2019/05/03

Hello Internet

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive Training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is the last day, day 15.

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This morning I arrived at Mermaid Theatre with my suitcase packed in my theatre blacks. Our showcase was scheduled for 11:30 am with family and friends of Mermaid coming to see our works in progress. We spent the morning running through our transitions in between acts and got chairs for our audience.

Once we were done, Jim and Struan handed us our certificates and said their final goodbyes. Jenny made us our own personal bean bags for juggling and I jumped in the car and made the 6-hour journey back to Fredericton.

Laura-Beth Bird. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019.

Laura-Beth Bird. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019.

For those of you who are looking for puppetry training through UNIMA Canada, go to their website and look at which training best reflects your interests. http://www.unimacanada.com/

-Laura-Beth Bird

2019/05/02

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive Training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is day 14.

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Today was all about reviewing and working the puppets we visited in the last two and a half weeks. We are on our last two days of training here in Windsor NS. Our focus was on little and big doughboys, recycled puppets and tabletop puppets.

Jim came back from Asia today and he took the time to pull apart our puppet scenes. He showed us new ways to operate the puppets. Puppeteers can become furniture for the big doughboys. We also discovered new ways to reveal our characters and ways to hand off limbs for better transitions.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019

We have a small showcase in the loft tomorrow. Eleven puppeteers will present their puppets and the skills that they have learned to an open audience. After that, I head back to Fredericton to sleep in my own bed and get re-energized for next weeks Drama Fest.

See you soon Fredericton!

-Laura-Beth Bird


2019/04/26

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive Training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is day 10.

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So, we did the same warm up as usual. That meant bean bags and bean bags and even larger beanbags. Getting our brains to recognize beats, and stretching out the muscles in our fingers and forearms. We sat down for a few minutes and did some card shuffling and dedicated an hour to our own puppets. My goal was to calm down and to take time with my transitions. The performance went better than expected. Now, I have to take time and find little moments and breaths throughout.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019.

We spent the afternoon with big doughboys. Big doughboys take 5 people to operate. One person operates the head and body, one person on each arm and one person on each leg. Doughboys are as large as me (5’6”) and are made from stretch cloth and stuffing with a handle in the head. They are literally a scaled version of the little doughboys we operated yesterday. Here’s a photo for reference.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019.

So doughboys can do everything humans can do. We chose the simple task of sweeping the floor. We had to break it down into the movements in each section of the body, and then move it at the correct time. This isn't easy. The puppet is so large that the physical demands of the puppeteer are huge. The reward of the finished piece is worth the work though.

-Laura-Beth Bird.

2019/04/25

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive Training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is day 9.

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Today, I managed to juggle further than four throws. I’m pretty pleased with myself. It only took me nine days to get this far. I also learned how to properly shuffle a deck of cards. I haven’t learned to shuffle it with a partner yet, but its progress.

Apart from that, we did the normal warm-ups of beanbag tossing and balancing large beanbags on poles. We’re now able to balance the dowels on our fingers, pass between our fingers and high five. We can also sing, follow each other, pass to one another and lay down and get back up without dropping the bags.

The group spent an hour going over our own puppets. I am trying to remember my tracking backstage. Hand puppets have a lot of props, and I will need to rig a light tomorrow to see behind the screen.

We spent the afternoon working on doughboys. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of my work today but here is a video that describes the operation pretty accurately.

Basically, three people operate the puppet. One person is on the head and body, one on the arms and one working the legs. The puppet uses tension to make it look like a living thing. The three people must work in unison to create an accurate image.

Tomorrow, we move onto the bigger version of this. The big doughboys will take five people to operate it. Apparently, it's even more physically demanding.

-Laura-Beth Bird

2019/04/23

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is day 8.

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Today we were left in capable hands of Struan whilst Jim makes his way to Japan. We did the usual warm-up of bean bag tossing, balancing and passing large bean bags on dowels and juggling. I still haven't figured out the juggling.

We added in a new brain game, shuffling a deck of cards using two people. One person uses their right hand, the other the left. The partners need to perform the tricks as if they were one person. This helps with the operation of puppets because multiple people must simulate one body's fluid movement.

We spent an hour on our own puppets, running through and refining the scenes. Then we spent the afternoon working with our found object puppetry, creating a short scene in groups of three. I'm still not fond of the umbrella, but at least he has a bowtie now.

Laura-Beth Bird. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019. Photo Credit: Jenny Rodgers

Laura-Beth Bird. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019. Photo Credit: Jenny Rodgers

I'm excited to move onto dough boys tomorrow and learn a new type of puppet. I also cracked open some great books in Mermaid's Institution. There is one book there about Jaque Lecoq, a man I heard a lot about in university but never really researched. It might be my new lunchtime read.

-Laura-Beth Bird

2019/04/22

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Saturday was day 6, i had a day off on Sunday and today is day 7.

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The group has been continuing with their own puppets. I have been trying to figure out how to use hand puppets for three days. It has been a crawl. I find that because I am not able to watch my work from an unbiased point of view, I'm unsure of it and therefore don’t like it.

We let everyone critique our work. When I finished my hands were shaking. I have no idea where I had put objects behind the screen and part of the dragon broke. Hand puppets require far more tracking than I had realized. I now know that the Vardi Puppet House will need low-level lights and a small table on either side to place down objects and puppets.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion. 2019.

We have also been working on found object puppetry. I haven’t really grown to love my umbrella puppet. I find him to have weird arms and weird movement. This, like everything else, will take time and patience. We will be working with these puppets again tomorrow, and I will need to be a little more open-minded about it.

Apart from that, I was able to do a little sightseeing with my partner on Sunday. We made a trip to Peggy’s Cove NS to see this Atlantic Canadian treasure ourselves. Here are some photos from our day out. If I was a photographer, this place would be on my must visit list.

Peggy’s Cove. NS. April 2019

Peggy’s Cove. NS. April 2019

Laura-Beth Bird. Peggy’s Cove. April 2019

Laura-Beth Bird. Peggy’s Cove. April 2019

Peggy’s Cove. April 2019.

Peggy’s Cove. April 2019.

-Laura-Beth Bird

2019/04/19

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is Day 5.

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So, normal warm up again. We always start with stretching, bean bag tossing games, bean bags on sticks. Every time we approach the games we layer in more tricks and skills.

My body feels like a truck has driven over it. My hamstrings are tight, between my shoulders is tense and I could sleep just about anywhere.

Last night I visited my friend Tori in Halifax. I walked in and lowered myself gingerly onto the couch. I petted her cat while she handed me a cup of tea. This is what I looked like. Attractive, I know. Needless to say, I was in bed by 10.

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We spent all day working with our own puppets, receiving feedback from Jim on our work. I had my hand puppets and no story, and we set the screen up on stage. I felt rude working directly behind the other people workshopping with Jim and quickly cowered away. This really beats a fundamental principle of puppeteering, get the fuck out of my way. I didn't get much done today. Tomorrow I will have to walk in with a plan and some bravery.

One of the other students has a beautiful piece with her puppet. It's quiet and the movements are small and endearing. I took a photo of her working with Jim. I wish this was a piece you could see.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

-Laura-Beth Bird

2019/04/18

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is Day 4.

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Today we began with the same warm-ups: beanbag toss, beanbags on dowels and juggling exercises. We then brought out our own puppets to operate. There is a wide range of styles and sizes created by the actors. I had my dragon to play with.

So mentally, I have been living in the world of the Vardi Puppet House. It requires hand puppets for operation. When I built my dragon, I unconsciously built him for the Vardi world. I couldn't find a way to operate it outside of this framed acting place. It wouldn't move like any of the other puppets.

This resulted in my experimentation needing more puppets. At the end of the day, I left with 2 more hand puppets and scenic structures so I could create a cohesive storyline.

It's day four and I'm very tired. My body isn't used to this level of physical exercise as well as the mental fatigue of constant creation and exploration. This is a fabulous program.

-Laura-Beth Bird

2019/04/17

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is Day 3.

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So, the day starts the same again. We assemble on Jim's childhood carpet, stretch out our bodies that are feeling the burn of puppeteering. We whine about how mentally tired we are and it's only day 3. We wonder how it will feel by the end of the third week.

We play the beanbag throwing focus game and add more layers to it. We begin to enforce the notion of “letting things go” and “having backups”.

We strengthen our fingers and inner wrist muscles with the large bean bag on a dowel. At this point we can control where to move it through space, pass it between each other and sing songs while walking with it. Who would have guessed that was a thing to be accomplished on day 3.

Next came the frustration. We have all been learning to juggle for three days now. I am no closer than I was on day 1. Today, Jim instructed us to juggle in pairs. This was not a successful task for me. I have added a photo below of what it's supposed to look like for reference.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019

Our main puppet focus today was on floor puppets. They operate in much the same way as table puppets. A ball with a handle and a nose which is then draped in fabric. The floor puppets are approximately 3/4 of the length of a normal person. They have no formed arms, but holes cut in the fabric for the hands to go through.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Floor puppets need two operators. One controlling the head and one arm, and another controlling the other arm. The puppeteers must work in unison. They must match motion, breath and focus to create a living character.

I found this more difficult than the other two puppets. The lack of arms and draped fabric made it hard for me to create a body structure. I spent most of my time as an arm today, pulling the fabric to fake waists.

Garbage Puppet Challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019

Garbage Puppet Challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019

The rest of the evening was spent finishing up our garbage puppets. I got my dragon painted. He is currently drying in the education room at the studio. Apparently, its tradition for Jim to guess who made which puppets. I don’t think he's expecting the things the class made.

-Laura-Beth Bird

2019/04/16

Hello Internet;

I'm in Windsor Nova Scotia for Animotion Intensive training at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship from UNIMA Canada to pay the course fees. Today is Day 2.

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We began the morning the same as yesterday. We sat on Jim's carpet and began a stretch. We tossed beanbags to a rhythm and then balanced large beanbags on doweling rods, balancing them on our fingertips. These are both mental and physical strengthening exercises. Puppetry requires muscles groups that are generally inactive and a huge amount of focus on the object being animated.

Jim’s childhood carpet. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Jim’s childhood carpet. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Today, we used a type of puppet called a table puppet. It has the same head construction as the hand puppets (styrofoam wrapped in cloth with a nose). It has a handle on the back of the head, a draped square fabric with arms, and washers in the hands for structure.

This puppet has many of the same operational theories. It requires rhythm, a consistent level, and breath. We operated them as a singular person, and then in pairs. This is closer to a Bunraku style of operation. These puppets don’t have feet, so they don’t require a third operator.

We drilled many of the same actions. Greeting other puppets, handing objects between puppets, and moving through space. We broke off into teams and created storylines for critique.

Table Puppets. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Table Puppets. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

In the evening we continued on with our own recycled puppets. We were tasked with building a characters that are functional out of everyday objects. We will operate them on Thursday, testing our designs.

I made a dragon head out of an ice cream container, paper, and three juice bottles. His nose is made from a Tim Horton's coffee tray and his horns from MacDonald cups and red solo shot glasses. The structure is then covered in hockey tape to make it paintable. The chest scales are made from sections of old cardboard boxes as well.

Laura-Beth Bird. Recycled puppet challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Laura-Beth Bird. Recycled puppet challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Laura-Beth Bird. Recycled puppet challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Laura-Beth Bird. Recycled puppet challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

There are also some photos of other students creations. Enjoy!

Recycled puppet challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Recycled puppet challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Recycled puppet challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

Recycled puppet challenge. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Animotion 2019.

-Laura-Beth bird