Every year for the past 20 years (or so), we have spent two weeks at The School of Dance, teaching drama for the Dance Delights Integrated Arts program. We wrapped up the latest of these adventures on Friday August 16 with a performance for friends and family of Hat Trick, three stories with the word hat in the title.
What’s it like spending every day with more than forty kids? Amazing! Being with them—getting to know each other, playing together, working together, and learning from each other—is fun. It’s important for artists, especially artists who create work for young people, to stay in touch with their inner children. We have to remember what being a kid was like. We need to know what today’s kids are thinking and feeling. But the biggest thing we adults need to learn from children is to laugh and have fun more often.
The stories included two from Jon Klassen: This is Not My Hat, and We Found a Hat. We absolutely love these picture books. We also love the third one in his trilogy, I Want My Hat Back, but for this project we wanted something a bit longer for the older groups, so we chose Madeline and the Bad Hat for the third story. We wondered how the young people would react to the antics that the young boy in the story gets up to—like making a guillotine to chop the heads off chickens—but the group did a great job of bringing this crazy story to life with humour, empathy and lots of energy!
The School of Dance is a magical place for creative work. We have so much respect and admiration for Merrilee Hodgins and her fabulous team: Kiyoko Makimura, ballet teacher, Lisa Brooks, contemporary dance teacher, Erin Robertson, visual artist, and all the other artists and teachers in the building. TSOD is a place where kids are taught to be supportive, inclusive and friendly while working hard to high professional standards. It’s an inspiration.
And we are thrilled that our partnership with TSOD now extends year-round, with performances of our own work in Studio 1 throughout the year. This year, we will present four different stories: The Wind in the Willows, on Saturday October 19, The Last Polar Bears on Saturday Jan 25, Hat Trick on Wednesday March 18, and The Tempest on Saturday, June 6. All shows are at 1:30 pm. More info on our season here.
Another Summer Shakespeare Camp has come to an end, with terrific performances of another fabulous play! On July 25 and 26, 16 young people, led by Rosemary Nolan, Audrey Mayo and David daCosta, gave us a wonderful version of As You Like It. Proud parents in the audiences laughed, cried, cheered, and took lots of pictures. Then actors and parents followed up with some reviews of the camp!
Hi Rosemary… You do not know me, but I had the pleasure of meeting you briefly on Thursday afternoon during the dress rehearsal of your Shakespeare Performance….
I am Will’s uncle. I have heard so much about the camp and the plays over the past 3 years and this time I got to see it live.
I am a teacher in Burlington for almost 30 years and I must say that I was completely blown away by the calibre of this performance. I cannot even imagine how you are capable of pulling of such a polished performance in 3 short weeks… It completely blew my mind!! I was so impressed that I am telling everyone about it already. . You are so talented and I wanted you to know I know the work that goes into something like this. My nephew is so lucky to have worked with you and I was honestly in tears watching parts of this performance.
On top of it, I never been a fan of Shakespeare in my life. Your performance changed me. I was captivated, intrigued, on the edge of my seat and left me wanting more.. You made it real and alive. Thank you so much for all of your hard work. I also believe you are making a lifetime difference in the lives of these young people.. I could feel and sense it.
Enjoy the rest of your summer. —Sincerely, John Highley
My daughter had a wonderful time at Shakespeare camp. She was intimidated at first, and a bit daunted by the memorization, but she persevered and ended up having a great time. She made some new friends and enjoyed the teamwork, and learned that it’s worth it to keep trying. Such a confidence builder and the performances were amazingly polished given the short time they had to pull it together. I’m proud of my daughter and all the kids in the group, and really grateful to the camp directors for believing that kids between age 10 and 16 can learn difficult material and work together to make something lovely. Summer camps like this one are so valuable for exposing kids to new things and challenging them to find their inner resources. —Janice Schroeder, Associate Professor, Carleton University
and, from the campers:
Thank you for giving us an amazing time—Anousha
Thank you for all you do for us, as well as everything you put up with. Look forward to these three weeks all year—Naomi
This is honestly the best three weeks of my year. I’ve honestly learned so much and met so many friends. Thank you so much—Rowan
I have enjoyed the summer and every hour spent at Billings Estate and will always treasure these memories. Thanks for two wonderful years—Gabe
Thank you for giving us all such an amazing experience here. It’s been so special and I’ve learned so much and had so much fun—Adira
Thanks for organizing this. It’s been fun—Sarah
Best performance experience I’ve ever had—Benson
Thanks for a great first year—Neil
What an amazing camp—Hugo
Thanks for all your help and support—Will
Thank you so much! This was an amazing camp and I will definitely be back—Anna
Seriously, this camp has changed my life for the better in too many ways. I wouldn’t be able to fit them all here, even on this giant card. I hope I’ll be back. Love you all—Isabelle
Thank you for everything. My first year was amazing!!! And I am going to come back here next year.—Katia
Thank you for two great years of three great weeks of fun. I have learned a lot, Thank you for two great years of three great weeks of fun. I have learned a lot, eaten many scones and am very thankful—Lukas
So excited to see our family featured in the local “Neighbours of Chapel Hill” magazine! Here we are, from left to right: our son Harry, Me, John, our daughter, Rosemary, and our son-in-law, Billy Ballik, who is completing his PhD in Astrophysics at Queen’s University in Kingston. John and I are holding Ratty and Toad from The Wind in the Willows, the first show in our upcoming season of public shows.
No Strings Attached: Puppeteers celebrating four decades of love
By Matt Day
Inside Kathy MacLellan and John Nolan’s garage are 25 penguins, a family of
rabbits, and a wide array of woodland animals.
No, they don’t operate some sort of zoo out of their
Boyer Road home; for the past 40 years, the married couple has been building
and creating an arsenal of puppets for their acclaimed theatre company, Rag and
Bone Puppet Theatre. Kathy and John have put on thousands of shows,
entertaining children and audiences in schools, libraries, children's festivals
and theatres all across Canada.
These aren’t your average sock puppets, and the shows
are unlike anything you’d see on Sesame Street. Instead, these puppets are handcrafted inside
the couple’s home garage—Kathy takes care of the sewing of outfits
and creating the bodies while John sculpts the faces out of wood, clay or
fibreglass—before they’re used in original plays based off a
variety of short stories and children’s books, such as Zoom at Sea, a story about a fanciful cat who stays
indoors paddling in the sink or sailing in the bathtub.
“It’s really something special for the kids. The best part
of doing all of this is seeing their faces light up when we bring these
beautiful puppets to life,” Kathy says, adding their performances don’t drill a glaring theme to the audience,
rather they rely on highlighting the joys of life, dealing with feelings and
discovering the importance of friendships in a subtle way.
They’ve been described by the Ottawa Citizen as,
“the company that's known for delightful and
intelligent puppet shows for kids of all ages,” and continue to perform around 100 shows a
year, including frequent stints at Orléans’ own Shenkman Arts Centre.
Kathy has also written for many children's
TV shows, including Mr. Dressup, Under
the Umbrella Tree, and Theodore Tugboat while John appeared as
Jackson in YTV’s Crazy Quilt.
They share awards from the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists
and were honoured with a Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry from
UNIMA, the international puppetry association.
All of this wouldn’t have been possible if they had never
gotten involved with a group of gangsters on an Ottawa stage back in 1977.
“It was a play called Domino Courts and
I played the part of a wife of a gangster who was partners with (John’s) character. We had a lot of time off
stage together and things kind of snowballed from there,” Kathy says.
They discovered they shared a passion for a
form of puppetry called open manipulation where the puppeteers aren’t hidden behind a curtain and are on the
stage interacting with their puppets and the audience.
“We became closer and we began dreaming of
having out own theatre company. Now, here we are; we’ve created 18 different shows over the past
40 years,” Kathy gleams,
pointing out how she’s been working
with her best friend for the past four decades.
“I know it sounds corny, but it’s all been so great,” John says. “People ask us all the time, ‘How do you do it?’ I think we are both just really lucky.”
He said a lot of it has to do with feeding
off the wondrous attitude of children.
“Even if we’ve had a disagreement, the minute we get on
stage all is forgotten thanks to all the smiling and laughing. It’s a natural pick-me-up.”
Kathy and John got married in 1980 and
after six years of touring—not to mention two bicycle treks across Europe—their daughter Rosemary was born. The small
family moved to Chapel Hill in 1990 and two years later, they had their son,
Rosemary is now a teacher in Kingston and
Harry works for the Treasury Board, but both have lent and continue to lend a
helping hand in the success of Rag and Bone, from acting on stage to putting on
summer camps and helping sell tickets.
“From a young age, they’ve been backstage. Rosemary has been
coast-to-coast with us before she was six months old and we’ve toured the north with both kids,” Kathy says.
When they aren’t performing for live audiences, they like
to unwind in different ways. Kathy enjoys knitting, sewing and frequents the
Orléans branch of the Ottawa Public Library
where she often gets inspired to write new scripts.
John is an avid cyclist, hitting the road
or trails around Chapel Hill almost every day.
“It’s my time. I’m an early riser, so I’ll get up before 6 a.m., even in the
winter. It keeps me active and I just thoroughly enjoy being out there,” he says.
He fondly remembers the two-wheeled tour of
Europe he and Kathy did before the kids came along.
“We had no money, sometimes having to choose
between a croissant in the morning or a coffee at lunch, yet it was the
greatest time. Getting around was so easy back then and their transportation
infrastructure was light years ahead of ours, even at that time,” he says, adding his favourite part of the
trip was touring the Loire Valley in southern France.
They both agree Chapel Hill has been an
outstanding place to set up shop and raise a family all at the same time.
“It’s such a safe neighbourhood and the school our kids
went to, St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic, is right by our house,” Kathy says. “I love the little park that’s just west of us with the tiny forest, I
have the library a five minute walk the other way, and just down Orléans Boulevard I can do all my shopping.”
She says her street has seen some changes
over the years as lots with a lot of land are severed to accommodate more
housing and existing homes are renovated, but that the neighbourhood is as
friendly as ever.
“We still love being here. All our close
friends are people our kids went to school with and it’s such a friendly, nice neighbourhood, we’re constantly saying hello to people.”