Puppets bring joy, supply a creative outlet, help diverse groups of people to better understand each other, promote diversity, exercise tolerance and provide a creative platform to express controversial and significant social issues.
Once upon a time, two little girls named Wendy and Pam crawled into their attic to create puppets from popsicle sticks and cardboard. Inspired by these childhood memories, Founding and Artistic Director, Wendy Passmore-Godfrey BFA, established W.P.Puppet Theatre Society as a charitable, not-for-profit society based in Calgary, Alberta in 1991.
With no permanent venue we are a touring theatre and our 2.5 full time equivalent staff and contractors work digitally and remotely. We present an average of 180 self-produced events per year for over 6000 audience members for over 60 independent clients, via two main areas of operations; performance and learning opportunities.
“The performance exceeded expectations. Such a simple design filled with imagination galore.” (Audience member)
Courage Journey is one of our core programs, supporting mental health and wellness. In Fall of 2018 we presented the workshop for teens – View from the Inside – at Springbank High School. The following impactful feedback is from their Guidance Counsellor.
In light of the social/emotional distress we are seeing in our adolescent population, the W.P. Puppet Theatre View from the Inside mask-making program offers a powerful medium to explore issues of concern for youth today. Rather than the talk-therapy intervention to exploring mental health concerns that is common in North American culture, this program offers an alternative, creative, and right-hemisphere based approach that helps students explore their identity, emotions, areas of challenge, and areas of strength.
The symbolism of the mask provides a safe container for students to deeply explore dimensions of themselves that they may otherwise not feel comfortable processing and/or sharing. Guiding students through this deeply meaningful process takes both skill and expertise, and I can say with confidence that Allan and Annie were able to effectively support students.
I was both pleasantly surprised and inspired to see so many of the students courageously embark on this process of self-discovery. The safety and comfort the students felt while creating their masks was evident; their enthusiasm each week to arrive promptly and begin work on their masks, as well as their willingness to share about their processing and art making demonstrate the whole-hearted investment these students made in this process.
At the end of this process, students not only shared how proud they were of their work, they also reflected on how enjoyable and meaningful the group process had been. Knowing the therapeutic benefit of engaging right-hemisphere processing in the healing process, I have long supported art-therapy interventions; however, I had not seen firsthand how adolescents would participate in the art therapy. It was a privilege to watch these students engage in the process, and I would thoroughly encourage this program to any student who would be willing to engage in this art therapy process.
We perform puppet shows for schools and communities across Western Canada and overseas. Our productions support our mandate to inspire, challenge, empower, support expression and encourage empathy and place originality and imagination a top criterion of our work. In Fall 2020 we plan to launch “Bakster and Bird” an original show about friendship.
With Canada Council funding we have just completed test performances of “Evolution of Moral Progress: Genus 394Wz”. This ambitious puppet-infused art installation uses textile arts, automata, video, original scores and movement to explore the human – animal interactions from primordial time to far into the future. It invites the youth and adult audience to question their relationship with the world they live in.
We present an annual average of 500 hours learning experiences through, in and about puppetry for children, adults and seniors in school residencies or providing professional development at various conferences. Our workshops inform our puppet productions keeping us up to date with our audience’s current world view.
Three years ago, we launched Puppet Pop Up which is either a free drop in, or subsidized monthly puppet making workshop for children and their families. We frequently partner with other organizations at events such Maker Festival, Chinese New Year celebrations or Comic Expo.
In 2015 we launched View from the Inside: Courage Journey, which is a puppetry-based workshop that encourages discussion about mental health and wellness. Through the creation, exhibition and performance/exhibition of a self-reflective mask-body puppet, participants develop community, foster resiliency and gain a voice for their stories. The program has had remarkable resonance. Over 300 people from youth in marginalized high-schools to seniors with Alzheimer’s have participated. Again, we have partnered with agencies such as Boys and Girls Club, Pathways to Housing, Alzheimer’s Society, Carya Chinese Seniors and others. A photographic exhibit of participant’s mask art is touring Alberta for two years through Alberta Foundation for the Arts TREX program.
Being part of Calgary’s cultural community is important to us and we are frequently involved in local projects such as co-presenting workshops at the Festival of Animated Objects, coaching actors in puppet manipulation for Avenue Q, or making puppets for The Calgary Philharmonic or Children’s Hospital.
Martin Robinson, Sesame International, says, “If you can make a difference in the world – how can you not do it?” In 2001 W.P. Puppet Theatre Society, wanting to expand our performance and education practice, took up this very challenge and, as a result, launched Puppet Power conference. Puppet Power is a biennial “Festival of Ideas” exploring the power of puppetry to impact positive social change. Master puppeteers from around the world present inspiring talks and practical how-to workshops. Panelists discuss intriguing ideas; peers mentor peers and a community is created that calls for action on a different social issue theme each year. Accessible to the beginner and the professional, this Applied Puppetry conference is relevant to teachers, therapists, artists, activists, students and idea generators alike.
Mental health. It’s become a buzz word lately. We know it’s important, and yet somehow it often seems elusive. How do you access it, assess it, change it? How is your mental health? How do you know?
View From the Inside: Courage Journey (VIEW) is a puppetry-based workshop that encourages discussion about mental wellness. Through the creation, exhibition and performance of a self-reflective mask-body puppet, participants develop community, foster resiliency and gain a voice for their stories.
VIEW is a series of eight workshops for 10-20 participants. Workshops can be tailored for any group—seniors with dementia, youth new to Canada, people experiencing homelessness or domestic violence, and foster children are some of those who have recently participated and benefited.
Participants in VIEW work through a process of self-reflection and growth, using the creation of their mask to develop a sense of themselves, who they are and who they want to be. They become friends, often developing extremely close bonds and coming to rely on each other in ways that far outlast the VIEW sessions.
View from the Inside: Courage Journey demonstrates that puppets have a special power as metaphors and proxies, and stories have a power transcending time & culture. It’s also clear that the creative process can help diverse groups of people to better understand each other, promote diversity, inclusion and provide a platform to express significant social issues. And this is healing through the arts manifested.
We Need Your Help
Each session of VIEW is 100% funded by donations, sponsorships, and grants. Supplies and the time of professional art facilitators are essential to the success of each workshop, creating the environment for successful engagement.
One 8-week session costs $5,000, and every donation or sponsorship commitment to VIEW contributes to these costs. Your support will create opportunities for people to experience improved mental health and community connection by taking part in VIEW without barrier. WPPT has a long list of groups who would like to take part in View, but can’t afford to pay for it. Your support will make this possible.
Sponsorship opportunities, including various marketing opportunities, exist.
Some of these are outlined below:
$1,000 Sponsor Benefits:
• Your logo on VIEW print materials
• Recognition in at least two social media posts on our channels
• 2 Tickets to Sunday June 9th evening Marquis Film screening at the Third ACTion Film Festival including the weekend’s VIEW mask slide show
• Complimentary registration or invitation to pop into View from the Inside workshops at Third ACTion Film Festival June 8-9 2019.
$2,500 Sponsor Benefits:
• All of the above plus:
• Invitation to attend a VIEW program screening and art exhibition
$5,000 Naming Sponsor Benefits:
• All of the above plus:
• A specific story about your support and the difference it makes, shared on your channels and ours
• Naming one VIEW session (View from the Inside Presented by YOU), where it will be shared across social media and on our website
$10,000 Premier Sponsorship:
• All of the above plus:
• Naming two VIEW sessions (View from the Inside Presented by YOU), where it will be shared across social media and on our website
“The idea was special and unique… it was the first time I enjoyed art, like that I can hide secrets… Everything was special, the whole thing. It made you accept yourself, all sides… love yourself.”
—Syrian Refugee Youth