The Puppet Intensive Construction Workshop at the Victoria Park Pool House acquainted participants with a new way of thinking about illuminated puppets. Participants learned to focus on silhouette for design and gravity for construction, two vital aspects for creating fully articulated large scale puppets. Over the course of the first weekend designs were drawn, paper maquettes were built, tested in motion, and if necessary redesigned. Additional construction time was offered over the course of the following weekday and weekends to complete the designs and to create additional key characters for the visual narrative planned for the Victoria Park Lantern Fest.
The synopsis of the story, The Bottle of World's End Water adapted by Andy Jones and Mary Fearon, was shared at the beginning of the workshop and the participants selected among the key characters those characters they wanted to work on.
A seagull, a crow, a giant bottle, a giant hand and crown, eyes with closing eyelids, and a number of jellyfish were created. We combined tried and trusted techniques from Victoria Park Lantern Festival building with new techniques such as using more pliable reed spline vs. the customary bamboo and sewing the spline together rather than relying on wire and hot glue alone, a useful expansion to the participants' skillset. The added challenge to just building large-scale puppets was to build articulated, large-scale illuminated puppets for an outdoor performance. The students worked with imagination and inventiveness to ensure the mechanisms would work for the outdoor production of the Jack tale of the Bottle of World's End Water.
The Puppet Performance Workshop, based on principles of physical theatre, acquainted students with a unique approach to puppetry developed by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop and delivered by David Lane (who also oversaw the creation workshops and directed the performance) while Pia Banzhaf facilitated the early creation sessions. The diverse group of participants worked with old and newly created lantern puppets in the Arts and Culture Centre rehearsal space that allowed for exploring the effective animation of objects in general and the character motion in particular. The exercises were new to the students and well received and as they noted opened up new worlds to their thinking about acting and puppet manipulation. A combination of exercises that focused on connecting with the manipulated object and working through it, on creating a strong ensemble, and in devising scenes collectively, culminated in a well-rounded performance at the Lantern Festival, that awed visitors.
The performance at the Victoria Park Lantern Festival was preceded by in person meetings and online sessions with Andy Jones and Mary Fearon, the storytellers who created the script, and with the fire juggler lead Aaron McKim and Rob Power, the lead on the percussion group the Scruncheons. They also attended one of our rehearsal sessions at which we finalized how we would interweave all the elements for the night performance. Everyone involved was looking forward to the fresh narrative component the Newfoundland Puppet Collective would bring to the Lantern Festival while incorporating much anticipated and beloved elements of years past. The project was a resounding success on the levels of performance through strong ensemble work and palpably enhanced manipulation skills, of cooperation with other artists involved and the organizers of the Lantern Fest. The network created will undoubtedly lead to new cooperation in the future. Rob Power and the Scruncheons as well as Aaron Kim and the fire jugglers have already signaled their interest in collaborating with the Newfoundland Puppet Collective on next year's performance. Building on this year's achievements the Newfoundland Puppet Collective is already gearing up for next year's Lantern Festival performance with an even richer visual narrative incorporating more community groups.