Historical references loaded with innuendo are not usual lines in children’s theatre pieces, but all part and parcel of a Puppetmongers’ show.
by David Powell (photos by Dahlia Katz)
Puppetmongers Theatre presents the work of the Canadian brother and sister team of Ann and David Powell, who are internationally recognized as leaders and innovators in the field of puppetry. They have developed a dozen new plays for both young and general audiences, which have earned a combined total of 11 Dora Award nominations. They have been short-listed twice for the Chalmers new Canadian Play for Young Audiences Award and received four Citations of Excellence from l’Union International de la Marionette (US). They have also received the Award for Artistic Excellence from the Puppeteers of America, and the President’s Award, a medal which has also been awarded to Jim Henson (Muppets), Julie Taymor (Lion King) and fellow Canadian puppeteers Ronnie Burkett and Coad Canada.
This December we are presenting a final run in the holiday slot of Tea at the Palace, the show that started it all back in 1990. The other two shows in our Winter Holiday cycle are Cinderella in Muddy York, a fairytale for Toronto, and Bed & Breakfast, an 'Upstairs-Downstairs' re-telling of The Princess and the Pea set in a giant dollhouse. For us, these are not the last performances of this grand show, but the last performances of Tea at the Palace in our Toronto Winter Holiday Tradition, as we turn our focus once again to touring further afield, beginning with a tour to the Calgary International Children’s Festival with Tea in May. We also have several fine shows for family and adult audiences in our repertoire that we are keen to revisit, improve and remount for Toronto audiences. We will begin that process this spring with The Miller and his Wife – the show that really began our professional puppetry journey. And we have a new show percolating that we are itching to develop. We are not winding down, we are winding up!
At the same time, we also tend to highlight modern concerns and pre-occupations. For example:
A peasant about to harvest her tree: “One year we had so many apples. Enough to feed the whole invading army”. Historical references loaded with innuendo are not usual lines in children’s theatre pieces, but all part and parcel of a Puppetmongers’ show.
And that’s a major choice we have made with our work: creating plays that include a broad range of understandings, from the very visual acting and puppetry work that mesmerizes the younger audience members, through the rich and multi- leveled storyline and ingenious staging, to the embellishing references to a deeper, more complex world.