Happy World Puppet Day!

Happy World Puppet Day from SpringWorks!

Since 2003, March 21 has been named WORLD PUPPET DAY by the Union Internationale de la Marionette, celebrating all things puppet – from the lowliest googly-eyed sock puppet to the finest in marionettes. Puppetry is so much more than whimsical entertainment for children – it’s a way of passing on stories, fables, and legends. With origins as religious drama in India 1000 years BC, a sordid past in vaudeville and seaside resorts in the 19th century, to the resurgence in puppet popularity in our present time helped by the Muppets and such stage productions as The Lion Kingand War Horse, puppets are where it is at!

In honour of World Puppet Day, use promo code puppets when you purchase tickets on March 21and get all mainstage adult tickets for $15!


It’s been quite a week, here at SpringWorks! We got the very exciting news that we are recieving support from Celebrate Ontario and we couldn’t be more grateful for the help to make this SpringWorks our most exhilarating season yet!

Ticket sales are now officially live! They can be purchased on line or by telephone through our NEW call service 1-800-518-2819 ext. 3. Be sure to check out our full calendar of events!


HANDLE WITH CARE – #SWFHandleWCare
Tangled Web Theatre
Written by Bonnie Thomson
Thursday, May 15…10:00am & Friday, May 16…4:00pm  @Falstaff Family Centre 
Saturday, May 17…12:00pm @Factory163
@TangledWebThtr                         Tangled Web on Facebook
On a warm summer day three friends discover a mysterious box in the forest.
“I have an idea,” says Tyler.
“Uh oh,” says Helen.
“Oh no!” says Bonnie.
“Let’s open it!” says Tyler.
“It might be dangerous.”
“We could get in trouble.”
Tyler opens it anyway. Inside they find some unusual puppets and a strange set of instructions, and the stories begin… Using a variety of puppetry styles, including tabletop, rod, shadow, and object manipulations and uses many different materials including found and recycled objects,Handle with Care is fun for all ages.

A Bit About Tangled Web Theatre
Tangled Web Theatre is an artistic collective whose work emerges from the collision of conventional theatre with unconventional forms such as physical theatre and puppetry. The company members (Helen Juvonen, Tyler Seguin, and Bonnie Thomson) first collaborated at the Toronto Fringe on Rearview (during which Tyler spend most of his time in teh trunk of a car) and again for The Universal Wolf. They formed Tangled Web in 2010 when they came back together to created Jurkka Jarvinen’s Troll Stories, an original puppet play based on Scandinavian folk tales. Parts of Troll Storieshave been present at Theatre Passe Murraille’s Crapshoot, The Fresh Ideas in Puppetry Festival, National Theatre of the World’s Carnegie Hall Show, and Theatre Caravel’s Seachange. Tangled Web members participated in the inaugural Puppetmongers’ Puppetry eXploratory Laboratory and have facilitated puppetry workshops in schools as part of the Ontario Arts Council’s Artists in Education program.

An Interview with Tangled Web’s Artistic Team Helen Juvonen, Tyler Seguin & Bonnie Thomson

SWF: Why is puppetry your medium of choice? What about puppets enhances or changes how you tell a story?

TANGLED WEB: All theatre combines the arts to one degree or another but with puppets the creator/performer is often responsible for all aspects of the production – writing, acting, design (including sets and lighting) not to mention the engineering and inventing one has to do! So part of what draws us to puppetry is the challenge of it – the chance to try something new and stretch all of our artistic muscles. Tangled Web Theatre also chooses to use puppetry because it resonates differently with an audience than live performers. Core company members Helen and Tyler are actors by training and they can attest to the difference in how an audience connects to a puppet versus an actor. Because puppets are always representations the audience has to buy into the characters in a different way – there’s usually an immediate suspension of disbelief when you present someone with a puppet and we can use that to change the way we tell stories. Puppetry gives us permission to approach subject matter that is difficult or challenging (in the case of Handle With Care, environmental issues) with a sense of playfulness and innocence that makes the message easier to digest. The audience has already suspended their disbelief and endowed the puppets with life, so we can focus on what story we’re telling and how we’re telling it.

SWF: Do you have a favourite moment of puppet magic in your piece? If so, what is it?

TANGLED WEB: There are two moments in the piece that are particularly magical – both involve moments where the audience sees something transform before their eyes. What was once a piece of set, or a seemingly simple prop, turns into a puppet. Audiences of all ages love these moments and it is satisfying to share those surprises with them.

SWF: Your piece has an environmental focus. Does your combination of live actors and puppets allow you to send a broader message and/or allow you to show a greater impact of the choices we make?

TANGLED WEB: The use of puppetry allows us to present important themes in a way that can start a dialogue between children and their parents. However, in this case the medium and the message are two different parts of the project. Combining live actors and puppetry is something we’ve been playing with for some time – exploring questions like, “Why should a particular character be played by a puppet?” – regardless of the play’s content. We also don’t see Handle With Care as a message play. We are exploring environmental themes but part of Bonnie’s approach with the script was to find ways to be less didactic with the concepts and explore the grey areas of these issues.

Buy Tickets Here
Or By Phone: 1-800-518-2819 ext. 3

HOW I BECAME INVISIBLE – #SWFInvisible
CLUNK Puppet Lab
Saturday May 15 @ 2pm, Sunday May 16 @ 12pm, Monday May 17 @ 7pm, & Tuesday May 18 @ 2pm at St. John’s United Church
@ClunkPuppetLab                       CLUNK on Facebook 

A beautiful and surreal puppet performance that unearths life, death, and the memories that linger in-between through the story of a struggling 81-year-old grandmother who holds on to reality by writing fantastic stories to share with her granddaughter. Check out the trailer here.

A Bit About CLUNK Puppet Lab
CLUNK Puppet Lab is a multidisciplinary company that creates original works of highly visual theatre through an experimental approach to collective collaboration, integrating puppetry, physical theatre, and sculpture/installation. CLUNK was founded at the Banff Centre’s Puppet Theatre Intensive, by Toronto’s Shawna Reiter and Calgary’s Kyla Read.  Since then many other brilliant people have come aboard and the company’s work has been created between the two cities and presented at theatres and festivals in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec.

An Interview with CLUNK’s Co-Artistic Director Shawna ReiterSWF: Why is puppetry your medium of choice? What about puppets enhances or changes how you tell a story?

SHAWNA: My initiation into puppetry came out of an experience I had while volunteering in a Nursing Home when I was 18. The majority of the residents suffered from Dementia and Alzheimer’s. At first I went around trying to talk to the residents or read to them, but most only ignored me or yelled, or wandered off. Nothing seemed to work, and I started to feel hopeless. One day I read an article about how animals affect people in nursing homes especially those with Dementia. Next time I visited, I decided to bring one of my puppets, a very realistic baby gorilla I called ‘Peanuts’. Every resident that I visited responded to Peanuts. It was amazing. One of the residents, who had a history of avoiding contact with everyone including visitors, other residents, and nurses, gravitated to Peanuts and followed him around the nursing home in her wheelchair. When things had quieted down a bit, I knelt down and let her come to Peanuts on her own. I sat him on her lap and I sat myself on the floor and watched as she interacted with the puppet. I should note, that Peanuts didn’t talk. He simply moved and gestured. We sat there for over half an hour, my arm contorted inside of the puppet, but she only ever looked at Peanuts. For all intents and purposes, I wasn’t there. She watched him and petted his fur, and I responded through the puppet. The nurses were amazed. This woman who had never shown interest in anything or anyone the entire time she had been a resident in the nursing home was transformed in the presence of this little gorilla puppet. After that I was hooked. I studied art at the Ontario College of Art and Design, and at University of Calgary for my MFA, where I read and experimented with integrating puppetry arts into my artwork, and testing the boundaries of what puppetry could be through robotics, interactive animations, and sculpture/installation. When I finished school, I felt that something was missing from my art practice that could only be satisfied through diving into performance. So I went to the Banff Centre’s Old Trout Puppet Intensive and studied under Peter Balkwill, and consequently formed CLUNK Puppet Lab with another participant, actor and physical theatre artist Kyla Read. Our collaboration resulted in the creation of “How I Became Invisible”, which is now in its third incarnation. In puppetry all the elements of the show are interconnected and so what we are really doing is creating an imaginary world, and that world is made up of set pieces, lighting, sound, and the puppets that live in that world. So it is important for us to consider each element and how they affect each other, and how the puppets and puppeteers will move through and interact within that world, how the design contributes to the performance, and how the performance will affect the audience. In many instances we found that puppetry works best when it can reveal the narrative through movement, action, and gesture, instead of through text. For example in “How I Became Invisible”, the grandmother has this subtle beauty and grace about her, and with just a tilt of the head or suggestion of movement she can say so much that would be lost if you tried to say it with words. Although we do still use text in our shows, the visual narrative becomes very powerful, because its language can be more visceral, and since the viewer is taking part in the process of bringing the puppet to life in their own imagination, the feeling and meaning becomes that much more powerful.

SWF: Do you have a favourite moment of puppet magic in your piece? If so, what is it?

SHAWNA: I think that my favourite moment is the second story that Winifred tells. It is about Super Ogorki, a washed up super hero who has been forced into retirement. His grumpy disposition coupled with the situations he finds himself in are simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. His character continues to grow and develop each time he is on stage and he is a lot of fun to watch.

SWF: Your piece has quite mature subject matter at it’s core – the grandmother with Alzheimer’s and how her family reacts to the change in their lives. Even with such adult issues, is there still appeal for children?

SHAWNA: The original idea for the production was derived through an exploration of the stories and experiences of individuals facing pre-adolescence and old age. The play investigates the special relationships that emerge between these two groups when they encounter each other during pivotal moments in their lives. These demographics have a history of being forgotten, ignored, or dismissed in contemporary society. However, “How I Became Invisible” is not an advocacy play, or a moralistic drama about the social problems faced by elderly and per-adolescents. Instead the show delves into the significant experience of each character as they face old age. These age groups are of interest because of the significance of their passage into a time of life that is between the beginning, middle, and end. Both are at pivotal moments, experiencing opposite ends of the human life cycle. The play explores adolescence as a stage at which we are neither a child nor an adult, where life becomes more complex as we begin to find our own identity and our own voice. We define who we are about to become, as we embark on life’s journey and ask, “What is it that I want to say? What is it that I want to do? What mark will I make on the world”? The elderly, on the other end of this journey, review life, asking: “What have I said? What have I done? Have I left a mark on the world?” Both are in a place of utmost vulnerability, and yet open by necessity to contemplating how they fit into the world around them. Saija does this by writing stories for her grand daughter Winifred. Her stories are an attempt to communicate her frustrations, experiences, and understanding of what is happening to her. These stories were conceived to explore loneliness, uselessness, loss of independence, and physical/mental decline through the imagination of a woman grappling with the deterioration of old age. Although this subject matter is very adult, these disjointed stories are whimsical, funny, and meaningful, and have a childlike quality that explores the power of the imagination.

Buy Tickets Here
Or by phone:  1-800-518-2819 ext. 3

Rovero & Juliet – #SWFRovero
The Manipulators
By Allan Martin & Trish Leeper
The Manipulators on Facebook
Thursday May 15…6:00pm, Saturday May 17…10:00am & Sunday May 18…12:00pm @Factory163

The Bard’s Greatest Tragedy performed as it was originally intended….with PUPPETS and a HAPPY ENDING! Has Shakespeare gone to the dogs?? Will the Muttagues and Catulets ever resolve their family feud?

A Bit About The Manipulators
Trish Leeper and Allan Martin are the manipulators behind this puppet play, written and presented by little Billy Shakespeare with a little help from his Mum. Based in the Ottawa Valley, Leeper and Martin (who between them share credits working with Jim Henson’s Muppets and experience in children’s education) play Mrs. Shakespeare and her little boy Billy as well as “duo-handedly” manipulating the 10 characters involved in the puppet play. This first production of their newly formed company, The Manipulators, is a humourous re-telling of Shakespeare’sRomeo and Juliet. Only in this production the feuding families are cats and dogs and in the end, everybody lives!! Meant as a light-hearted introduction to Shakespeare, the show makes numerous references to the original play as well as to popular culture. Most definitely targeting ‘kids of all ages’ there’s plenty in this show to delight and intrigue not only the little ones, but also those who are older and more familiar with the Bard’s great work.

An Interview with The Manipulators’ Trish Leeper

SWF: Why is puppetry your medium of choice? What about puppets enhances or changes how you tell a story?

TRISH: It was actually the mask I fell in love with first – which led me to puppetry. I found there was something magical and freeing about bringing an inanimate form to life and giving it character. A puppet (or mask) in reality is nothing more than an inanimate piece of wood, plastic, paper maché, foam, fabric – or whatever. It’s not alive. And though it may seem that the onus is on the manipulator to create the illusion of life, I believe that it’s actually in the imaginations of the audience that a puppet character really lives and breathes. This makes for a kind of unique complicity between performer and audience. It seems to me that this shared creative responsibility gives a puppeteer license to go places with an audience – to share stories – that may not be as easy when a performer takes the lead on his/her own. What’s more, as a puppeteer, one has to worry far less about type-casting. In my career, I’ve played young, old, male and female of every kind of colour, animal, mineral and vegetable.

SWF: Do you have a favourite moment of puppet magic in your piece? If so, what is it?

TRISH: Hmmm….  favourite moment of puppet magic. I guess I’d have to say – SPOILER ALERT! – the completely silly death scene where everybody takes the potion and dies – only to come back to life later to live happily ever….. well, you know.

SWF: Your play is an adaptation from Shakespeare. Do your puppets speak the original text or is it fully updated or some combination of the two?

TRISH: Mostly the text is – I guess you could say – updated. Not only that but the show begins with an introduction by little Billy Shakespeare himself, with a bit of encouragement from his Mum.  But there are a few lines which we do take directly from  Shakespeare (some as humorous reference for those in the audience more familiar with the Bard’s great work). As well, the opening and closing monologues try and steal some rhyme and meter from the original.

Buy Tickets Here
Or By Phone: 1-800-518-2819 ext. 3


The Sleeping Prince – #SWFSleepingPrince
The Clever Crones
By Kristi Friday & Baptiste Neis
Sunday, May 18…10:00am and 4:00pm @ Factory163 
A Princess.  A Sleeping Prince.  Iron Shoes. Mothers.  Winds.  A bear. A staged reading… of a non-verbal adaptation… of a folktale…with shadow puppetry.  The story of a determined princess and her journey to the land of far, far away, and further still…  All Ages welcome.

A Bit About The Clever Crones
In the fall of 2012 two actors turned mothers, Kristi Friday and Baptiste Neis, met in Stratford Ontario.  As artists in limbo we were itching for an exciting project.  Both being the mothers of daughters; we found a common quest for well-told interesting stories and clever female protagonists.  The Sleeping Prince is the first in a series of world tales we hope to present. We are passionate about this story and the creation of it.  Through long term development we are exploring different mediums of puppetry and storytelling to discover what best brings The Sleeping Prince to life.  We are excited to present this part of the creation phase of The Sleeping Prince Project as a staged reading to Stratford audiences with shadow puppets.

An Interview with Clever Crone Kristi Friday

SWF: Why is puppetry your medium of choice? What about puppets enhances or changes how you tell a story?

KRISTI:  In our experience puppets have this incredible ability to allow audience members to give themselves permission to go to new worlds and be emotionally invested in a unique character in a way that they might not be able to with a live actor. Puppets require a lot of detail both in the build and in how they can be articulated in the telling of their story.  It requires a lot of planning all throughout the process. Our goal with The Sleeping Prince Project is to explore many different styles of puppetry and storytelling. We are excited that this staged reading with SpringWorks is the first presentation in this process. We are using shadow puppets for this phase, so we are researching styles, drawing, storyboarding, building, trying them out and then reworking whatever is not working.  This is just a piece of a long term creative process of The Sleeping Prince Project that we are truly enjoying.

SWF: Do you have a favourite moment of puppet magic in your piece? If so, what is it?

KRISTI: Yes…but, you will have to wait to see it to find out!  Let’s chat afterwards and see if your favourite moment of magic is the same as ours.

SWF: I understand The Sleeping Prince is a silent play. What are the challenges in telling the story when your puppets never speak? Did the fact you’re using shadow puppet inform that choice?

KRISTI: It is not quite a silent show.  The goal is to make the minimal language that is used necessary.   We have these beautiful visual tools in the theatre that can tell so much of the story.  Sound as well will be integral in the telling of the story.  Language comes last and only where necessary.   We know this story really well, better and better each day, the beauty of presenting the piece as a staged “reading” at this point in the development process is that our visual and sound storytelling will be put to the test.  Does the audience follow the story as we hope? What do they want from the story that we have missed? We are, as we prepare for Spring Works, asking ourselves, is it necessary that we hear this line?  Should we see this word?  How can we represent this visually? And shadow puppets are giving us an interesting medium to try out this experiment!

Buy Tickets Here
Or By Phone: 1-800-518-2819 ext. 3


SpringWorks now has charitable status and can issue tax receipts! All levels of sponsorship are appreciated. Check out our website for how you can donate today!


Let’s get SpringWorks 2014 trending on Twitter!

From technicians to Front of House, SpringWorks can always handle more Volunteers! For more information or to volunteer, check out our website.

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