03 April 2011

Short and Sweet

Last weekend Milé and I performed our first puppet show together.  I've done a number of puppet shows with other people, but after seven years together, we are now officially a couple of puppeteers.  Life and love can be full of surprises, and I'm so lucky to have a partner willing to embrace the weird world of puppetry with me.  The piece was called Short and Sweet and was presented as part of Maple in the County, Prince Edward County's annual maple syrup festival.

Milé hard at work on character design
I wrote the script for Short and Sweet while we were in Arizona. The play's diminutive heroine, Theodora, must rescue spring from the evil hands of The Creeper, defeating a perpetual winter and ensuring the return of the all-important maple syrup. The design of the show mixes several theatre and puppetry techniques. I call it a ‘suitcase show’ – although there are technically no suitcases involved, just two antique wooden boxes. The boxes sit atop an old wooden ironing board, and contain the entire show.  We think the "old-timey" vibe of our props goes well with puppetry.  Banners unfurl from the boxes, bearing titles and painted backdrops.

Our puppets are two-sided cardboard puppets on small sticks, the tops of the open boxes are their stage. Milé designed all of the characters and banners, and I helped him paint and colour them.

Our cast of zany characters

There is one three-dimensional puppet, the terrifying Creeper, which we built several years ago (the genesis of this puppet is chronicled in Milé’s blog). Milé did a great job of puppeteering him and probably gave more than one little kiddy nightmares (sorry about that).  The boxes are great for containing surprise elements, such as paper snow and leaves to be tossed in the air, and a small pair of cymbals which are used as aural punctuation. We had a great time performing for an attentive crowd of kids both young and old.

Milé spent the rest of the day stiltwalking and rescuing helium balloons stranded on the ceiling.

Meanwhile I was papier-mâchéing a giant puppet head with a bunch of kids. We had a lot of fun, evidenced by the river of glue flowing from the table. 

Milé and I had sculpted the head in advance, using cardboard and one of my favourite tools,“the creech,” a.k.a. staple pliers; a few features were made from wrapping masking tape around bundles of stuffing.

Pre-mâché sculpture

Milé sketched a picture showing what the final puppet will look like. His name is “Shack,” and he’s supposed to be a sugar shack worker. Yet everybody seems to think this is just another portrait puppet of Milé… what do you think?

We had a chance to perform Short and Sweet a second time this past week, at a Picton fundraiser for victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. If you want to do something REALLY sweet, you can make a donation via the Red Cross; all you have to do is click HERE.

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