Odd-Lot Puppetry debuts Albert’s Afraid on Halloween
Local puppeteer creates his first blacklight puppet show
By: Amy Crofts
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 06:00 am
Facing your fears is the basic tenet behind Odd-Lot Puppetry’s premier performance, Albert’s Afraid, at the Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre/Cosmopolitan Music Society on Halloween night.
The blacklight puppet show follows the story of Albert the bat and his quest to find his baby sister Ava, who has just learned how to fly and gets lost in a nearby graveyard. The problem is, Albert is afraid of ... well, everything!
With the help of delightfully spooky characters – ghosts, a werewolf, a screaming banshee that has no friends and a skeleton who can’t keep himself together – Albert must conquer his darkest fears in order to bring Ava home before his parents find out.
In their debut public performance as a puppet theatre company, writers Brendan James Boyd and Lisa Ruelling, with music and lyrics by Michael Gordon, will bring 67 handmade puppets to life.
“It’s an art form, it’s a craft, it’s as intricate as any dance performance,” said Boyd, a St. Albert resident who has dedicated years of his life to perfecting the art of puppetry, which has captivated him since primary school.
He explained that as a puppeteer he is inspired by Bunraku, a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre where there are at least three operators per puppet.
“You don’t realize with puppets, that yes you have actors, but you also have to build another set of actors,” he said of the dozens of handmade puppets made from wire, foam, fur and moulded from latex.
Many of the puppets in Albert’s Afraid are human-size, he said, and require two to four puppeteers to move them.
“They’re large, they have big arms and several of them have mechanisms built into them like bike brakes, levers and pulleys,” he said.
“It’s about bringing as much life to the figures as possible.”
Both Boyd and Ruelling are originally from Fort McMurray and graduates of Keyano College's theatre arts program. They founded the Odd-Lot Theatre Company in 2007.
Named for the many people that lend their hands – and in some case voices – to each production, Odd-Lot got their start performing private events as well as educational shows at the Oil Sands Discovery Centre in Fort McMurray.
In 2007 the theatre troupe won the best of festival award at the Interplay festival for their original puppet show Touch. In 2009, they debuted The Rocky Horror Show at the Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton.
This past summer, Odd-Lot came out with a new mandate to create at least three new puppet works per year that are affordable and accessible to the public, including a tour of schools and rural communities.
“We haven’t had a project or the nerve to strike out on our own to produce a puppet production for the public here in Edmonton yet,” said Boyd.
“We’ve gotten to the point with the skill with our puppets … that sort of made us want to reach out and try doing it on our own on a bigger public level.”
The theatre company has also launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund $2,100 by Nov. 2 to cover the costs of a temporary workspace and to eventually find a permanent one in the Edmonton area.
Aside from Albert’s Afraid, which is the troupe’s largest and most complex production to date, Odd-Lot has unveiled a series of new projects including the still untitled Christmas show, Squirm, the adult puppet show Touch, and the new comedy web series Rear Entry.
“(Puppetry) it’s a great form of education, a great form of entertainment and it inspires and encourages imagination,” said Boyd.
The half-hour puppet show Albert’s Afraid will be playing at The Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre/Cosmopolitan Music Society at 8426 Gateway Boulevard in Edmonton on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at 7 p.m., with a double showing on Nov. 2 and 12 noon and 2 p.m.
Audience members will get a special trick-or-treat bag on opening night on Halloween. There will be strobe and fog effects used throughout the blacklight performance.
Tickets are $8, available through Tix on The Square at www.tixonthesquare.ca or at the door a half-hour prior to the performance.