Puppetry duo restage holiday show

[attach]3194[/attach]Children who open Christmas presents may not just be getting another toy to add to their collection, they may also be unwrapping a future calling.

That’s what happened for Beach residents David and Ann Powell.

At ages 7 and 8 respectively, the brother and sister duo received marionettes from their parents as Christmas gifts, and since then have turned a passion for puppetry into a sustained presence in the arts.

Having established Puppetmongers Theatre 36 years ago, the duo has been putting on all-ages holiday shows since 1990.

David said that Christmas in 1959 was the moment he and Ann realized they wanted to pursue puppetry.

“It was a childhood passion. It just made sense as a kid, and I never quit.”

The pair started off performing in front of community members and before long, a library commissioned them to act in shows.

“With whatever Christmas bucks we got, we went out and bought more puppets, and we started redressing them, then we started making our own, and give shows to the neighbours,” David said.

While attending The Ontario College of Art & Design, David and Ann wanted to do something different from what everyone else was doing. It turns out it was the right business move.

“We thought we’d get into real art, and stayed with the puppets,” he said. “At OCAD they all egged us on because it was different. And at the end of that, we started getting offers at gigs so we became a business…or a lifestyle choice, rather.”

They devised their first stringless puppetry in 1974, the same year they founded the company.

[quote]It was a childhood passion. It just made sense as a kid, and I never quit.[/quote]

Today, Puppetmongers is an award-winning, touring theatre company, that creates puppetry plays for family and adult audiences. In addition, they run the Toronto School of Puppetry for adult learners.

As co-founders and co-artistic directors, David and Ann make puppets, and design and build sets, props and costumes for both the non-profit Puppetmongers and other theatre and film companies.

Every show is different, says David. For their current holiday show, Tea at the Palace, the puppets are based on antique toys, worked on tabletop by hand with visible manipulators. There are also marottes (ancient style of puppet-on-a-stick). In their recent Hard Times at Theatre Passe Mureille, Puppetmongers used glove puppets and shadows and masks. David said streaming into such a unique art form has come with difficulties.

“There are so many challenges to everything,” he said, including figuring out “how best to tell a story and how best to get the story out there.”

But David said rewards make it worth its while.

“(Puppetry) is essentially an open arts form, there’s no huge great master that everyone’s in awe of — no Leonardo Da Vinci,” he said. “So it gives you so much range to experiment in theatre, because you’re creating pretty much everything. Every day is so different. Every day you get up and don’t know what you’re going to be doing.”

David and Ann Powell will be bringing to life Tea at the Palace, a remount of Puppetmongers’ popular holiday show, from December 18-January 1 at [url=]Tarragon Theatre[/url]. Click for more details.