Felicity Falls…live streaming

On March 30 we got an email from the National Arts Centre: we had been chosen to participate in their #CanadaPerforms program, offering us support for our live stream presentation of Felicity Falls. After the disappointment of having to postpone the opening of our new show, Hat Trick, having a lot of other bookings cancelled, and not knowing when we’ll be able to do live performances or workshops again, this was welcome news. Our live stream was scheduled for April 6. We had a week to get ready.

We knew the show. We’ve been performing Felicity Falls for years, since our own children were little. But doing the show for a camera instead of a live audience involved a lot of questions. Where should we set it up? What kind of camera? How can we manage to show the whole set in a wide shot and other scenes in closeup without anyone to work the camera? And would the joy and humour of the live presentations work on video?

We decided to set up a studio in our basement. Our basement is a busy place. A lot of props, toys, fabric, tools and other supplies are stored there. Things don’t always get put away when we are busy planning a new show. Luckily, we had spent the first few “social distancing” weeks organizing things. It still looks pretty crowded, but at least we now know where everything is. And there’s now some floor space—room for a pared down version of the Felicity Falls set at one end of Kathy’s side of the basement, and for lights, camera, computer, monitor and recorder at the other end. And in between, we set up a stool that we could sit on, just the right height for head and shoulder shots (which we use for narrations and short one or two puppet scenes), and a step ladder closer to the camera for extreme close-ups (when we want to zoom into the Rabbits’ tiny kitchen).

Thanks to a grant from the City of Ottawa, we had recently acquired new video equipment. In the picture you can see our camera (a Sony A6500) and our new monitor/recorder. (It’s a Atomos Ninja V, since you asked!)

We spent a few hours every day in our new studio. We had to figure out how each scene would be seen on camera. We had to change our blocking. We made new plans for where we would stand, and how we would hold the puppets. This meant that the puppets and props had to be in different places, so that they were easy to pick up and keep track of in their new places.

When the big day arrived, we were a little nervous. But friendly comments and names started to trickle in. People were watching! More than 200 people watched the live stream, and since then, there have been so many views, likes, loves and comments that we felt that we actually did connect with people. It was fun. 

We still miss those smiling faces, but we enjoyed learning about this new medium. It was another chance for us to work—and play —together. And in this Brave New World (to quote our friend William Shakespeare), who knows what opportunities this might lead to?

We are very grateful to #CanadaPerforms, Facebook, Slaight Music, RBC and the National Arts Centre for their support of this event.

At home…

An interview with Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre 
by Karen Scott-Gagne, reposted from Shenkman Arts Centre’s Facebook page.

Everybody’s staying at home these days, even the family of puppets at Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre Company. We’ve checked in to see how they are doing.

Don’t miss the (free) live streaming of Felicity Falls on Monday, April 6 at 11 am.

What are the puppets doing to keep busy while they’re home?

The puppets are getting used to staying at home and it helps that they have been very busy. Several of them have roles in Felicity Falls so they have been practicing regularly. And because they have had to cancel their in-person performances, they have been building a new set so they can live stream their show from home. Mostly Kathy and John have been using the hammers and other tools, but the puppets get to help with organizing things.

Do the puppets have anything they’d like to say to their friends in other houses?

Yes! The puppets have really been enjoying hearing from all of you through their Facebook page. They want to thank you for your messages.

It can get a little lonely not being with their friends from the schools, and the families who normally go to see their live, in-person shows. They especially miss your reactions, like your laughter and applause. That kind of feedback means the world to a puppet!

Tell us a little about Felicity Falls, the show that you will be live streaming on Monday.

The show is about a community of animals living right here in the Ottawa Valley in a village called Felicity Falls. Like all families, they’re each in their own homes, and like all families these animals have a few small problems, like when Little Girl Rabbit loses her brother’s teddy bear and he finds it difficult to get to sleep without it.

When the roofs start leaking in their houses, they all go to Rabbit’s kitchen, because it doesn’t have any holes in the roof. Now all of the animals are squeezed into one small space. Imagine standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a porcupine! That’s very prickly problem.

We don’t want to spoil the show for you though, so be sure to watch us live on Monday for the whole story.

What’s the best thing about Felicity Falls?

Joy! Felicity means happiness, which is what these friends find in each other. Joyfulness is one of the most important feelings. The show reminds us that even though we all have little problems from time to time, everything turns out okay. Like sunshine after a storm, there is always joy after a challenge.

You had two shows scheduled at Shenkman Arts Centre before we all had to stay home. Will we get to see them?

Yes, you will! Hat Trick and Enchanté are both new shows that were to debut at the Shenkman Arts Centre this spring. The puppets were disappointed because the shows had to be postponed until the fall or winter. But just like in Felicity Falls, they remain joyful, knowing they will see their friends again. We will let you know the new dates soon.

How do we watch the live stream of Felicity Falls?

Visit our Facebook page for the live streaming of Felicity Falls on Monday, April 6 at 11:00 am.

What if we want to buy tickets to your future shows?

Normally we sell tickets from our website, but that’s on hold until we can see each other again. If you would like to give a gift to a friend so they can see a Rag & Bone show in the future, gift certificates are available on our website.

Hat Trick!

Smiling girl with hat

Dance Delights at The School of Dance

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.

We’d love to see you there!

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