Puppets come alive this summer

by | Apr 11, 2014 | News

Danielle La Valle
News Reporter

The end of winter semester is fast approaching and Humber is getting ready for some unique summer workshops such as its annual Puppetry Intensive.

Shawna Reiter, co-artistic director of Clunk Puppet Lab and an instructor at the Puppetry Intensive, said this will be her second year teaching at the workshop. Reiter said she works in the design and building section of the Puppetry Intensive.

“It all started with my friend Kyla and I. She comes from a performance background and I come from a fine arts background. The two of us got together and decided it would be a brilliant idea to start a puppet company,” she said.

A crucial part of the Puppetry Intensive is teaching students how to make limb joints for their puppets, she said. Students also need to figure out how to make neck joints since this will control the head movements of the puppet.

A costume designer is also on hand as for many puppets the costume can comprise as much as half of the body, Reiter said.

Modern puppet construction incorporates the use of diverse materials and skills.

“For my company we use pretty much anything that we can get our hands on that would work for a puppet, a lot of wood, we usually sculpt and cast our heads. Sometimes we use flexible slip (a mixture of clay and latex) but we also carve as well,” she said.

Faye Dupras, artistic director of Foreign Landscapes Productions, is also an instructor at the Puppetry Intensive, and like Shawna, she is back for her second year.

Dupras said she primarily teaches upper torso movement and manipulation at the Puppetry Intensive.

Dupras became involved when she met program coordinator Heather Kent, who saw her perform at a puppetry festival in 2010, she said.

They found they had similar ideas and goals when it came to puppetry and theatre, she said.

“It’s more about how does the puppet serve the story rather than, I am doing a hand puppet show or I am doing a shadow puppet show.” Dupras said. “So I think she saw that in my work and I think she also appreciated the qualities of puppeteering, so not only the building but also the manipulation.”

Both Reiter and Dupras agree that what makes Humber’s Puppetry Intensive unique is its equal emphasis on both performance and puppet construction.

Dupras also points out that Humber’s state of the art facilities add to the quality of the experience.

“I really feel that Humber College, the facility itself, is amazing,” she said. “I’ve gone to workshops that have an amazing reputation and they’re really strong, but the facilities don’t support the work that’s happening.”

Melissa Foster is a first-year arts management student at Western University in London, Ont.
She attended Puppetry Intensive last year and said it was a challenging but positive experience.
Foster missed a crucial step when using latex to mould a puppet’s head and the results were less than ideal, she said.

“I was exhausted and super discouraged and Shawna, she would basically not allow me to not do it again,” Foster said

“She had a million things on her plate, but together we redid it,” she said. “Her energy and her attitude… was really awesome.”

The Puppetry Intensive runs from June 2 to 14. For more information or to apply, contact Program Coordinator Heather Kent at 416-675-6622, ext. 79048, or heather.kent@humber.ca. The deadline is May 1.