(This is the second of a 4-part series of blog posts following Studio Babette Puppet Theatre's travels to three different WWI Commemorations in three different cities, to perform their WWI play with puppets, From Ruthven to Passchendaele)
by Kerry Corrigan
When you are a travelling puppet troupe, you learn very quickly that the ability to adapt to your venue is crucial. We have many different kinds of shows, and some of them don't require much space. But our two historical plays, From Ruthven to Passchendaele and Young Sophia: the Dundurn Castle Diary, are full scale productions with lights, sound effects and music, and a set that we assemble on the spot, made of PVC-type tubing hung with blacks. We need room to perform and sometimes it's a squeeze!
We had received images and dimensions for our gig last weekend in Southampton at the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre, so we knew we were in for a tight fit with our one hour play which includes a table out front, back projection and 13 rod puppets. The Museum theatre has lights and sound, run from a booth, so we didn't need to bring all of our own tech equipment, (which is considerable and wouldn't have fit anyways), but it meant we'd have to learn their system, focus the lights and set new sound levels.
There is always a little anxious anticipation when you head out to perform at a new (for you) venue. Add the fact that it's 2.5 hours away, and if you forget anything you are SOL, and the nerves factor increases.
Well, we couldn't have been happier with the facilities and our reception in Bruce County. We were offered help with our move-in and tech set up by Chris, an actor, techie and theatre graduate who was very responsive to our needs. The theatre itself was a little gem, a tiny stage with stairs either side (more on THOSE later) but a lovely raked seating area with great sight lines and acoustics.
After setting up on Friday, we had a lovely dinner in town and then headed to our hotel for pool frolicking and Blue Jays. We awoke refreshed and ready to perform, knowing everything was set to go at the Museum. Upon arrival, we saw the other exhibitors readying for the day long event at the Museum, The Great War Commemorated: A Family Event. What fun it was to look at so many interesting displays and chat with the exhibitors. As well, the Museum's vast permanent collection spread over two floors really gives you a feel for life on the shores of Lake Huron over many generations.
We had small but appreciative audiences for our shows, and there were even a few tears at the end. The most exciting part was when I fell down those stairs while making an entrance for a scene . . . there was a huge gasp in the audience as I tumbled to the floor carrying the boat bringing Violet and her daughter Peggy to England. Luckily I recovered just fine and was even able to open the next scene with an appropriate ad-lib, as my puppet Peggy straightened her hat and commented on the “rocky crossing”. The audience laughed, as it signalled I wasn't injured, and the play carried on! It was a successful visit all round and we sincerely hope we get invited back.
We'll have no such trepidation when we set out to Cayuga on Saturday, to set up for Sunday's performance at Ruthven Park National Historic Site in the Coach House. This is where the play originated and we've performed here many, many times, for students and the public. We are also hoping to run into some of the same WWI exhibitors from last weekend.
Ruthven Remembers: Commemorating the Great War
Sunday October 25; 2 pm
243 Haldimand Hwy. #54, Cayuga
It's such a lovely drive to Cayuga, please think about coming. Or plan to see our last two shows on the tour:
Hamilton Goes to War – A Day of Commemoration
Saturday November 7; 1pm & 3pm
Dundurn National Historic Site
Hamilton Military Museum
610 York Boulevard, Hamilton
All for now,