IT’S THE SEASON OF THE PUPPET AT MTYP
And our Head of Properties is loving it.
MTYP’s Janelle Regalbuto brings a diversity of skills to her job. She is an accomplished costume designer, painter, sculptor and designer. Born in Edmonton, this is Janelle’s second season at MTYP and we asked her to tell us about her job.
You recently said this is the year of the puppet at MTYP. Why?
It’s the year of puppets at MTYP because all but two of our seven shows this season feature puppets. We have some classic old friends return to the stage to delight young and old in Comet in Moominland and The House at Pooh Corner. We are also welcoming puppets from visiting theatre shows; The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. And we will be creating brand new puppets for our production of Torn Through Time.
Tell us more about the puppets in The House at Pooh Corner. I know that some of the manipulation is difficult for the actors. Why is it so complicated?
The puppets in The House at Pooh Corner were designed and built by local puppet designer/maker/puppeteer Shawn Kettner in collaboration with William Chesney. Shawn has a long history in Winnipeg’s theatre community and she is absolutely the go to person for puppets here. The puppets in Pooh are built like stuffies, much in the same sense that Milne’s characters were inspired by his son’s stuffed animal toys. The puppets are manipulated with mostly handles, the odd rod and some magic tricks. The puppeteers are able to make movements and gestures through them by the simple way they hold and handle the characters and move their bodies. They achieve the subtleties of character by head articulation and their gait. On the first day of rehearsal, the actors were instructed to “act through the puppet”, a combination of the character’s voice and the puppet’s movements that help define them.
What would surprise audiences the most about what your job entails?
I’m guessing most people would be surprised that the world of props is much more than hand props as would first come to one’s mind. It really encompasses anything that is not scenery, costume or electrical equipment. So furniture, appliances, food, set dressing like curtains, rugs and paintings, that’s all technically under the category of props.
What gives you the most joy in your job…and the most grief?
I get a lot of joy from my work. I think it is amazing and exciting to work in theatre productions where you can collaborate with other creative people to put something on stage. I get a kick out of seeing our shows with young audiences present. It is rewarding to witness their reactions and emotions to the production. I love having the chance to learn new skills and build things. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with and learn from Shawn Kettner this season. Also, I will be building puppets under the design of Robin Fisher for Torn Through Time, which is a first for me. There’s not much grief in my work thankfully. I do find it terribly annoying when I am shopping for something and can’t find it. I’m fairly resourceful and will obsess over finding the right thing….whatever it may be!