April 16, 2012

Check out this teaser interview with Steven McKay the musical guest for Gregori's Phantastik Big Time Show coming up this Friday at Theatre Passe Muraille at 10 pm.

April 2, 2012

APRIL 20TH 2012 @ 10PM

Dutch Uncle Puppetry and After Hours @ TPM invite you to the second coming… of Gregori's Phantastik Big Time Show!  Gregori, our lovable Russian gravedigger, will again be hosting his late night variety show.  A raucous evening of music, comedy and mayhem featuring: singer songwriter Steven McKay, Clunk Puppet Lab, the Artichoke Heart Collective and of course, new work from Yours Truly, Dutch Uncle Puppetry.

Steven McKay "Steven is like a bowl of tomato soup and a straight up grilled cheese, a walk in the fall and a flannel shirt… he’s musical comfort food. He’s a Sunday morning and he’s every day. He’s Cat Stevens, He’s Abbey Road, he sings about his wife all the time, and his cheeks are not unlike apples. He’s a nice guy." - Summerworks Music Series


CLUNK Puppet Lab is a multidisciplinary company that creates original work through the exploration of highly visual theatre. Their experimental approach to collective collaboration strives to delve into the minute, intimate moments and connections of shared human experience, by integrating unconventional practices such as puppetry, physical theatre, and sculpture/installation. Co-artistic directors Shawna Reiter and Kyla Read formed CLUNK in 2009 while at the Banff Puppet Theatre Intensive at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Since then they have performed shows at Vertigo Theater in Calgary, AB; the Casteliers Festival International de Marionnettes in Montreal, QC; and will be featured at the Puppets UP! International Puppet Festival in Almonte, ON this coming August 2012.

Artichoke Heart Collective is an object theatre/puppetry company dedicated to creating visceral new works that explore our primal humanity. Founded by Humber Theatre graduates Michelle Urbano and Tijiki Morris, Artichoke Heart’s first production, We Walk Among You, was recently showcased at “Les Trois Jours de Casteliers” international puppetry festival in Montreal. Artichoke Heart is thrilled to take part in the Cahoots Playwrights’ HotHouse unit this year. Follow us on facebook/twitter for more info.

May 28, 2011

Guest Artist Workshop: Diana Briere and FELTING!!

This week we were lucky enough to have the brilliant Diana Briere in to the workshop to introduce us to the wild and wonderful world of Felting!

I got the idea to bring in Diana two weeks ago at an exhibition of work by this year's graduating students of Sheridan College's textile program.  A young girl named Keiley Stewart built a stunning, entirely real looking Lion Head Mask, which gallery go-ers could put on and then pose for a polaroid picture.  Entranced with the complete authenticity of the Lion's mane, Diana and I started chatting about ways to create lifelike wigs for Dutch Uncle's Puppets.  She was explaining how Keiley had built the Lion using one of the earliest known forms of textile: felt.

And here we are two weeks later, getting our own workshop of how to create and use the material.

So apparently felt is basically like a big, carefully shaped dreadlock.  One starts with a bunch of raw wool or hair, adds water and some lubricant like dish soap (so that it doesn't stick to your hands), and mashes it all together! This is called Wet Felting.  The more you punch, roll, squeeze, smack, and rub, the tighter and stronger your felt will become.

The beauty about using this technique, also, is that it allows you to create or shape the material around any object, instead of just making sheets like you would buy in a fabric store.  Felting over a storyfoam ball--for example--which is cut out of the felt once it's firmly formed, gives a round felt cap that will become the base for our first puppet wig!

 Next we learned a technique called Needle Felting, which would eventually allow us to create the bulk of the wig.  Using a small barbed needle--A Felting Needle--you poke pieces of raw wool through the felt base over and over until the two bind together.  Obviously this technique is pretty labour intensive; I imagine to create really specific effects where wool is rolled or bunched specifically one could be sitting there for hours poking and poking and poking.  But hey, with some creativity, a whole lot of determination, and a little luck (you have to be careful because the Felting Needles have a tendency to break every now and then) we built our first wig!

There are so many ways to work with the raw wool and Needle Felting that it will surely be a continuing adventure of experimentation for us.  But thanks again to Diana Briere for coming in and introducing us to the basics; we've got a really fantastic idea of how to move forward and create all kinds of puppet characters!!

May 14, 2011


Well, after about two months of living in limbo, perpetual puppet purgatory, homeless, we have finally moved into our new workshop.  And we've dubbed it... The Dutch Oven!!!

So imagine you're a young upstart landlord, eager to make a real positive impact in a challenging industry.  Two lovely tenants--a couple--move into one of your apartments, a sweet little second story place in upper Parkdale, and you can clearly see that they have friendly faces, solid incomes and a genuine love for their new home.  What you don't see is that this couple has a dark secret, a secret that terrifies you to the core, and coming face to face with this secret will bring you closer to the brink of insanity than you've ever been before.... they're puppeteers!!!!  (insert dramatic sting here) 

They manage to fly under your radar for a while, quietly scheming and plotting your eventual demise.  You don't notice as they begin to nest, bringing all sorts of strange tools and weird materials into the house. Dazed looking young people begin to congregate, with skinny jeans and sawdust in their hair.  High pitched squeals, low groans and muffled thuds travel throughout the building.  Their palace of torture grows month by month, and you continue to ignore the scrap wood piling up on the rear porch, evidence of their carnage.

Eventually the strange fluctuations in the hydro bill, a number of comments from the neighborhood watch, and the neon glow emitted from the second story window grate too much on your nerves and you decide to take action into your own hands.  You storm up the stairs, barge into the apartment, swat through the swarm of plaid-laden hipsters, dive past the giant rack of wooden limbs and severed heads... and emerge staring at something completely unexpected:  power machines!  Towering over you are three slick steel instruments designed to drill, cut, rip, shave, sand and buff.  Their chrome finish reflects back a look of sheer terror on your face as it dawns on you: "I DON'T HAVE INSURANCE FOR THIS!!!!  AAAAHHH!!!"

Calmly and fairly, you offer the puppeteers 14 days to remove their mechanical abominations from this place of residence before you brandish your most powerful weapon: legal action.  And you rejoice in the spectacle as crowds of gaunt faced, hardened puppeteers emerge from their workshop cocoon, dragging their gadgets and gear to the sidewalk curb to be picked up with the rest of the neighborhood trash. 

But wait!  There is an epilogue to this tale of tragedy, a second birth, a new beginning!  Because a puppeteer knows the words of Robert Frost: "Nothing Gold Can Stay."  So we pull up our bootstraps, pack up our gear, and like the humble hermit crab, find another place to settle.  And with that, I give you our new workshop, The Dutch Oven!

February 14, 2011

Everyboy Workshop Week in TPM's rehearsal space!!

So we have just come off a week-long intensive workshop of our show Everyboy! Thanks to Theatre Passe Muraille for helping us out with a space, and arranging things to make our workshop happen.

Part of our intention heading into this week was to spend some time really exploring how to manipulate the puppets, and we were able to set up a mirror to see exactly what we were doing as we were doing it.  We did numerous exercises experimenting with behavioral gestures and non-verbal storytelling, which started to establish the physical vocabulary of Alan, Kyle, and Archie.  And I can say that, having the time to focus specifically on the puppetry itself, rather than speaking and telling the story, it is so hard to work both hands of the puppet skillfully at the same time!  It takes forever just to grab both rods in the same hand, and then once I've got them both, operating them is like trying to wave a taco around with chopsticks the size of baseball bats. Obviously, continual development of this skill will be an ongoing challenge.

We were super fortunate to be working with Jordi Mand this week, our resident writer/director.  She skillfully led us through solo "hot seat" improvs, pushing us to reveal character and history through an interrogation in either a "guidance councillor's" or the "principal's" office.  We wrote on our feet and quickly on the page, doing stream of consciousness writing, or various writing projects such as letters or poems.  My favorite exercise was a speech to be delivered publicly about "the person whom I admire the most."  Check out Kyle's speech at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMkKnWY7LD0

We took huge steps forward this week specifically with Everyboy, but also learning how we work as a group and ways to continue to develop character, story, and dialogue.  Can't wait to start applying all of this stuff to our Cabaret Project next!!!