Puppets Elora offers something for everyone, young and old

A lot more goes into a puppet show than meets the eye.

Whether one is an actor, artist, sound technician or technology guru, there’s something to get involved with at Puppets Elora.

The local troupe has been a fixture in the Elora arts community since 1995, travelling to schools, museums, festivals and libraries to entertain young and old with humourous plays based on familiar folk and fairy tales.

However, with only three permanent members remaining, the group is looking for new recruits.

Members Annarose Schmidt and Peter Scott say they are looking for five to eight people interested in trying a new hobby – and what they really need right now are new puppeteers.

Schmidt says the focus is on the physicality of the shows, with emphasis on action instead of dialogue, therefore their aspiring puppeteers undergo training sessions to become familiar with the mannerisms and movements of the puppets, which are surprisingly diverse and all together different from human gestures.

“We teach people how to manipulate the puppets, because a puppet show is a lot of choreography,” she said. “We teach people what to do with their voices. People are hidden behind a screen in most of our shows, so it’s very important.”

Because they typically perform fairy tales that most audience members are familiar with, this eliminates the need for large amounts of background information and explanations.

“We adapt traditional fairy tales because we find that the plots are very succinct,” Schmidt said. “When we adapt a script we basically go through and figure out what the message should be, and how it can best be carried out visually.”

Despite the sensory overload that accompanies most contemporary entertainment, Schmidt says the simple style of Puppets Elora still has the power to captivate children and hold their attention.

“Compared to other shows that I’ve seen, ours is very traditional. People pay attention for a longer time because they aren’t constantly interrupted, like other styles where you have a commercial or something really loud that interrupts people’s though patterns,” she said.

“You can’t be in a fairy tale world if you’re called back every few minutes.”

It also has the ability to convey strong messages to younger audiences without becoming overly preachy or moralizing. Scott says children easily pick up the ideas and often relay them back after a show.

“It is a little bit preachy, but when you put it in the guise of a puppet story, the kids enter into that story and follow along,” he says.

“You don’t need to preach, you don’t need to tell them afterwards what the message is because kids aren’t stupid, they understand.”

Schmidt says performances really affect children on an emotional level and they often recognize characteristics of themselves or their peers in the puppets, both good and bad.

“We have one show and the main character is a bully; it’s a girl and she’s rather nasty, but she learns a lesson because of friendship,” Schmidt says. “We played that to a school audience and one wee girl said, ‘that’s kind of like in our school, at first we didn’t really get along, but now we’re friends.’

“You really get to the heart and soul and core of these kids and not just the intellect by telling them what to do.”

For those hesitant about lending their voice to princesses and frogs, Schmidt and Scott say there are many other aspects of the show with which they need help – everything from puppet and prop construction to photography, website design, providing sound and lighting for shows, and marketing on social media.

“Puppets Elora is exciting, we just need some people to join and want to do things,” Schmidt says. “We have money, we have creativity, we have a basic set of tech stuff, we just need some folks who need a new hobby.”

Puppets Elora will be performing its show Stone Soup at the Wellington County Museum and Archives’ Harvest Home Festival on Sept. 21 at 1:30pm in the Exhibit Hall.

They will also be hosting a “Make and Play with Puppets” workshop for kids at the Elora Centre for the Arts on Sept. 27 and 28 from 2 to 4pm.

For more information or to book Puppets Elora for an event email bookings@puppetselora.ca or visit www.puppetselora.ca.