeful little parade. As the festival started to come to and end and the streets began to empty I was able to reflect on the day and catch up with other performers.

One last picture of myself, Matt Ficner and ZipE the clown (a.k.a. Adam Zimmerman).

I was honoured to be a part of such a great first ever event like Puppets Up! I highly recommend attending this event in the future and I hope to see more new faces next year.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Puppets Up! Day 1

Well this post has been long overdue. Here is some of the stuff that happened. The first thing that I did was set up my puppets for display in one of the town windows. All of the organizers were amazing and really did a great job to make me feel at home. Hats off to them all.

The day had a variety of puppet performances and I was able to see almost half of all the shows on the first day.

One of the first shows that I saw was by Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre from Orleans, Ontario. Performed by Kathy MacLellan and John Nolan, these performances used some wonderful open manipulation puppeteering. This is a style in which the performers are in full view of the audience.

I must admit that I had never seen this style before in person and it was an amazingly different way of performing puppets than I have been used to.

The show I saw was called The Nightingale you can see some of the puppets used for the performance in the picture above.

As usual, I became so wrapped up in all of the excitement that I failed to take pictures of most of the shows that I saw. Some of the shows that I did get pictures from were some of the buskers and street performers that were all over the downtown core. But I had to work as well. You see I had agreed to perform with puppets from one of the downtown balconies.

I know that the picture is hard to see, but that is me with the grey puppet (Zeek) talking to a bunch of event goes. I must admit that it was a lot of fun to do. And I met some very talented puppeteers in the process (many of them novices). We would pretty much just bother people (in good fun) as they walked by.

That evening was the adult cabaret. I was all excited and had my camera ready. In fact I had charged the batteries to be fully prepared...or so I thought. The batteries went completely dead. Oh well here is one of the only decent pictures I was able to snap just before the batteries died.

Here is a blurry picture (sorry) of Noreen Young and Stephen Brathwaite, both gifted puppeteers. Noreen is also an award winning puppet builder. I was amazed and impressed to find out that in addition to being a great puppeteer, Stephen does amazing art pieces with glass.

A few moments later they were performing their characters from Under the Umbrella Tree.

Jacob Blue Jay and Gloria Gofer together again.

The whole night was amazing. It was great to see the variety and wealth of puppet talent all in one room. I must admit that this night was perhaps one of my favourite parts of the whole festival. With many of the performers I did not know their work very well.

Some of the evenings highlights (for me) included a performance by Ottawa puppeteer and builder Mike Artelle. Using these incredibly detailed hand puppets, Mike presented a short puppet show that reminded me of how real my He-Man action figure seemed to me when I was little. Mike performed with a great "dead-pan" delivery that made the show very entertaining.

Steffi's Picnic the Musical. Now this puppet troupe just about blew me away. They perfomed during the cabaret and did some sketches from the Broadway (puppet) musical hit Avenue Q (note the pictures above are from their busking performance and not the evening cabaret). The puppets were built by Ben Durocher (amazing work!) and along with Steffi Didomenicantonio (Yup! That's her last name) they performed their own musical shows using puppets.

Now I know that Steffi's name has more letters than most, but I think people had better learn to pronounce it because these performers are going to be something big. Oh! Did I forget to mention that they are only 16 years old and still in high school! Are you kidding me?! With this much talent at such a young age. If you get a chance to see them please do. You will be blown away.

Day 1 was great. Check back soon for my post about Day 2.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Chensational admission bracelets!

Well I am not allowed to post this until the event is over but the admission bracelets for the Puppets Up! festival look amazing. Here are a few samples of what they look like. Of course you won't see these until after the fact.

(The colour on these pictures are off. The top picture is more accurate)

There has been great communication between the Puppets Up! organizing comittee and Chensational Puppets. Thanks for all of the quick replies.

I look forward to seeing lots of people at Puppets Up! this August 6th and 7th in Almonte, Ontario.