The Puppetmongers!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 1:11 PM | Lena Coakley

Notes for Meeting April 13th, 2016

Recording Secretary : Anne Laurel Carter (

Our president, Sharon Jennings, chaired the meeting and began by welcoming visitors and new members.

New Creations:

Stepping Into Traffic, fiction by Karen Rankin for ages 13 + from Thistledown Press. Book Launch is May 1st at 2pm in the Lillian H. Smith Library rotunda.

Shire Summer, fiction by Noelle Jack for middle grade readers from Archway Publishing. For  Book Launch details check out:


SCBWI members remember to vote for Crystal Kite Award. Voting ends April 14th at 5 pm.

A week of inspiration and feedback for your YA Novel

with Anne Laurel Carter

at the University of Toronto Summer Writing School

Mon-Fri July 11 -15, 9:30 am - 3:00 pm

Downtown Toronto Campus

Helena Alto announced that our PYI annual conference will be held Sat Nov 19th at the Li Ka Shing Institute, downtown Toronto at Shuter & Victoria.

Don Aker, Karen Bass and Charis Cotter will be visiting Toronto from Nova Scotia, Alberta and Newfoundland and part of a lively and informative panel discussion for our May meeting.


Catherine Rondina introduced our two talented speakers and siblings, Ann and David Powell. They formed Puppetmongers Theatre in1974 and have become internationally recognized and awarded for their decades of fine work.

            Ann began their presentation by showing us a gift she received from her brother when she was eight: her first marionette (with useful instructions in the box). They both loved playing with the dog on strings, received more puppets as gifts, and began making their own. Their puppet creations and story-telling grew as they did and both Ann and David eventually graduated from OCAD.

            David showed us the first marionette he made as a boy: a wolf made of cardboard covered in cloth whose body could slink and pounce and whose jaws opened wide to reveal a long red tongue.

            They love to perform on stage, visibly moving their puppets in front of a clever background set designed and built by them to enhance the story they are telling. They took their first show, The Miller, to Iran and came home to create a story and puppets fitted with rods into the back or into the top of the head based on a style of puppets from that country. Puppet bodies were rag doll and of different sizes to denote social status. They used cranking movie boxes in which the audience viewed pictures painted on a scroll of paper that enhance the story.

            Invited to festivals, they became more and more inspired by creative ideas they’d seen around the world in Object Theatre. They showed us numerous video clips of their past performances to illustrate how they used shadow puppets on the wall to show violence and puppets made from fabric, wood, bricks, whatever material and tradition they needed to enhance the telling of a particular story. Large and small puppets can show characters in the foreground or the background of the story setting.

            Ann often uses ideas from fairy and folk tales to inspire her works. For both of them, the goal has been to tell stories to contemporary audiences in historical ways that spoke of a slower and more relaxed time.

            They don’t tend to sketch but see the puppets in their heads, then make them. They also don’t start by writing out a script but use storyboards to visually help them tell the story, then create the puppets needed as characters. Then the puppets tell them what they will say. As puppeteers, they are on stage and part of the show. They visibly move the puppets’ bodies and arms (which have no joints). David explained that he feels and directs the puppets’ movements from his fingertips.

            In the eighties (as now) when funding collapsed for their performances in schools, they diversified their work and began performing live in theatres. They continue to create and performed shows for adults, families, and children and offer workshops to other puppeteers and the general public called: Teach Your Puppet To Act.

            Puppeteers often start their careers as children who discover the delight of acting out a story using puppets as their characters. Watching Ann and David perform and interact throughout their unique presentation gave us the magical sense that we were watching a brother and sister who were lucky, talented and creative enough to maintain a life-long enjoyment of playing and telling stories to each other as children.