“A Day In The Life” Ann and David Powell of Puppetmongers Theatre!

Siblings Ann and David Powell, national treasures and Co-Artistic Directors of Puppetmongers Theatre, have been creating puppet theatre together since their parents made the fateful mistake of giving a string puppet to Ann when they were little, which sparked their unshakeable love for the art form.

Since forming their company in 1974, Ann and David have created over a dozen original shows, featuring all sorts of different forms of puppetry. Passionate about innovating ground-breaking new ideas in puppetry, their techniques have been used all over the world. The Powells’ love of puppetry imbues everything they do: from their scintillating performances for audiences young and old, to their training, teaching and mentorship efforts through such initiatives as the Toronto School of Puppetry, their Summer Puppetry Intensive, and the Puppetry eXploratory Laboratory.

Though they are dearly missing performing for live audiences these days, Ann and David have been learning many lessons about sharing work and workshops online which will continue to prove useful as they look ahead to celebrating 50 years of Puppetmongering!

-Written by Victoria Laberge, Puppetmongers’ friend and Marketing Coordinator

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The past year has given us many lessons about how to share our work online! We were thrilled to share our first digital production this past March – a two-week run of Brick Bros. Circus, a tongue-in-cheek miniature one-ring circus featuring highly trained building bricks. Next up we are excited to present The Miller & His Wife online this April! Photo by Dahlia Katz.
In Spring 2020 we made a handful of how-to videos of a variety of puppet making ideas for families (which are posted on our website under the Tutorials for Children tab.) You too can make puppet plays at home! These videos have spread further, being shared by art teachers, theatre companies and children’s arts camps. And the two we’d made on shadow puppetry came in handy when we gave online shadow puppetry workshops this fall for a Brockville high school Drama class. We were all set to make more how-to puppet making videos – but then our studio was broken into in September and our video camera and digital projector were stolen. We’re working on replacing the equipment, and will soon be making more videos.
We miss being able to teach in person with our fellow puppeteers! Two colleagues who sometimes host workshops with us at the Toronto School of Puppetry, Mike Petersen and Shawna Alana Reiter, pictured here accidentally colour-coordinating with Ann.
In 2019 we were delighted to be commissioned by Canada’s Wonderland to create a short marionette piece for #WinterFest. Pictured here is the ‘Wonder’ful team (left to right): Courtney Lamanna (puppeteer), Emilia Nechita (director and puppeteer), Sasha Flengas (puppeteer), alongside David and Ann.
As we get closer to fifty years of Puppetmongering, we’re thinking about what our legacy might be when we finally decide to stop. Rather than passing on the company and our shows, we’re looking into the idea of establishing a Puppetry Space for the use of the puppetry community, in which to develop, create, rehearse, research, network and meet, and for School of Puppetry programs to continue. To that end we are part way through an Arts Build Ontario’s Creative Spaces Mentoring Program, with dancer/choreographer Yvonne Ng as our chosen mentor, helping us figure out the What and How and When and Why of all that.
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We were excited to be interviewed on Caroline Bernier-Dionne’s Puppet Podcast just before the holidays – the episode is still available to watch on YouTube!
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And here’s a tray of Asian Red Bean buns made by Ann!
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These are some maamoul cookies David made, but with shortbread cases for the date filling.

Which ‘hood are you in?

Ann is in Little Italy and David is in The Beach.  We’ve both been in our houses a long-long time.

What do you do?

We are Co-Artistic Directors of Puppetmongers Theatre and founders of the Toronto School of Puppetry. We create puppet theatre for all ages and offer training, mentorship and workshops to foster the development of the art of puppetry. Other than that, we’ll do whatever it takes, ha ha! We like designing, inventing, figuring out and making things, but there is always a load of accounting, filing and writing to do.

What are you currently working on? 

We are gearing up to present an online run of The Miller & His Wife, Puppetmongers’ first-ever production followed by its sequel, from April 14-28. Tickets are free or by Pay What You Can donation! We are also making how-to puppetry videos for school children and families, cogitating on how to run some puppetry workshops for adult learners, along with how to run a virtual puppet festival.

Where can we find your work?

You can visit puppetmongers.com to find our video tutorials and to get your ticket to The Miller & His Wife this month! We also have a few videos up on Vimeo – just search for Puppetmongers.And hopefully soon enough, you’ll be able to find us back at the theatre again!