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Festival of animated objects celebrates quirky performances

By Rachel Woodward, March 5 2015

Downtown Calgary might look a bit stranger in the next few days as the seventh biennial International Festival of Animated Objects (IFAO) returns from March 7–15.

As a celebration of masks, puppets and animated objects, the festival is transforming the way Calgary sees theatre.

In an opening message regarding the festival, Maureen Kubinec, minister of culture and tourism in Alberta, says the re-emergence of this art form is an important development for the arts community.

“Since the early days of cinema, the use of animated objects has entertained audiences across the world,” Kubinec says. “Through live performances, workshops and exhibition, people of all ages will be captivated by this charming art form that breathes imagination into its creations.”

IFAO curator and artistic director Xstine Cook says puppetry is perceived as a type of performance solely for children, but the festival aims to change those opinions.

“We are bringing that idea forward that the puppetry we were presenting is not just for families and kids, but we also present things that are for adults,” Cook says. “Traditionally puppetry was not only relegated to  young audiences, it was for everybody, and more and more the trend has been moving back into the realm of adult work.”

One example of this is The House By The Lake, a production from Israel. The performance tells the story of three sisters who use creativity and imagination to keep a sense of normalcy during the Holocaust.

Cook credits the impact of seeing boundary-pushing performances at festivals with her growth as an artist and the decision to start the IFAO.

“That was a huge motivation in starting the festival,” Cook says.  “Bringing work here that would really change the landscape of what we were doing and change the audience’s perspective of what is possible.”

In the Human Automaton Theatre Arcade people can watch miniature theatre performances, including brief puppet shows or bizarre short films. Film screenings showcase animation, stop-motion animation and other film techniques.

Spread out over multiple venues, including Theatre Junction Grand, EMMEDIA Gallery and the Royal Canadian Legion  No. 1, the festival encourages spectators to experience animated theatre both as audience members and artists. The festival will feature demonstrations and workshops on creating puppets from various mediums, using a green screen for puppet animation and artist panels.

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