Hans Dudldee

Hans is the son of a poor fisherman who sets off into the world to find his fortune. He was the star of the show we recently built and performed. P1060836 web 544P1060801 web 200

All Hans knows how to do is fish, which he finds a bit disheartening because, well, how’s he ever going to earn a living at it?  And how is fishing going to help him break the enchantment he stumbles across?centaur hans web 05

In the story of Hans Dudldee, young Hans is able to succeed because he starts from where he’s at and he asks for help when he needs it.  The Flying Box Theatre certainly could not have succeeded in creating our version of Hans Dudldee without asking for help!  So hoorah! for Hans and three cheers for these magical creatures who worked on our show:

Bruno Afonseca, Maira Chiodi, Lorna Craig, David di Giovanni, Evelyn Giron, Jeremy Gordaneer, Matt James, Meghan Lands, Lydia Lorrain, Rae Maitland, Clea Minaker, Tati Mitre, Hannah Morrow, Darlene Orr, Marie Julie Peters-Desteract, Filip Pietruszewski, Stephen Quinlan, Cathy Stubington, Japhy Sullivan, and Bernardo Torres.

A very heartfelt thank you from Debbie, Jesse and Chantale to all of you. (Please forgive us if we missed anyone in a puppet building-and-rehearsing fog! )

You can help too!  Where should we perform our show this June, near Montréal?  Email us at flyingboxtheatre at gmail.com if you have suggestions, questions, or comments.





We made a show !

The Flying Box Theatre has been offline for a few weeks because we were preoccupied with preparing for two performances that took place on March 7th and 8th 2015.  The shows were a great success!  Thanks in large part to the volunteers and collaborators who worked with us–and to them we are so grateful.hans dudldee at OUF festival

One of those is Ms. Evelyn Giron, freelance designer extraordinaire, who created the beautiful painted design that graces our puppet theatre.  She also helped us make our stage floor more sturdy and portable, as well as giving us feedback on our show before opening day…come to think of it we couldn’t have done the show without her!

We asked her to incorporate the names of the people who contributed to last summer’s fundraising campaign into the painted design, and you can see an example of how she did it below.  We love how detailed the pattern is–and we know how many different hands and how many hours it took to achieve.  Not to mention how much problem solving and creative solutions! Thank you Evelyn!

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As 2014 comes to a close…

The Flying Box Theatre has a few updates to share:

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  • We have moved into a shared studio space, as pictured above.  So very exciting to be out of our small apartments and surrounded by inspiring fellows like Egotrip Productions and Rickie Lea Owens, among others.
  • We’re able to rent this studio because we’re taking part in the program Jeunes Volontaires for the next year… a year of puppetry and storytelling, on the government dole!  Quebeckers under 30, artist or not, should be aware that this program exists.
  • We have been following up our crowd-funding campaign by giving original prints by Jesse to donors, and we realize we also promised a little bit of audio as a reward, so…
  • We are making a radio episode!  For this first-ever-audio-creation we have interviewed Erika Eichenseer, the wonderful teacher, folklorist, and occasional librettist who we mentioned in a previous post.  We’ve also talked to puppeteer, illustrator, animator and activist Alma Sheppard-Matsuo, who is embarking on the creation of an illustrated anthology of radical fairytales.  Stay tuned for our first foray into radio in 2015.
  • Over the next few months we will be hiding out in our new studio, preparing to emerge in the (early) spring with a new puppet show at the Centaur Theatre Children’s Series on Saturday March 7th 2015.  Save the date!


Building The Girl Giant

A long time ago, when Deborah I and began planning how we would bring the tales from the Schönwerth collection to life, we decided to work with a simple string puppet design that we describe as a rod marionette.  The image below is an example of a rod marionette in Janie Geiser’s work, an American puppeteer filmmaker and scholar that we’re inspired by. inspiration geiser

As we set out to adapt these old European stories we wanted to learn from traditional puppet forms, hopeful to discover something fundamental about puppetry and storytelling by hunting around in the traditions. Early in our process we also talked a lot about the fine pair that our imagined puppets would make with fairytale characters: the puppets’ non-naturalistic movement & their ability to perform time-worn tricks and stunts would fit well with the familiar heroines and villains, who, in these stories, are never fleshed out with motivations or inner lives.

The design and building of the Girl Giant rod marionette for our first show was a team effort. The book Marionette Magic, co-authored by Cathy Stubington of Runaway Moon Theatre (another big influence on our work), was an indispensable resource. girl giant mess

I used plans from this book to create the jointed body of the Girl Giant puppet.  In the midst of our…ahem… quite rushed process our skilled stop-motion animator friend Lydia Lorrain stopped by Flying Box Theatre workshop (aka Deborah’s kitchen) to build the puppet’s head and hands. You can see some of Lydia’s beautiful stop-motion work here.

Next, I assembled the puppet, mostly using string and eye-hooks at the joints.  

Finally, in an example of the Flying Box design collaboration that we are developing, Deborah fleshed out the body of the puppet and made its costume. 

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Above right is a video still of Stephen Quinlan, myself and Deborah Sullivan beginning the first ever performance of the story The Girl Giant and the Farmer.

With very limited rehearsal time before that show, all three of us had to figure out very quickly how to best make our puppets move–or in Deborah’s case how to play the accordion, learning songs newly written by Japhy Sullivan!

Luckily for me the Girl Giant cooperated well, and I managed to perform her bouncing, leg swinging walk during last Saturday’s performance at Café Concret/Festival Phénomena.  The audience even chuckled a bit when they saw it, which I’m taking as a good sign!gg-walk

The Giantess

Our upcoming puppet show tells a long-lost folk tale from the Upper Palatinate, Bavaria, called The Girl-Giant and the Farmer.  Female giants seem to occupy a few special places in the collective unconscious, and in my research certain themes appear.  Why not listen to this beautiful song and explore with the links below:

The Giantess by Chris Schoen.  Listen to and support our friend Chris, who put music to Charles Baudelaire’s poem La Géante (The Giantess) as part a cantastoria cycle called Baudelaire in a Box by Chicago’s Theatre Oobleck.

Giantesses appear often in stories from Indigenous nations on the Northwest coast of North America; terrifying female monsters who live deep in the woods or high in the mountains.  One common theme across nations is that she will scoop up humans and put them in her basket for a later meal…

In eastern Canada, Mi’kmaq culture tells of another fearsome female giant:

  • The Gougou, who snatches up fishermen and puts them in a sac or a “great pocket” according to Samuel de Champlain.
  • The only Gougou story I could find online is Champlain’s popular account, which is very interesting but also chock-a-block full of colonial racism.  If anyone knows better of online sources for stories of the Gougou/Kuku, post them in the comments, please!

Our Bavarian girl-giant has none of the awe-inspiring ferocity of these Indigenous tales, but she does have a tendency to pick things up that she perhaps shouldn’t…

…Is this a universal lady-giant attribute?

Fundraiser Successful!

Thank you thank you to all of our donators to the August 2014 Stage-raiser campaign!  We made it to our goal, and that means we can now build our portable puppet theatre!  WAHOO! Keep following us here on our blog to see our progress.   thankyou fundraiserflying print narrow

For those who are interested our final total is 1208.60$ — eight and a half bucks over our original goal, fancy that!  Let’s get building!

Fundraiser Update

Hello Friends and Flying Box Theatre Supporters!  We are so happy with how our stage-raiser campaign is going.  We’re hovering around 80% of our $1200 goal, and there are still a few days left until the September 1st deadline!

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Donations continue to trickle in, and we are at 17 online funders in total as I type.  We also hosted a fundraiser barbecue in the park last weekend, which gave Debbie and I a good excuse to throw a performance together and which also raised another bit of cash to put towards building our stage.

It’s time for the last sprint to the finish line!  If you’ve been thinking about donating, now is the time.  Even a few dollars will go a long way in our thrifty puppeteer’s budget.

We’ve made plenty of projects with nothing but scavenged cardboard and love, but we are stepping it up a notch this time with a custom designed, portable, versatile, sturdy and beautiful puppet theatre.  We plan to use this little flying home to tell many stories and to entertain and enchant people all around our city and beyond, beginning in a few short months.  Help make these plans a reality by donating this weekend!

❤ ❤ ❤ Thank you so much for your support ❤ ❤ ❤

Debbie and Jesse

The Beautiful BBQ

Thank you to everyone who came out to our barbecue fundraiser event last Saturday in Montreal!
bbq crankiebbq crankie kidsSome very sweet children and adults watched (and assisted!) Debbie and I perform a crankie show (a story-on-a-scroll), and the two girls pictured above left had some things to say.  “She is the sun,” the girl in pink declared, “and I’m the moon!”  They also gave us sage advice for future show-creation:  less talking please, and more puppets!bbq-motionMy talented cartoonist friend Meghan Lands did us the honour of illustrating her time at the bbq!  Check out her work here!

Photos courtesy of another talented friend: Peter Nevins.