Pupetry in Canada

There are a number of associations, schools, and events with a focus on puppetry and artistic practices. Artists work across different settings as film and TV puppeteers and with travelling shows.

Puppetry Schools

The Toronto School of Puppetry features a selection of classes such as shadow theatre experimentation, Chinese shadow theatre, and toy theatre making. Students also explore topics such as live animation, glove-hand puppetry, construction and design, sound and voice, and scripting techniques. There are intensive courses designed for writers, teachers, puppeteers, designers, directors, and actors, focusing on found objects and types of puppets, forms of communication, fabrication, and the creation process itself. Workshops organized by the school teach students how to set devices and pieces and create mechanical sculptures and toys. Workshop participants gain understanding and knowledge of different mechanisms such as cams, cranks, and levers. They also learn how to construct and design automata by using materials such as fasteners, pieces of wood, dowels, foam-core, and cardboard. Teaching staff has extensive experience in creating interactive video animations, robotic installations, sculptures, and theatre productions.

The Canadian Academy of Mask and Puppetry also offers a selection of intensives and classes with a focus on shadow puppetry, mask work, lantern making, and more. There are other institutions that offer courses, trainings, and workshops, including Humber and the Mermaid Institute of Puppetry Arts. Courses and workshops focus on construction and production, group creation, and costumes and characters. The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia also features school and group workshops and performance workshops. Teaching staff includes experts in different fields, including construction, design, dance, music, and theatre. Outreach and in-house sessions are offered, targeting theatre professionals, recreational professionals, and teachers.

The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity also features a program that targets writers, visual artists, teachers, designers, directors, dancers, and actors. Students learn more about mask work, physical theatre theory, and theatrical performances. Applicants may also choose from additional programs such as Banff Artist in Residence Emerging, Winter or Spring Writers Retreat, and Concert in the 21st Century. They are asked to provide information such as their educational level, last institution type, and citizenship. Indigenous students may also specify whether they are Inuit, Metis, non-status Indian, or status Indian.

Calgary-based WP Puppet Theatre offers a workshop that helps students to develop skills and competencies such as global and cultural citizenship, communication, and innovation and creativity. The workshop focuses on character performance and development, script writing, and puppet making.

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There are several associations across Canada, among which the Ontario Puppetry Association, Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association, and others. Partnering with Union Internationale de la Marionnette, the Ontario Puppetry Association was founded in 1956 as a major organization to promote and support this art form in Ontario. Applicants who are interested in becoming members are asked to provide details such as their interests, company name, website, etc. Established in 2015, the Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association is affiliated with organizations such as UNIMA-International and UNIMA-Canada. The main objectives of the association are to engage audiences, support programs, and link professionals in Canada and across the world. Applicants for membership are asked to fill in an application and provide details such as company affiliation, occupation, and interest in the industry – fan, non-professional practitioner, educator, recreation leader, or professional practitioner.

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Puppeteers have training and education in theatre art, dramatics, and drama. They find employment as theatre performers, theatre studio assistants, storytellers, and puppet makers. Puppeteers, for example, adapt and create scripts and design and construct puppets from rubber, metal, wire, Styrofoam, papier-mache, and wood. They use hands, fingers, rods, wires, and strings for animation. The average salary of puppeteers is about $35,530 while entry-level professionals are paid about $27,440. Professionals with work experience of 8 or more years earn about $42,120.The hourly rate is between $14 and $16 based on experience.

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Pupet Festivals

Puppet festivals are held across Canada to showcase animated objects, the art of puppetry, and storytelling through mask and objects. Canadians and international visitors attend events such as the Festival of Animated Objects, Vancouver International Puppet Festival, and Festival Casteliers.

Vancouver International Puppet Festival

First held in 2016, this event aims to showcase the art of puppetry by hosting a variety of events, including screenings, interactive panel discussions, workshops, performances, and other events. The next event will be held in 2020 and will feature game shows, observations, and other activities. Founders of the festival include puppeteers, filmmakers, writers, and actors such as Jeny Cassady, Tara Travis, and Morris Chapdelaine. Sponsors of the event are Roundhouse Radio 98.3 Vancouver, Theatre Wire, Granville Island Cultural Society.

Festival of Animated Objects

Held in Calgary, the Festival of Animated Objects aims to engage visitors through performances with animated objects, puppetry, and storytelling. In 2019, the event featured a diverse array of events, including four workshops, three exhibitions, seventeen films, and a total of 58 performances. The festival also featured gadgets, beasts, and mystical creatures and creations and was attended by more than 23,000 residents. The shows were staged in different venues, among which the Arts Learning Centre at Arts Commons, DJD Dance Centre, and Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre. The next festival will be held in March, 2021.

Visitors have the chance to see unique artefacts, handmade three-dimensional masks, sculptures, and multimedia puppet play. Artists explore themes such as women’s experiences and issues, challenges of loneliness and connection, and the limits of imagination. Other themes explored in performances include gender identity, life tragedies, and humans and their connection with space, the environment, and land. Featured performances intertwine animated shorts, clown shows, contemporary dance, special effects, and stop-motion animation. There are also free events such as the Citizen Puppet Exhibition, stop-motion animation series, and short puppet activities and works.

The event also features panels and workshops to enable visitors to master different paper sculpture techniques. Other workshops focus on changing audience roles and teach visitors how to create a puppet show or make an alien from bric – brac and sponge. Calgarians and visitors also enjoy a host of events such as concerts, recitals, and performances staged by music, drama, and dance students. Among the sponsors and supporters of the festival are the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Canadian Academy of Mask and Puppetry, and Canada Council for the Arts.

Festival Casteliers

Festival Casteliers showcases a host of different events, including screenings, workshops, exhibitions, and talks. Visitors enjoy activities such as children’s creative workshops, roundtable discussions, shorts, and shows. There are activities for families and adults, including parallel activities such as workshops and the OUF! – Off Casteliers Festival. Organized by the theatre company Belzébrute, the OUF! Festival is a unique event featuring a variety of events and shows, including films, creative workshops, music, and puppetry. A community-based event, the festival takes place at Pavillon Saint-Viateur and features performances by more than 100 artists. Partners of Festival Casteliers include cultural, media, and international partners such as Festival Stop Motion Montreal and Puppet Animation Scotland. The festival is sponsored by Cirque du Soleil, IRIS, De Bons Petits Plats, and other sponsors.

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