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Theatre company kills puppets on stage

By Connor Sadler, March 5 2015 —

Playing as part of the International Festival of Animated Objects (IFAO), Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop (OTPW) returns on March 13 with their acclaimed show, Famous Puppet Death Scenes. The show explores death through a series of shows, each ending in the death of a puppet. 

Peter Balkwill, co-artistic director of OTPW, says replacing live actors with puppets makes death easier to broach with audiences.

“We’re able to look at bigger themes and potentially morose themes and digest them a little bit more because we’re not actually seeing humans die,” Balkwill says. “But ironically, it goes further into humanity than a human representation could. It gives us this distance but then invites us to get closer.” 

Famous Puppet Death Scenes was inspired by the original version of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, in which Pinocchio kills Jiminy Cricket soon after meeting him. 

OTPW decided to stage the play, but faced backlash from people who thought killing the cricket right away was against the spirit of Pinocchio as a children’s production. 

Believing that scene was “one of the more delightful moments of the entire play,” Balkwill and company decided to take the idea further and created a performance featuring “a series of delightful moments, like puppets dying.”

“We’re able to infuse [the puppets] with individual characteristics that we want them to have. It can go as deep as an individual wants it go,” Balkwill says. “What do the puppets represent? Fear and desire? Belief and reality? It’s because they’re representations of things that you’re able to go really deep with the metaphors.”

Despite the puppet fatalities, Balkwill says the play features a hopeful message.

“The show turns on itself about two-thirds of the way through and really goes from humourous to introspective. If you’re able to remember the possibility of [not being scared of death], then you walk forward into life with a little more attachment to the present moment.” 

Famous Puppet Death Scenes runs from March 13–28 at Theatre Junction Grand as part of the IFAO. General admission tickets are $39 or $20 for students, artists and people under 30 years old. 

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