Move over Elmo, Humber puppets making moves

Feb 7, 2013 | News

By Tatiana Patterson

“Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good.” – Terrence Mann

Can the same be said for puppetry?

Puppet enthusiasts will soon have a chance to fulfill their dreams through Humber’s two-week workshop.

The Puppetry Intensive was designed for students to take a step further in puppet studies.

Paul DeJong, co-director of the workshop, said the intensive stemmed from an already existing puppet course in the theatre performance program.

“We see puppets showing up all over the place,” said DeJong. “A number of students who have graduated have gone off to do exactly that.”

DeJong said students of the Intensive will work closely with professional puppeteers from Alberta and the United States to learn how to make and manipulate puppets.

“They will also be working in smaller ensembles to create original pieces of puppetry,” said DeJong.

Andrew Young, professional puppeteer in Toronto and writer for PuppetVision, admits  many people often connect puppets with children, but doesn’t find it to be true. He said puppetry has been popular for all ages, but many don’t realize its presence.

“A good example is Jurassic Park,” said Young. “Most of the dinosaur shots in that movie were puppets. There’s about seven or eight minutes of computer graphics but the rest is the late Stan Winston and his team of people, who built these amazing life-like dinosaurs. They were used interchangeably.”

Young has been working with “bunraku” style puppets, a form of puppetry based from Japan, which requires three people to operate. He said that training is a big part of learning how to avoid injury when operating the puppets.

“At one point, I had a slip disc in my back because I moved the wrong way while performing a big puppet,” said Young. “You have to be okay working in close proximity with people. You get to know your fellow puppeteers really well.”

Young’s love for puppetry doesn’t just end with his respect for the art form. The blogger said his love lies in the endless limits of world-building.

“Puppetry on its own doesn’t excite me personally as an artist,” said Young. “I like that puppetry allows you to construct a world completely from scratch. It’s a very all-encompassing art form”

David Powell, co-founder of Puppetmongers, has worked with puppets since the age of seven alongside his sister Ann.

Together, they teach puppetry at the Toronto School of Puppetry. The school usually runs a two-week intensive of their own in June, but this year are joining forces with Humber’s Intensive.

“For numbers of years, we’ve gone to Humber when they start their program and do demonstrations about what puppetry is about,” said Powell. “We’ve also come and selected shows at the end of the season and choose them to be in a festival we have in May.”

Powell said that when he and his sister first started out in puppetry, they used marionette string puppets.

“When we started Puppetmongers we got rid of the strings and we worked the puppets with the hand on controls on the puppets,” said Powell. “Then we moved on to the table top. But that’s not all we do. We find a story that resonates with us and then figure out the best visual way of putting it together.”

The theatre is currently working on a production called Foolish Tales for Foolish Times, which is set for March Break.