Thespians learn how to bring puppets to life on Windsor stage

Carole Morris-Underhill
Published on July 7, 2016

WINDSOR — It takes talent and skill to bring puppets to life let alone make an audience fall in love with them.

But, every year, young puppeteers get the chance to hone their skills, expand their abilities, and do just that.

The Mermaid Institute of Puppetry Arts was established to help foster this desire to learn more about physical theatre and hosts an annual, specialized workshop to help up-and-comers in the field.

Held at the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia's headquarters in Windsor, the program offers a dual emphasis on animation and objects in motion. At the conclusion of the Animotion program, participants hold an informal performance to showcase their skills.

Melissa MacGougan, who graduated from Dalhousie University's theatre program earlier this year, discovered a love for puppetry after taking the workshop.

“I've learned a lot from this program. I've learned a lot about just my own self-awareness, how my body moves, how it moves around other people,” she said.

“I want to continue on and learn more about puppets; I want to play with them more and get involved in some more physical theatre.”

MacGougan, who's involved with Shakespeare by the Sea this summer, said she hopes she can continue to grow and learn as an actor and puppeteer.

She encourages anyone with an interest in puppetry to try Animotion.

“If you have any interest in puppetry, do it. You just learn so much, and it's so much fun,” said MacGougan. “I don't think I've been challenged this way in a really long time. It's completely different from what you do in theatre school and it's just so rewarding when it comes to life.”

Fellow participant Roland Au shared a similar sentiment. Au, a Hong Kong stage actor, has been travelling across Canada with his wife.  A graduate of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts School, Au said he's interested in physical theatre and puppet theatre, so taking the three-week course was a perfect fit.

He said it's important for actors, and people in general, to tap into their inner child and use their imagination to bring inanimate objects to life.

“Everyone, when they were a child, had toys, or maybe even a puppet,” said Au. “Then we grow up, we don't touch the toys or puppets... this workshop is a chance to recall what you had in your childhood.”