Old Trout Puppet Workshop: The Puppet Story Continues

Last month we started talking about puppets in relation to the family show The Man Who Planted Trees (February 8). We’ll continue our exploration into the wonderful world of puppetry this month with a closer look at Old Trout Puppet Workshop’s latest show Ignorance, coming to The Centre in March.  This is one puppet show you probably want to leave the kids at home for.  The existential themes of how and why we are on this planet are perhaps better pondered over a nice glass of wine than a juice box but of course that’s somewhat a matter of taste.
In the January story, we looked at how since their inception, puppets have been used as agents for social change, encouraging intellectual interaction and the Old Trout puppets certainly hold up to the concept of interaction.  In fact, Old Trout Puppet Workshop founders took the theme of audience participation one step further than it had gone before.  Taking advantage of the ultimate interconnectivity of the World Wide Web, the team developed a concept they called “open creation”.  Open creation means simply that anyone with internet access and an interest was given the opportunity to participate in the story development before the play was ever performed for a live audience.
Something else that sets Old Trout Puppet Workshop apart is the puppets and sets themselves which are quite distinct.  Fast Forward Magazine, Calgary (Old Trout’s hometown) says, “Someday very soon there will be a style of puppetry that will come to be known as ‘Old Trout-like’ – it’s just too good not to be imitated.”
Judd Palmer, one of the Trouts says that the company tries to have a new puppet concept for every show.  In the case of Ignorance she explained, “We were inspired by a strange old book on puppetry, which made the perhaps dubious claim that some of those Venus of Willendorf-style fertility Goddess statuettes – commonly found in prehistoric sites around Europe – actually have hinged joints.  In other words, they’re not statues, they’re puppets.  This means that the very first human artistic expression was puppetry. Palmer continued “So we decided to build the puppets to look like they had been built by cave people, and to make part of the show feel like a prehistoric puppet show.”
Here are photos of the puppets in progress.  As you may be able to tell, they’re built from sticks and bits of bone, hide and what looks like rocks but is in fact expanding foam cut and painted to look like stone, without the weight.
You can also get a little taste of the show from the two views of the set maquette below.  A central fire pit is surrounded by an abstract shape, reminiscent of an enormous skeleton, or a cave, or a primeval forest.  The shape is derived from a pair of antlers.  Images and animation will be projected onto the surface stretched across the back of the structure.
If you don’t know by now, I suspect by now you must be wondering what this play is really all about.
In a nutshell, Ignorance is the original story of our fall from grace.  It explores how we were once the proper inhabitants of paradise, and now are lost.  Intercut with the primal tale of woe are scenes from the world of Facebook and traffic jams, succinctly illustrating our own trajectory towards or away from paradise.
If you have ever pondered the age old question, is ignorance truly bliss, you’ll want to hear what the Old Trouts (with input from hundreds of anonymous online contributors) have to say, when Ignorance comes to the Studio Theatre for 3 performances March 20 – 22, 2014.  So please, leave the kiddies at home and come out for some good ol’ grown up entertainment – puppet style.

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