Courtesy Caitlind Brown

Theatre company turns trash into treasure

By Rachel Woodward, June 2 2016 —

The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” definitely applies to a local theatre company’s upcoming production. Mudfoot Theatre used discarded items found washed up in the Bow River to form the puppets used for their latest production.

Founded by Geneviève Paré and Ian McFarlane in 2010, the company showcases history through folklore, puppetry and “infusing magic and wonder back into Canadian history.”

Their fifth production, River: A Puppet Myth, will play from June 7–11 at the Joyce Doolittle Theatre.

“It is a story about the Bow River Valley, specifically the mythological, environmental and historical significance of it. We approach it in a somewhat absurd, playful and introspective way with our main vessel, which is puppets,” says McFarlane, who co-wrote the play. “These puppets are made out of found materials that were collected from the shores of the Bow River itself.”

The group hosted a community river clean-up to kick off the project. They also organized a workshop about using reclaimed materials to create puppets and other items for the 2016 Puppet Power Conference in Calgary.

McFarlane says Mudfoot Theatre made sure to include their signature “humble magic” in the production.

“When I say ‘humble magic’ I am referring to theatrical explorations into the grassroots exploration of puppetry and narrative,” McFarlane says. “Specifically, we have become quite focused around reclaimed materials and basing our explorations off of that.”

The play was originally conceived as a short presentation at the Calgary One-Act Theatre Festival last year.

McFarlane wanted to make this smaller idea more accessible. He says that River: A Puppet Myth is an important theatrical discussion about the Bow River’s history  and how we connect to our city’s landscape.

“I think our history, not only as a city but as a collection of cultures, has always been connected to landscapes, specifically the Canadian waterways. Our nation was founded with trading along these waterways, so we’ve always had a connection to it,” he says. “That connection hasn’t been forgotten.”

McFarlane hopes the performance educates on the history of the Bow River and the significance that nature holds in everyday life.

“I think the flood of 2013 reminded us that we are at the mercy of our landscapes. We are connected to it, we cannot separate ourselves from it,” he says. “This play is a love letter to our natural landscape and our natural waterways.”

Tickets for River: A Puppet Myth are $20. The show runs until June 11 at the Joyce Doolittle Theatre.

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