NEWFOUNDLAND PUPPET COLLECTIVE
MISSION & HISTORY
Our group was born from a conversation at the 2013 New England Puppet Intensive in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Amazingly, two of the participants were from Newfoundland and an open invitation was announced to come and witness an amazing summer festival of glowing sculptures, puppet parades, and circus acts at the St. John’s Lantern Festival.
We came together in the summer of 2015 to explore the potential for articulated lantern puppets as part of a reimagining of the traditional Newfoundland tale, Jack and the Bottle of World’s End Water by Andy Jones and Mary Fearon. A week-long workshop was held at the Arts and Culture Center with members of the community and the work was presented as part of the 15th Annual Lantern Festival.
The following year, with support from the Canada Council and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, our group was able to offer a 2-week long workshop which included training in mask & puppetry performance, design and construction. 14 members of the community, and a local dance company of teens joined our group of professionals to build a new version of the Jack and the Bottle of World’s End Water and present it at LSPU Hall and then upon the lawn at the Friends of Victoria Park Family Day/Lantern Festival.
Our work is guided by the following principals:
1. To support the tradition of Newfoundland storytelling in a lively, collaborative, and celebratory fashion.
2. To engage with communities in the pursuit of puppet arts and innovation. We are excited by the possibilities that emerge when professional artists and community members are working side by side -- when professional practices merge with traditional craft, and trade techniques, expressive puppets inextricably linked to specific communities take on a more profound meaning.
3. To share, empower and actualize theatre making with those who may have little access to training, or means.
4. To aid in the pursuit of traditional storytelling preservation through theatre.
Who We Are
Our core group includes writers, designers, performers, storytellers, and researchers.
Pia Banzhaf (Odd Puppet Collective, Dramaturg)
Mary Fearon (Storyteller, Author, Historian)
Andy Jones (Actor, Storyteller, Codco)
Ruth Lawrence (Filmmaker, Actor, White Rooster Theatre)
Baptiste Neis (Actor, Playwright, Puppeteer)
Sara Tilley (Puppeteer, Mask and Clown Specialist)
Guest Artists who will be working with us in 2019
Jamie Skidmore (Director, Designer, Professor of Theatre)
Clelia Scala (Mask Maker, Puppeteer)
PAST PROJECTS: 2015/2016 CREATION WORKSHOP
JACK AND THE BOTTLE OF WORLD’S END WATER
By Andy Jones and Mary Fearon
In the summer of 2015, our Collective came together to develop a script which would be our jumping off point for a workshop presentation using lantern-puppets at the 15th Annual Victoria Park Lantern Festival. Ten brave souls came forth from the community to work with us on the development — many a rainy afternoon and evening were spent binding reed and gluing tissue paper to create glowing characters with which to tell the tale. Enormous birds and sea creatures were lashed to our cars and carted over to the Arts and Culture Center for rehearsals each evening before our creation was unveiled on a frigid July evening, warmed by the tremendous hearts of those several thousand festival goers who sat hillside to hear our tale.
The following summer, with the support of Canada Council and the Newfound and Labrador Arts Council, we were able to take the development process and partner with LSPU Hall, turning it into a puppet-construction laboratory, and a space for training and workshopping.
Thirteen community members maintained regular attendance at workshop and creation sessions; thirteen teen-dancers from the Lynn Panting Dance Company; musician Christopher Howse; Izzy Fahey and Mathias Templeton, two college students from Victoria Park; and eight Newfoundland Puppet Collective members. This brought our company to a total of 38 people!
We presented the work to at LSPU Hall and played to a capacity audience. The following day we brought the play outside and presented to a crowd of 600 people on the hill side in Victoria Park.
NEXT: THE MUMMERS
PROJECT AND PLAY
This coming December, the Newfoundland Puppet Collective will offer a two week long workshop with community members to create a series of large scale Mummers puppets to co-marshal the St. John’s Mummers Parade and then “act” in a unique retelling of a traditional Mummers Play. The play will be devised from the oral testimonials of Mr. J. J. Peckford, of Gander Bay, and Mr. Barney Moss, of Salvage, B.B. whose memories of watching Mummers Plays as children were chronicled in the December 1949 and January 1950 editions of the Newfoundlander.
The Mummers Play itself is about perseverance and resurrection — and our aim is to adapt it in such a way as to tie it to Newfoundland community concerns — a community in which the spirit of perseverance is ever-present, and a respect for the past is tempered with an ongoing urge to rediscover and reinvent itself. The Mummers Festival is an example of this, reclaiming traditions in a modern way. Our desire is to reclaim the mummers play part of the mumming tradition, making it too a part of this modern edition of this very old tradition.
Mummering has been designated an Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) or what some call “Living Heritage,” which includes many traditions, customs and practices such as storytelling, languages, knowledge of food, natural spaces, healing, and community gatherings. Intangible Cultural Heritage is best understood when it is experienced and relies on the transmission of knowledge through means of personal connections within a community, and the practicing of the tradition itself.
Like the Venetian Carnival, the mummering costumes and masks hide the identity of individuals allowing for a once-a-year concealment — resulting in a parade of individuals walking side by side in celebration of commonality.
This will mark the third time the Newfoundland Puppet Collective has come together to offer an extensive workshop which straddles theatre and storytelling, sculpture and puppetry. It’s an opportunity for the sharing of knowledge between artists and community members and for those interested in mask and puppetry arts to engage in an intensive training opportunity in their own town, as most training centers in specialized theatre are a significant distance away. Sessions will include neutral mask, Laban movement dynamics, puppetry performance and design concepts.
Watch this space for schedules and sign up!