I’ve heard good things about Old Trout Puppet Workshop of Calgary for a while. I’ve seen them mentioned in the credits for other people’s shows – for the rabbit puppets in Chris Craddock’s Velveteen Rabbit for sure. So I was excited to see one of their shows listed in the 2014-2015 Theatre Network season.
Theatre Network’s home, the Roxy Theatre on 124 Street, burned down just over three weeks ago. The show in production there at the time, Human Loser Theatre’s Cheerleader, was able to have a staged reading in another venue almost immediately, and other shows and events are being relocated to take place on the original schedules. This one is in an auditorium at Eastglen High School called Majestic Theatre, an attractive functional space with rounded wooden seats on a slightly raked floor. The high school is near Rexall Place and the Highlands neighbourhood. It is easy to get to by car and easy to park (except for the opening-night snowstorm). When I arrived at the property of the large brick school building, trying to figure out how to get to the theatre from where I’d parked, it reminded me of my first trips to see Fringe shows at Strathcona Composite School, only with snow. (The theatre is right by the front door of the school which faces 68 Street.)
Bradley Moss, Artistic Director of Theatre Network, spoke briefly before the performance about the support that Theatre Network has been receiving from the public, arts and government groups, and other theatres. Everything seems to be coming into place for the short term (the rest of the season will be in the new Backstage Theatre at the Arts Barns, with the Varscona team delaying their own renovations to allow for this), and they hope to rebuild at their 124 Street location. Online donations through Canada Helps are convenient.
Anyway, the show. When my companion asked me afterwards what I thought of it, I said that they were skillful, funny, and warped. Lots of deaths, of various manner and means. An encyclopedic collection of kinds of puppets and puppetry, at various scales. Separate short vignettes with a couple of reappearing characters. I laughed, winced, felt pity, and often got caught up in the realities of the puppets. I did not get to see the puppets up close because we sat farther back, but they seemed like beautiful detailed evocative artifacts. (I suggest sitting closer if possible.) Famous Puppet Death Scenes runs about an hour and a half without intermission. It is playing until February 22nd as originally scheduled, and you can get tickets through Tix on the Square.