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Death to the inanimate object!

Deconstructing the art of puppetry and the Old Trout Puppet Workshop production of Famous Puppet Death Scenes

Jessica Ruano

April 17, 2009

nordo-frot

In the Old Trout Puppet Workshop production of Famous Puppet Death Scenes, spectators are persuaded to rethink not only the relationship between human beings and puppets, but also their general assumptions about life and death. By looking at death through the eyes of inanimate beings, this production is encouraging a re-evaluation of what is commonly believed to be true about mortality; it is an undermining of truth, as occurs in a deconstructive reading of text. This is especially interesting in terms of this Calgary-based company because ideas surrounding life and death are not only the subject of this particular work, but also the vehicle for presenting the work.

The company chooses to create work that utilizes and is inspired by puppets, which are defined by theatre practitioner Steve Tillis as theatrical figures perceived to be objects, yet imagined to have life. Tillis explains that while spectators understand that they are watching objects, and not live actors onstage, still “for the duration of the performance, [the audience] chooses to imagine, at least to a certain degree, that the objects presented before it onstage have life” (46-7).

nathaniel-tweakThis essay will examine the dual nature of puppets in the theatre and why this makes them ideal candidates for a discussion about death. Through an examination of the archetypical puppet in relation to a number of binary opposites – including life and death, being and non-being, and presence and absence – this essay will deconstruct the art of puppetry with a special emphasis on the Old Trout Puppet Workshop production. This deconstructive reading of puppetry in general and Famous Puppet Death Scenes in particular will reveal the various and often contradictory truths about puppet mortality.

Continue reading…

Online references:

“Even Puppets Die” — my interview with puppet Nathaniel Tweak in the Ottawa XPress

“The Execution of Margot Rumebe” — video featuring members of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop

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What a surprise when I opened The Fulcrum (the University of Ottawa’s student-run newspaper) this afternoon and saw – not one – but TWO articles about Ottawa theatre. Not only were these articles insightful and informative, they were also very well-written. The writers knew their audience (namely, students) and knew exactly what to say to get them excited by the topic at hand (namely, local theatre). Plus, the feature arts article actually plugged my website!

So I thought I’d return the favour. Check THIS out:

Column by Peter Henderson, Arts and Culture Editor

Raising the Curtain on Ottawa’s Fall Theatre Season
by Anna Coutts, Fulcrum Contributor

Enjoy! and don’t forget to check out all the amazing theatre this season!

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