January 29, 2020
Randi Edmundson is a Vancouver-based performer, puppeteer, and theatre maker with a special interest in theatre for young audiences and community-engaged theatre practice. She’s our 2019/2020 Artist in Residence and spent the first weeks of 2020 at the Banff Puppet Theatre Intensive. Read on for a day in her life..
Randi’s position is made possible through an Early Career Development Grant from the BC Arts Council.
7:30 am: I wake up in the lovely lodgings at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Good morning to my roommate, who is on two-month residency composing music for the fiddle!
8:30 am: I walk through -20 degree weather to Vistas for the incredible breakfast buffet and the even better view of the Rocky Mountains. Eggs, toast, fruit, and lots and lots of coffee.
9:30 am: We begin with group yoga and a head to toe physical warm up, led by Pete Balkwill of The Old Trout Puppet Workshop. It feels amazing to move and breathe in our ensemble of 30 people. As the days wear on, we barely have to look at one another to intuitively keep up with the flow.
10:00 am: Socks and water! It’s time for Pete’s “Suzuki-esque” training. We spend the morning practicing walks and movement exercises inspired by the way Japanese theatre director Tadashi Suzuki trained his performers. It helps us build a relationship to our bodies, trust our impulses, hone our imaginations, and connect with one another without words.
10:30 am: It hurts to march in a squat this long.
10:35 am: It really hurts.
10:40 am: Ouch.
11:00 am: We begin to introduce objects into our Suzuki-esque work, focusing on developing a connection to a physical object while maintaining our intangible connection to one another. Can we move our objects in the exact same way at the exact same time without an external signal? Maybe next time.
12:00 pm: Lunchtime! Back to Vistas with all my new collaborators for delicious lunch. Gotta grab that dessert on the way in. Hmm maybe two desserts.
1:15 pm: We’ve been talking puppets at lunch way too long! We hurry off to our next session, bundled up against the Alberta chill.
1:30 pm: Back in the studio for Articulation Lab led by Clea Minaker, an incredibly skilled puppeteer and puppet instructor from Montreal. Through her gentle and deceivingly simple exercises, we explore the four fundamental components of puppetry: breath, focus, manipulation, and fixed point. Many of her exercises stem from the work she did with one of her teachers, Claire Heggen, and have an inspiring spirit of curiosity.
3:00 pm: Time to work with Pete again. He leads us through another full body warm up focused on isolation, tension, and release to prepare us for mask work. Using stunning neutral masks designed by Frank Rader, we explore building tension and creating story without the use of words. Later on during the intensive, we start using this afternoon block to create short puppetry compositions in small groups of 5 or 6, preparing for a presentation on our final day.
5:30 pm: With rumbling tummies, we head back to Vistas for dinner. We’re completely exhausted, but it’s not over yet. Maybe a little coffee will help?
7:00 pm: Time for Open Studio with our incomparable instructor Juanita Dawn of Alberta’s Long Grass Studio and her fantastic assistant Monica Ila. Juanita leads us through building a basic tabletop puppet, from sculpting and casting a head in a two-part plaster mold to crafting tiny hands and assembling a body using marionette-style joints. It gets messy but it is worth it.
9:00 pm: It’s still not time for bed! An important ritual closing off each day is Appreciations. We circle up and everyone has a chance to appreciate specific moments during the day – a wonderful way to reflect.
9:30 pm: We could go to bed… but we’re so inspired by one another and the work that we just can’t sleep! Most nights we stay in the studio until 10… 10:30… even midnight. Sometimes we even play a little late night four square – yes, the game you might recall from elementary school. It’s great for honing those puppetry reflexes.
11:00 pm: I’ve managed to get to bed at a reasonable hour, covered in paint and plaster, sore from Suzuki work, and full to the brim with inspiration. See you tomorrow, puppet people!
(photos by Will Zarwell)