Video Introduction to Mermaid Theatre

Hello there Mermaid fans!

We recently pulled together a wide variety of video files on the office computer to make a little video that showcases some of what we do here at Mermaid.

The video is from a variety of sources, including some footage provided by the Province of Nova Scotia when they came to get some shots of Jim in conjunction with his recent Order of Nova Scotia award.  Much of the other footage is either from promotional videos of our touring shows, or office video we’ve shot to show people what we’re up to.

The music is original music by Steven Naylor, who has composed for Mermaid for many years.  The clips in this video are all from Mermaid versions of Eric Carle stories.

Thanks everyone, for making this happen.

 

Movie Night in Windsor

Locally filmed “Weirdos” being screened at MIPAC

(Windsor, NS)  The Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Center (MIPAC) will welcome movie fans for the first time in nearly twenty years with a special community screening of Bruce McDonald’s acclaimed WEIRDOS. Shot partially on location in Windsor, the touching coming-of-age film will be shown on Friday evening, June 16th at 7:30 PM. 

Based on an original screenplay by Daniel MacIvor, Weirdos follows the story of fifteen-year-old Kit (Dylan Authors) who dreams of a more glamorous life in the big city, faraway from the small town where he lives with his father (Allan Hawco) and grandmother (Cathy Jones). Enlisting the help of his girlfriend Alice (Julia Sara Stone), they hitchhike towards a new home with his glamorous, artistic mother Laura (Molly Parker). As Kit and Alice reach their final destination their relationship is tested as Kit comes to realize that his life will change forever.

The film was nominated for six Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Motion Picture, Molly Parker for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Daniel MacIvor for Original Screenplay, Duff Smith for Achievement in Editing, Bethana Briffett for Achievement in Costume Design, and Matt Likely for Achievement in Art Direction. The production premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and has since been applauded by enthusiastic audiences at both national and international film festivals.

The one-time screening is intended to celebrate the Town of Windsor’s importance as a destination for film crews. In addition to Weirdos, local streetscapes, homes and businesses (including MIPAC) have provided the backdrop for a number of other feature films, including Two If By SeaThe River King, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Blackbird, and Cloudburst, as well as a number of TV movies and series.

The Imperial Theatre was built by John H. ‘Jack’ Bustin in 1914 (refurbished following a fire in 1931), and regularly presented plays, concerts and traveling musical shows in addition to films. Country and Western greats including Hank Snow, Wilf Carter, Kitty Wells and Smiley Bates performed on the Imperial stage, while The Windsor Concert Party variety shows entertained troops stationed nearby as well as local residents.

In 1947 the Theatre was sold to the B & L cinema chain (Bernstein and Lieberman) of Saint John, NB, the pioneering company who introduced “talkies” to the Maritimes.  The Imperial was sold again to Dr. Garth and Lauren Vaughan in 1986, who promoted both live entertainment and movie screenings.  Following their retirement, Mermaid Theatre acquired the facility in 2003, and began the extensive restorations that have resulted in the MIPAC renaissance.  Recent upgrades to both interior and façade have been supported by the Province of Nova Scotia’s Community Facilities Improvement Program and The Government of Canada’s 150 Community Infrastructure Program.

The black-and-white film is rated PG and runs 85 minutes.  Showtime is 7:30pm.  Admission to the Weirdos screening is $14, with tickets available online at Ticketpro.ca, by phone at 888-311-9090 or in person at Windsor Home Hardware and at the door.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia Returns to China

Mermaid’s poignant adaptation of Guess How Much I Love You & I Love My Little Storybook is slated for further international adventures. The company will return to the People’s Republic of China on November 4, 2016 to introduce its acclaimed production to audiences in Ningbo, Nanjing and Suzhou prior to a six-performance engagement at the Shanghai Children’s Art Theatre from November 11-13, 2016.   The Shanghai Cultural Exchange Agency has facilitated arrangements for the engagement.

First launched in 2004, the double bill has been termed “a magical, meditative experience.”  Sam 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 beloved story, I Love My Little Storybook by writer/illustrator Anita Jeram, features a whimsical menagerie of animals and imaginary creatures and celebrates the joy of reading.  Jim Morrow served as both director and production designer while Steven Naylor’s lively music score reflects the Celtic traditions shared by Nova Scotia and the stories’ creators.  The Mandarin–language version features recorded narration by Dashan (Mark Rowswell), the Canadian-born stage and television performer acknowledged as the most famous foreign artist in China.

Touring the US starting in October.  Click the image for tour dates.

Touring artists include puppeteers Jeffrey O’Hara, Katie Dorian and stage manager Jessica Lewis.  Jim Morrow will travel with the company, and oversee puppetry workshops offered in conjunction with Mermaid’s appearances. The tour is supported with assistance from Arts Nova Scotia, The Nova Scotia Creative Industries Fund and Support4Culture.  A further six-week engagement is anticipated for the summer of 2017.

Founded in 1972 and based in rural Nova Scotia, Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia is currently Canada’s most widely travelled performing arts company for young spectators.  Simultaneous tours enable the company to perform on several continents on the same day, so that Mermaid Theatre’s circuit continues to make theatre history at home and abroad.

For additional information and for downloadable images, please see:

http://mermaidtheatre.ca/for-presenters/our-productions/guess-how-much-i-love-you/

Summer Student Recap: Sarah Hiseler

That I’m writing this at the end of my time here says something about how much of a whirlwind this experience has been. While I’ve had some quieter times to familiarize myself with the history and architecture of Mermaid Theatre, for the most part it’s been a blur of paperwork, painting, and tours. As a theatre student, the most fascinating parts for me are getting to see all of the other behind the scenes things that go into making a show- especially those that you don’t always come into contact with as a designer. The contracts, contacts, and research that is required to get the show physically on the road was a completely new thing for me. (The painting, not so much.)

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Working in the “office.”

Unlike other “office” positions, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a wide range of projects. Helping to compile tour documents, mail runs, and updates to our website have been balanced with painting (of set pieces, and the stage), inventory counts, and, on two occasions, running the lighting or sound board. I also got to spend two days out of the office entirely while assisting Struan with giving puppetry workshops at local summer camps. The crafty part of the children’s puppet builds was familiar, however the introduction to some of the puppets and their movement was as much of a crash course for me as it was for the kids! I’ve been lucky enough to walk out at the end of just about every day having learned something new.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the summer, other than getting to know the talented and enthusiastic people who work here, has been getting to show visitors around the facilities. There’s nothing quite like watching people discover something that they never realized was in their own backyard, the return visitors who always have to drop by because they love the place so much, or the pure infectious excitement of someone who has fallen in love with one of the shows on tour and is finally getting to see backstage where they never thought they’d get the chance to go. No matter the age of our visitors, it’s hard not to light up at least a little bit when presented with such engaging characters, and the lucky few who got to watch rehearsals or a run through of The Very Hungry Caterpillar before this summer’s trip to China were especially enchanted (myself included). The style and visual appeal of the black light show is a far cry from the look of Rummabubba, Lid-Maker of the Snufflewogs, the show I saw as a child when it toured to my elementary school, making it a completely new experience for me. Too, the sound track was as much a part of the appeal as the puppets themselves- there are many reasons why these shows are as popular with the adults as they are with the children they bring to see them.

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Everyone at Mermaid, including Waving Dinosaur, wish Sarah the best of luck back in school and beyond!

In the case of whoever comes along next summer, or the ones after, my advice is:

  • to say yes when offered something new (I almost never get to work with children- the workshops were great fun),
  • ask as many questions as you need because there is always a new story, historic fact, or skill to learn (the architecture and history of the building is as cool as the company’s and its staff’s),
  • talk to everyone who comes through that door as you never know who you’ll get to meet (other artists, visitors from all over, former Mermaid people… all sorts of interesting folk),
  • keep paint clothes in the office (you will end up wearing it, just make your peace with that fact early on)
  • don’t stress too much about any of it (just take your time),
  • and have fun (I know I have!)

Mermaid’s China tour, 2016

In July, Mermaid embarked on our second huge, multi-week China tour.  Starting with performances in Beijing, the tour is winding its way through around a dozen cities across China, with stops in Shanghai, Xiamen, Nanjing, and ending in Liuzhou in September.  With about 40 shows on the schedule as well as a number of demonstration workshops, our company has been very busy.  Here are a few pictures from the early part of their visit, while Jim traveled with them and helped get the tour smoothly underway:

 

The schedule for the tour is on our website here:

MERMAID’S TOUR SCHEDULE

Have a great week!

And the Reviews are In!

It’s a beautiful spring morning here in Windsor.

I was just poking around on Mermaid’s Facebook page, and I realized that there are a great many reviews of our performances from all of our different productions and from venues all over the US, Canada, and elsewhere.

These positive reviews made my day, and the represent the work of not only our creative team in Windsor, but the dozens of performers and stage managers who have toured our shows in the last few years, as well as the crews that work with us in each venue to bring our puppets to life in another theatre full of happy children.

I’m pasting them all below — I’ve stripped out the FB links, but they are otherwise unedited.   You can check out the reviews for yourself if you’re ever so inclined.


 

Crystal Patterson — 5 star
January 7 ·
Just attended Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny in Des Moines, with our 4 year old son. Was honestly one of the best children’s productions I have been to. Whimsical, amazing life-like puppetry, and the set was so cool! A spectacular job all around!!

Linda McKenna — 5 star
November 29, 2015 ·
Thank you for the great show in Kingston, Ontario today. Our grandson got home and has spent hour putting on show with his puppet theatre. What a wonderful way to inspire imagination! Thank you for your production of Runaway Bunny and Good Night Moon

Laura N Chris Surber — 5 star
April 8 at 8:26pm ·
My son’s class came to watch your performance of The Very Hungry Caterpillar today at ASU, in Boone N.C. He was so excited to come home, and tell us of his wonderful experience. Thank you for fueling his love for the arts, in such a creative way.

Mike Coxlarge — 5 star
January 29 ·
We took our 3 year old granddaughter to the Goodnight Moon/Runaway Bunny show in Toledo. Was sure she would enjoy it, but didn’t expect much from an adult standpoint. Was I wrong! The show was incredible, from the staging, to the sets, to the absolute perfection of the performers. If you have the chance, you really need to see this show!

Sue Slade — 5 star
September 20, 2015 ·
Today was my son & I’s 6th visit to the Mermaid Theatre. Our first was in July 2013 for a preschool puppet- parent & tot workshop- where my son got to explore the world of puppetry – he even got to make his own Very Hungry Caterpillar (which got a lot of use, when reading that particular bedtime story). We followed that up with watching The Very Hungry Caterpillar that September in the theatre, then we were addicted. We even caught the World Premier of Stella & The Snow Queen here in Dartmouth. Which was also nicely done. Today’s Performance of Goodnight Moon & the Runaway Bunny lived up to our high expectations of the productions The Mermaid Theatre puts on- Well worth the 50 minute drive from our house in Cole Harbour. Keep up the good work. My son is now 7 years old- but I wouldn’t mind signing him & I up for another “Day/Halfday” Parent & Child workshop if one were available. With the distance we drive we’d have to go together- we so enjoyed our first one.

Marykate Hanko — 5 star
February 15 ·
Thank you for a wonderful show in New Brunswick NJ! It was engaging, surprising and downright magical. I can’t wait to see another one of your performances

Jennifer Hancock — 5 star
January 18 ·
We saw Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny in Cleveland last week!! Amazing show!! My son loves getting to ask a question at the end. He decides the little bunny’s name should be Tom!!

Megan MacDonald — 5 star
October 2, 2015 ·
Many, many moons ago I attend a puppet making workshop here ( I was 7 or 8) it was one of the best experiences of my childhood! Anytime I’m in Windsor, I make sure to walk by Mermaid and peek in the windows and look at all the amazing creatures

April Gomez Bloxsom — 5 star
February 20 ·
Just saw Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny at the Steifel in Salina, KS! It was a fabulous show! My 4 year old was mesmerized and loved every minute of it! Bravo!

Lesley Andrews Thompson — 5 star
February 20 ·
Just attended The Very Hungry Caterpillar at The State Theatre in Ithaca, NY. LOVED IT!! The imagination and master puppetry was beyond anything I could have imagined. Thank you for a great day!

Eric Sorensen — 5 star
January 30 ·
Just saw Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny in Green Bay! Simply the best show! My three year old loves it and was into it the whole time ! Thanks!

Allison Fitzpatrick — 5 star
March 15 at 4:56pm ·
We saw their rendition of Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny in Albuquerque and it was amazing! My 4 year old and I loved it!

Melissa Sprinkle — 5 star
April 12 at 9:38pm ·
We saw Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny today. It was an amazing show. Loved every second of it! Well done!

Elisabeth Harding — 5 star
February 13 ·
Saw The Hungry Caterpillar today, PHENOMENAL! My 2 year old was so in to it too! Will definitely recommend!

Michele Moore — 5 star
January 14 ·
My son had his field trip the other day and saw your performance. You guys did a great job.

Sarah Corney — 5 star
January 23 ·
Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny were excellent. I took my 4, 4, and 2 year olds for an afternoon out in Toledo, Ohio.

Patty Horton Moses — 5 star
February 3 ·
I just saw the runway bunny and goodnight moon with my preschoolers loved it!

Darlene Cowley — 5 star
March 1 ·
The first grade classes of Sallie Curtis Elementary from Beaumont, Texas LOVED your show today!

Jonathan Edwards — 5 star
February 13 ·
I was extremely impressed with the Eric Carle show. My 6 & 4 year olds absolutely loved it. Well done and thank you!

Kim Wipperfurth — 5 star
November 17, 2014 ·
I saw Stella Queen of the Snow with my Extended Day kids (Kindergartners), today in Madison, Wisconsin. Simply amazing! The children were interested and engaged, and it held my attention as well! The puppets are fantastic and flow just as well as live actors. It was very well done! We all loved it. We were lucky enough to see the Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar about a year ago with the same age group.
Love, love, love this group of talented people!!

Debbie Hoggard — 5 star
March 7 ·
My boys and I JUST saw Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. It was fantastic!!!

Jen Boro Peters — 5 star
September 20, 2014 ·
Took my 4 yr old and 6 yr olds to see “The very hungry caterpillar” tonight and it was amazing! I loved it just as much as they did. So happy that I decided to take them last minute!!

Maricela Verduzco — 5 star
February 14 ·
Runaway Bunny was so endearing and beautifully done.

Jen Chung — 5 star
March 16, 2014 ·
We saw the Leo Lionni show in Tribeca yesterday and the Eric Carle show last year at Symphony Space, and Mermaid Theatre is an absolute treasure! From the beautiful recreations of the books to the amazing puppets, I feel so grateful that such talented people are encouraging children and adults alike appreciate theater and storytelling.

Crystal Clark — 5 star
November 29, 2013 ·
Took my 4 year old to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar at The Smith Center in Geneva, NY. It was phenomenal! My daughter and I were mesmerized and truly enjoyed watching some of our favorite books brought to life! Incredibly talented cast and great production! I definitely recommend taking your children to see this play!

Elizabeth Martinez Anthony — 5 star
March 8, 2015 ·
I took my daughter to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar at CCC in New Jersey. It was phenomenal!! We loved it and are still talking about it. Loved how they had a question and answer at the end.

Cathy Callaway Howie — 5 star
October 30, 2014 ·
Took my first graders to The Very Hungry Caterpillar show in Chico, Ca today…fabulous show! The children couldn’t stop talking about it…and I’m still talking about it!!! Please come back to Chico. Awesome!

Tina Winters — 5 star
March 28, 2015 ·
Saw the group perform three Eric Carle stories at Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown, MD. One of the best children’s performances we’ve ever seen!

Toh Chen Yeong — 5 star
October 3, 2014 ·
Utterly enjoyed The Very Hungry Caterpillar, down to every minute detail! It was as therapeutic for the adults as it was cathartic for the kiddos!

Jennifer Peterson — 5 star
January 22, 2015 ·
We just saw The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other stories today at The Grand Opera House…what a wonderful show!! I highly recommend it to anyone!

Elizabeth Duncan — 5 star
November 9, 2013 ·
Just Took Mirabel to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar performed by this group at The Performing Arts Center in Tampa. It was wonderful. Highly recommend for the kids.

Daniel Villegas — 5 star
October 27, 2014 ·
I had the privilege to work with you guys at Mondavi in Davis, California as well as enjoying the show. Thanks

Bhavna Talwar Bhatia — 5 star
September 28, 2014 ·
I just attended the very hungry caterpillar in Singapore. We thoroughly enjoyed it with our 3 year old.

Robin Eddy Ludwig — 5 star
February 28, 2014 ·
Took my nephew and son to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar today at The Peace Center in Greenville, SC. They loved it and so did I. Such a great job!

Anitra Buckel — 5 star
October 27, 2014 ·
Just took my 5yr old son to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar at UC Davis in CA – it was amazing! Fantastic!!

Natasha ‘Ramsay’ Kawasaki — 5 star
March 4, 2015 ·
We went to see the puppet show of Eric Carle’s work. Excellent! My kids and I were mesmerized. Just magical!!

Samantha S. Haemker — 5 star
February 4, 2015 ·
I went with my 6 year old to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar! It was an awesome show!

Susie Roell Zgodzinski — 5 star
January 24, 2014 ·
Loved the Eric Carle show yesterday at The Valentine Theater in Toledo, Ohio! Great job! The kids had a great time.

Mary-Ellen Musacchia — 5 star
January 23, 2014 ·
Took our entire kindergarten to see Swimmy, Inch by Inch, and Frederick today. Simply wonderful!


Thanks to everyone who has made this happen.  Have a great week!

 

Interview with Jim Morrow – part 2

Happy new year!

Last October, we posted a portion of an (email) interview with our Artistic Director, Jim Morrow.  That portion of the interview is available here.  The remainder of his questions and answers are printed below.

Q: What type of puppets do you use in your performances? Who creates them?
A:
We are not a puppet company in the classic sense but a company that incorporates objects to tell stories. The objects that are more fully realized (with eyes, mouths, hands and feet, for example) we call our puppets. We have used traditional styles (hand, rod, marionettes or stringed, body, mouth or Muppet, and shadow) in past shows but design decisions are almost always based more on the unique challenges associated with adapting well known storybook characters into fully realized objects rather than on a particular puppet tradition. Essentially we first carve objects, or sculptures, and then learn how to move them through space by experimenting. Some of these sculptures have rods or strings incorporated and, as such, are considered traditional puppet styles but there can exist in any given play, many styles of puppets that are both traditional and new. There are no books we can refer to discover how to move these objects. We simply have to study and learn through experimenting and trial and error.

 

Q: Who composes the music you incorporate into your performances?
A: Music is a fundamental component of each Mermaid show and is a primary consideration from the early stages of development to completion. Music not only provides the requisite beat and rhythm that compliment the action but also adds a layer of emotional texturing that underscores each moment throughout the play. Steven Naylor is our principal sound designer and composer and we have been very fortunate to include his considerable skill and knowledge in our creative process for a very long time.

Q: Can you tell us more about the Institute of Puppetry Arts?
A:
Mermaid’s Institute of Puppetry Arts was created to provide training opportunities for anyone with an interest in learning the art of object movement and puppetry. Since the company’s inception forty-four years ago, puppetry has maintained a fundamental role in the development of each new play, and it has been integral in securing Mermaid’s unique place in the ecology of theatre for young audiences in North America and beyond.

Workshops: Through a variety of workshops, carefully crafted to serve the needs of both the general public and a theatre community increasingly curious about puppet construction and manipulation techniques, and with experts who are well versed in all aspects of puppet instruction, we annually reach hundreds of children and adults alike, both here at home and abroad. Puppetry instruction is also evolving in theatre programs offered by institutes and universities, where there is a growing curiosity about the medium and its application to core training.

Animotion: Our professional training session, called Animotion, is now recognized as one of the premier puppet instruction destinations in North America. The three-week long Intensive takes place each spring at our headquarters in Windsor and brings together ten participants from around the continent, most with limited knowledge of, or experience in, puppetry and object theatre. Each session is guided by a series of exercises designed to gently ease the participants from the early stages of learning the rudiments of manipulation, to fully realized moments complete with home made puppets and music.

Play Creation: The Institute of Puppetry Arts also boasts a play-creation component, with an emphasis on one-hour curriculum-based theatre pieces designed specifically for presentation in school auditoria. Developed collaboratively with specialists in the field of conservation biology and teachers of science, to date we have created two interactive productions that deal with issues relating to underwater marine biology (Sunken Treasures), and species at risk (Code Green).