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?


A Little Taste of our Tales

I’ve been taking a bit of time in the past day or two to record myself telling a few of the Schonwerth Tales, since one of the rewards for all the generous donors to our fundraiser last month will be a recording of one of our favourite stories. I still have some re-recording and editing work to do, but I thought I’d share a rough version of a very short story from the collection here.

This story, called The Moon in the Fountain, is not really a fairytale – it’s more of a legend or folktale – and it’s actually pretty typical of the kind of stories the Schonwerth collected. It’s a tall tale to tell around the fireside, warning youngsters of the dangers of gathering water by moonlight…


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!

stage raiser img

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.


BBQ Tomorrow!

I am working on a Flying Box print …but can I manage to have it printed and ready by the Flying Box Theatre BBQ Fundraiser this Saturday August 23rd 2014?

It’s anyone’s guess!  This and other answers await you at the barbeque in  the Champs des Possibles, 5-8pm.  There will be musical guests, a brand new crankie show, and homemade sauerkraut!flying box draft print 02

By the way–tonnes of other stuff is happening tomorrow in the -des Possibles world, which we are totally crashing:

Bioblitz in Champs des Possibles from 10am – 4pm

The Marché des Possibles has loads of events all day!


European Roots

These 19th century German Engravings are very inspiring to me, and they give a great idea of architecture and design of the era of Schönwerth.

engravingGrimm's engraving

Half of my family tree originates relatively close to Bavaria, in the Alsace region, and this is a big part of the reason I’m fascinated by the old oral traditions of Germany.  I’ve read about the jack-o-lanterns that would guide a lonely hikers through the woods; the mermaids who, finless, would dance under the surface of a stream;  the spinstress who now lives on the moon;  the giants who ruled over mountain castles… I wonder if my great great great great grandmother had similar tales? And what happened to them if she did?

Delving into these European roots I am also acutely aware of my place in the colonization of North America.  These Schönwerth tales and all other folk traditions are tied closely to place, and seeking my family histories takes me far from the land where I live.  I haven’t untangled this knot or truly figured out what decolonization is for me, but the knot is there!


family history blog

Family History, collage. J Orr 2013.

Character Mechanics

I’ve been working out the puppet mechanics for the title character in the story Hans Dudledee, beginning with modeling his hip and knee joints in clay. hans leg model 02Young Hans is an unlikely hero whose humility and kindness win the day. He sits down at the shore to fish at key moments in the story, and so his body must be designed with this in mind. I see Hans plunking himself down directly to the ground, dropping easily into a splayed-knee position. Today I made it to the basic mechanics of the posture; my next step will be to add refinements to the shapes of the joints in a firmer material. With luck we’ll end up with a puppet that moves as only Hans Dudledee could! hans leg model 01