Category Archives: Puppetry Institute

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).

 

An encore for Mermaid’s Puppet Cabaret 

** UPDATED: this event date was changed to Saturday, February 6, 2016.

Prominent community volunteers are lending their support to Mermaid Theatre’s forthcoming fundraising event by undergoing a crash course in puppetry. 

The third annual edition of the company’s popular Puppet Cabaret is scheduled for Saturday evening, February 6 and will feature original vignettes by Cameron Hartley, proprietor of the Schoolhouse Brewery and Kelly Mitchelmore, artist and proprietor of Phoenix Hollow B&B, local residents who are hard at work rehearsing for their stage debut.

Other features of the much-anticipated event include tasty tidbits (prepared by local chef Kerina Dykstra from Let’s Eat Personal Chef Services), a cash bar featuring local brew and wine, a silent and live auction, and cameo performances by former Mermaid puppetry students.  The company’s long-time associate, Mermaid veteran Bill Carr, will serve as host and auctioneer.  In addition to his extensive career as a stage and television performer, Bill is in much demand across Canada as a multi-media artist, humorist, writer, motivational speaker and social commentator.

Struan Robertson, Mermaid’s workshop coordinator, will oversee the puppetry segments of the event, with all staff members working to ensure that guests enjoy a unique “adult evening” in support of Mermaid’s outreach programs for families. Tickets are $60 with a tax receipt issued for a portion of the ticket price. The event is open to adults aged 19 and over. 

The show will be presented on the Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Centre stage at 106 Gerrish Street in Windsor.  Tickets are available by contacting Mermaid Theatre’s office at 902-798-5841 or puppets@mermaidtheatre.ca.

cabaret-2015(2)-poster

Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association

Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association / 
Association des marionnettistes du Canada atlantique

** la version française suit **

A new initiative will provide a platform for the region’s puppet theatre artists by forming an alliance among worldwide practitioners of the age-old art. The Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association / Association des marionnettistes du Canada atlantique (ACPA/AMCA) will be formally affiliated with UNIMA-Canada andUNIMA-International, sister organizations whose mandate is to link puppeteers nationally and internationally; to support professional programs; to stimulate the general public’s interest in the art of puppetry; and to promote the visibility of Canada’s puppeteers all over the world.

The Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association, with headquarters at Mermaid, is registered under the Nova Scotia Societies Act and governed by a founding board of directors drawn from the four Atlantic Provinces.

Since its inception, Mermaid Theatre has played a pioneer role in promoting the art of puppetry. The creation of the Institute of Puppetry Arts in 1998 laid the foundation for diverse teaching, mentoring and outreach activities. In particular, the Institute’s professional training intensive known as Animotion has garnered widespread respect as its graduates launch their careers in the performing and media arts. The Theatre Loft, with its increasingly popular artist–in-residence program, has become an important centre for puppetry-related research and development.

We are currently looking for and accepting new members throughout the Atlantic Canada region.  The annual membership fee is $20 (includes affiliation with UNIMA CANADA and UNIMA International.  Please note that the ACPA/AMCA is a Nova Scotia Registered Society but not a charitable organization – accordingly no tax receipt will be issued.)

Email address: acpa-amca [at] mermaidtheatre [dot] ca 
* A downloadable registration form is available here
* Télécharger le document ici


C’est un plaisir d’annoncer la constitution officielle de l’Association des marionnettistes du Canada atlantique. Le temps est venu de vous inviter à devenir un de nos membres fondateurs.

Cette nouvelle initiative fournira une plateforme de réseautage pour les artistes de la marionnette de la région et leur permettra de rejoindre l’alliance internationale des praticiens de cet art millénaire. Atlantique Canada Puppetry Association/ Association des marionnettistes du Canada atlantique sera formellement affilié à UNIMA-Canada et UNIMA-international, des organisations conjointes dont le mandat est de rassembler des marionnettistes à un niveau national et international; d’appuyer les programmes professionnels; de stimuler l’intérêts du public pour l’art de la marionnette; et de promouvoir la visibilité des marionnettistes canadiens partout dans le monde.

L’ACPA/AMCA, dont le quartier général est au Mermaid Theatre en Nouvelle­Écosse, est enregistrée sous la Loi sur les sociétés de la Nouvelle-Écosse et est régie par un Conseil d’administration issu des quatre provinces atlantiques. D’autres informations et le formulaire d’adhésion sont disponible à partir du site Web du Mermaid Theatre (www.mermaidtheatre.ca) et également d’UNIMA-Canada (http://www.unimacanada.com)

N’hésitez pas à partager cette invitation, pour contribuer à bâtir ensemble notre organisation.

Merci pour votre soutien!

Jim Morrow, Président De la part de l’ACPA/AMCA


The Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association/AMCA
c/o Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia
P.O. Box 2697, Windsor, NS B0N 2T0
acpa-amca [at] mermaidtheatre [dot] ca

Puppet Cabaret Fundraiser – Sat, Jan 31 from 7-10pm

Mermaid Puppet Cabaret Fundraiser

Live Auction, Silent Auction, and Great Entertainment
Saturday, January 31, 2015 — 7-10pm

Hello to all friends of Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia,

We wanted to let you know about our second annual event to raise funds to support Mermaid’s unique community outreach programs.  Please join us for our Puppet Cabaret Fundraiser on Saturday, January 31, 2015 from 7-10 PM at the Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Centre, 106 Gerrish Street in Downtown Windsor.

Along with warm and cold appetizers provided by Cocoa Pesto Catering, a cash bar, and the chance to bid on some great auction items, our guests will be treated to entertainment performed by some of Windsor/West Hants’ most prominent citizens, as well as Mermaid’s own talented creative team.

Join us for an evening of laughter and camaraderie.  Hosted on the MIPAC stage, this is definitely not Mermaid’s usual Theatre for Young Audiences fare!

IMG_0970Local community puppeteers include:
Sarah Arthur, Innkeeper at the Clockmaker’s Inn
Paul Beazley, Mayor of Windsor
Joseph Seagram, Headmaster at King’s-Edgehill School and
Shayla Steeves, owner Blossoms of the Valley and the Lavender Pumpkin Piano Cafe

Tickets are $60 (A tax receipt will be issued for a portion of the ticket price, determined after the event.)  Please note: this event is for ages 19+ only.

Check out some of the excellent items we’ll be auctioning off at our Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1592929157607257/

Tickets are available at Mermaid Theatre’s office, and at the door.  We hope to see you there!

cabaret2015

Mermaid’s CODE GREEN Returns for New Tour

The Mermaid Institute of Puppetry Arts popular curriculum-based production, Code Green: enhancing awareness of species at risk will soon return to Nova Scotia’s elementary schools with an updated edition. The company will present thirty-four performances in Kings, Hants and Pictou Counties as well as the HRM from November 13 through December 5, 2014.

Following the model of earlier presentations with the same name, the production is an interactive theatre piece intended to explore the impact of insensitive human activity on the natural environment. Created through extensive consultation with wildlife specialists, the play introduces students to several threatened species, including the little brown bat, the piping plover, the right whale, the woodland caribou, and the Blanding’s turtle.

Four spirited puppeteers share the stage, imparting solid information through the imaginative incorporation of video footage, interpretive comments, a lyrical soundscape and innovative puppetry. The creative team for Code Green includes co-directors Jim Morrow and Struan Robertson, co-designers Jim Morrow, Deborah MacLean and Struan Robertson, composer Paul Cram and puppeteer/performers Hilary Adams, Ryanne Chisholm, Rachel Hastings, and Genevieve Jones. The production will tour with generous support from Arts Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Educational Facilities Society, and the Nova Scotia Habitat Conservation Fund.

A free public performance will be offered at the Windsor Community Centre on Sunday, November 23 at 11:00am.  For more information, please visit http://mermaidtheatre.ca/code-green .

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News from Mermaid: Stella, Caterpillar, MIPAC, and More!

Hello friends of Mermaid Theatre!

We’ve been very busy for the last few months, and we’ve still got lots to do.  Here’s an update of the latest events from here in our facility in Windsor.

* Our biggest job is to finish building the puppets and set pieces for our newest production, Stella Queen of the Snow.  The production team is going full throttle to get everything ready.  We have people sewing, painting, carving, building, composing, and preparing for the premiere next month and subsequent fall tour.  Things are really starting to come together.  Rehearsals begin this month, and we’re presenting the world premiere of the show at the Magnetic North / STAGES Theatre Festival, taking place together in Halifax in June, with a US/Canadian tour to follow in the fall.  We’ll post the schedule in the coming weeks.

* Our Swimmy, Frederick, & Inch by Inch company returned from tour a couple of weeks ago after a successful tour with nearly 60 shows in 14 states.  Welcome home, folks!

"Caterpillar" in Korea, 2014

“Caterpillar” in Korea, 2014

* We still have two companies on the road touring The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favourites.  One company is currently in their final venue for a multi-week run at the Chicago Children’s Theatre.  The other company has completed over 150 shows and is currently finishing their tour with a four-week visit to South Korea and had a great response from our first-ever audiences in the Kingdom of Bahrain for their Spring of Culture Festival in March.  We’ll also be touring Caterpillar again in the fall, with over 200 shows in 25 states and 3 provinces.  We’ll post that schedule in the coming weeks as well.

* Since September 1, 2013, the three touring companies have performed over 385 shows for a combined audience of over 225,000 people!  Keep up the good work and safe travels to the “Caterpillar” companies!

* We’re currently welcoming nine aspiring puppeteers to Mermaid’s annual ANIMOTION Puppetry Intensive.  They’ve come from several provinces to study with us, and Jim and Struan are keeping them very busy.

Animotion participants, having mastered the art of juggling, await further instruction.

Animotion participants, having mastered the art of juggling, await further instruction.

* At MIPAC, our local theatre, we’re hosting the final two shows of our 2013-14 Entertainment Series.  SQUID Precision Drummers with Cassie & Maggie MacDonald are playing this Saturday, May 3, at 2pm; and Canadian playwright Jeremy Webb brings his online-dating comedy FISHING to our stage on May 17 at 7pm.

squid-fish

* Mermaid’s Youtheatre is performing their new project, Be the Peace, at the Nova Scotia High School Dramafest in Halifax this weekend, with several performances in the coming months at several high schools around the province.

* Finally, we’re looking for a summer student here at the office.  This is a full time job for 12 weeks beginning June 2.  The posting is on the job bank.gc.ca website.  It’s open to students who are returning to school in the fall. If you or someone you know in the Windsor, NS area wants to work in a cool place, please get in touch.  The deadline is May 15.

Thanks for reading.  Have a good weekend!

@SpringofCulture and South Korea tour for #VeryHungryCaterpillar, and other news from Mermaid!

It has been a wild ride here at Mermaid Theatre’s headquarters in Windsor, NS for the past few months. We’ve put three shows out on the road, most recently sending off Mermaid veterans Christine Oakey, Kaitlin Morrow and Seann Murray with our Leo Lionni’s Swimmy, Frederick & Inch by Inch. They’re currently doing shows in the Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, and we totally envy them at this time of year.

Seann, Christine, and Kaitlin with some of their friends from "Swimmy, Frederick and Inch by Inch"

Seann, Christine, and Kaitlin with some of their friends from “Swimmy, Frederick and Inch by Inch”

Swimmy heads back North in March, with dates in New England and the Midwest. Our full schedules for all tours are here.

Back at home, we launched our 6th performing arts season at MIPAC, and had a great second workshop for our new production Stella, Queen of the Snow, based on the book by Marie-Louise Gay.  Also, our revitalized Youtheatre group has begun work on their new project on the topic of violence against women and girls.

Things don’t appear to be slowing down, and to top it off we’ve been dealing with our #WintryWednesdays, which means we’ve had major winter storms and office disruptions for at least the past three Wednesdays.  The good news is we’ve got two exciting international engagements happening in the next couple of months.  The first will see The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites head to the Kingdom of Bahrain for a week-long engagement at the Spring of Culture Festival. This touring company (one of two that are currently touring Caterpillar around the U.S. and Canada) consisting of Yvonne Yip (SM), Jonny Thompson, and Mara Zigler, will be joined in Bahrain by Mermaid’s Artistic Director Jim Morrow and General Manager Lisa Gleave.  Following that festival, the company (after a brief Roman holiday) will have a week off and then fly to Seoul, South Korea for a four-week run in and around the city.  We’ll get the details posted on our website soon.

April and May also see another installment of our ANIMOTION training workshop happening here at HQ. We’re pleased to report that it is almost full and we’ll be turning out another group of professionals, pre-professionals and educators freshly schooled in the art of puppetry—Mermaid style.

Directly following that, rehearsal for Stella will begin, as we will be showcasing the world premiere as a co-present with the Stages Festival and Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Halifax in late June.

Artistic Director Jim Morrow carves a puppet for "Stella Queen of the Snow"

Artistic Director Jim Morrow carves a puppet for “Stella Queen of the Snow”

Finally, we at the office would like to offer a “warm” shout-out to the other touring Caterpillar company (Shawn Sorensen, Kat McCormack and Simon Rainville), who have endured freezing Midwest winter weather and touring van malfunctions in good spirits and with minimal complaining.  We hope that 5-week sit-down run with the Chicago Children’s Theatre in the spring makes up for it!

Two Mermaid Theatre "Caterpillar" companies meet on tour in Toronto.

Two Mermaid Theatre “Caterpillar” companies cross paths while on simultaneous tours in the US and Canada. Toronto, 2013.