Snippets of Drama

Here’s the outline of the drama workshop we’ve been conducting with children as part of Snippets:
“Drama is pretending, acting things out, using your imagination to show things to an audience.”

To get our bodies, our voices and our imaginations ready to go.

The children repeat this magic poem:
Ish ka bibble bobble boo
Close your eyes I’ll magic you
There is nothing you can’t do!

Now children open their eyes and magic themselves into trees—the tallest trees in Canada, stretching up to the sky, bending a little in the breeze and now shrinking—becoming smaller trees, then seeds, then porcupines, icebergs, etc.

Ish ka bibble bobble bee
I look down and I can see
Now I’m magicked back to me.

Soldier Doll or Rag doll
The whole body is stiff and tall and still like a soldier. Then one part at a time becomes like a rag doll: floppy head, one floppy arm, then the other arm, one floppy leg, then the other leg. Add sound effects—a resonant hum to head rotations, rotations from the waist, rotations from the hips.

Tongue twisters
Red leather, yellow leather.
Toy boat, toy boat.
Rubber baby buggy bumpers, etc.

Now our bodies and our voices are warmed up, let’s try some poems.
Say one line at a time, with actions. The children repeat each line and action. Then try saying the poem again, this time like a tiny mouse or a giant ogre.

I made myself a snowball as round as it could be
I thought, I’ll keep this as a pet and let it sleep with me
I sewed it some pyjamas and a pillow for its head
But late last night it ran away
And first it wet the bed.
(Shel Silverstein)

Nursery rhyme mimes
Brainstorm the titles of as many nursery rhymes the children can think of
Mime a nursery rhyme and let the children guess which one it was.

Now divide them into groups of three or four and let each group go off to plan how they can act out a nursery rhyme with no words but in a way that the rest of the group can guess which one they’re doing.

Each group acts their rhyme silently, and the rest of the group guesses what it was. Then the group repeats their mime, only this time, the rest of the class says the words.

When you make a machine in drama, every person in the group has to have an action and a sound that repeat. The people making the machine have to somehow be connected. We don’t show people using the machine, just the machine going on and on all by itself. No video games,TV’s or computers. It should be a normal machine that we’ve all heard of so that we can guess what it is: something at home, at school, at a construction site, etc.

We demonstrate a machine to the group. Then the groups go off and plan their machines. Popular machines are: a blender, a washing machine, a car wash, a vacuum cleaner, a sprinkler, a front-end loader, or a wrecking ball.

The groups presents their actions and. Then the rest guess, and the group repeats their machine now that everyone else knows what they’re doing.

The Little Red Hen
Kathy is the storyteller and John is the little red hen. The kids are the baby chicks, who say, “cheep cheep!” and they also play cats, ducks or pigs. Divide the children into three groups and tell them their lines:

Cats: Not us, we’re cleaning our fur.

Ducks: Not us, we’re splashing in the water.

Pigs: Not us, we’re rolling in the mud.

Narrator: Once upon a time, there was a little red hen who lived with her baby chicks, who said:

Baby Chicks: Cheep cheep

Narrator: One day, she was pecking in the barnyard and she found some grains of wheat. She decided to plant the wheat but she needed some help, so she asked the cats to help her.

Little Red Hen: Will you help me plant my wheat?

Narrator: And the cats said:

Cats: Not us, we’re cleaning our fur.

Narrator: And the ducks said:

Ducks: Not us, we’re splashing in the water

Narrator: And the pigs said:

Pigs: Not us, we’re rolling in the mud.

Little Red Hen: Fine, my baby chicks and I will do it ourselves.

Narrator: And the chicks said:

Baby Chicks: Cheep cheep

Narrator: (Encouraging everyone to do the actions) So the little chicks dug a hole in the ground, put the seeds in and covered them with earth. Then they watered them, and the grains of wheat grew and grew until they were tall and golden and swaying in the breeze.

Little Red Hen: Now it’s time to cut the wheat. Who will help me cut the wheat?

Narrator: And the cats said:

Cats: Not us, we’re cleaning our fur.

Narrator: And the ducks said:

Ducks: Not us, we’re splashing in the water

Narrator: And the pigs said:

Pigs: Not us, we’re rolling in the mud

Little Red Hen: Fine, my baby chicks and I will do it ourselves.

Narrator: And the chicks said:

Baby Chicks: Cheep cheep

Narrator: (With actions) So the little red hen and the baby chicks took a scythe, which is like a long sword, and they cut the wheat and bundled it up and took it to the miller and he ground it into flour. And when they had some flour, they could make bread.

Little Red Hen: Now it’s time to cut the wheat. Who will help me bake the bread?

Narrator: And the ducks said:

Ducks: Not us, we’re splashing in the water

Narrator: And the pigs said:

Pigs: Not us, we’re rolling in the mud.

Little Red Hen: Fine, my baby chicks and I will do it ourselves.

Narrator: And the chicks said:

Baby Chicks: Cheep cheep.

So they put the flour in the mixing bowl with milk and salt and yeast and a bit of sugar and mixed it in the mixing bowl. Then they took the mixture out and kneaded it (etc.) and put it in the oven to cook. And as it cooked it smelled delicious. Then it was done. They put on oven mitts and took it out of the oven and it smelled wonderful.

Little Red Hen: Now, who will help me eat the bread?

Cats: We will!

Ducks: We will!

Pigs: We will!

Little Red Hen: You wouldn’t help me plant the seeds, you wouldn’t help me cut the wheat, you wouldn’t help me make the bread, so now, my baby chicks and I are going to eat it all by ourselves.

Narrator: And the chicks said:

Baby Chicks: Cheep cheep.

Snippets of Canada

Rag & Bone is coming to a library near you with free family events!

Snippets of Canada 150 will be a series of readings and workshops, 24 events at 19 local libraries. Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre will invite special guests to read children’s books while John, Kathy and Russell animate the stories with snippets of puppetry, masks, music and drama. The selection of books will celebrate Canada – highlighting our history, animals, and people, including First Nations and newcomers, and the event will welcome lots of audience participation.

Guest readers will include MP Andrew Leslie, OPL Trustees, staff and volunteers, and professional artists John Koensgen, Kate Smith, David daCosta, Jacqui Du Toit and Brittany Johnston.

Times, dates, locations? Click here.

Register for the workshops here, and for the performances here.

For more information and the complete schedule, visit, or

Snippets of Canada 150 is part of AOE Arts Council’s Neighbourhood Arts 150, Celebrating Ottawa’s Communities, an official Canada 150 and Ontario 150 community-engaged arts project.

Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre has toured across Canada and the U.S. since 1978. Founders John Nolan and Kathy MacLellan are joined by musician Russell Levia in productions of exceptional creativity and value for young audiences. Over 40 performances annually in local public venues give area families an opportunity to feel inspired, creative and to spend quality time together.

Neighbourhood Arts 150 is bringing twelve of Ottawa’s most inspiring professional artists and arts groups together with neighbourhoods from all corners of Ottawa to celebrate their communities and express what it means to be Canadian. Ottawans can participate in free arts experiences, from April to October in over 20 communities outside the downtown core. Local youth, seniors, families, newcomers,

BIAs, community associations and more are taking part in artist-led activities including dance, theatre, art installations, sculptures, storytelling, puppetry, murals and more in non-traditional venues. 

Neighbourhood Arts 150 is supported by Funders: Government of Canada, Ontario 150; and Partners: Ottawa 2017, Community Foundation of Ottawa, Metroland Media, Trinity Development Foundation, the Danbe Foundation and Jewel 98.5 FM, and many community partners.

All are invited to share their Neighbourhood Arts 150 experiences by following and sharing on Facebook Twitter and Instagram: @150ArtsOttawa #150ArtsOttawa. Read artist blog posts, see project descriptions and community partners, and plan your arts experiences using the interactive calendar at

Snippets of Canada 150

So many books, so little time!

Canadian Books Galore!

We asked local librarians to recommend some Canadian picture books for our series of staged readings, Snippets of Canada 150. And boy, did we get some wonderful ideas – more than 50 books in all! We loved reading them, and had a hard time choosing which ones to include in our presentation. We wanted books that were funny, innovative, dramatic, not too long and, of course, Canadian. We also wanted to leave room in the presentation for songs, storytelling, and audience participation, so in the end, we couldn’t use them all. We hope our audiences will enjoy the ones we did chose, maybe borrow them from the library and read them again – and then “check out” some of the others!

Here’s the complete list of suggested authors, sorted by categories. Many authors have written several books, and they’re all available at the Ottawa Public Library!

Cute and funny books about animals
Nicholas Oldman, Jon Klassen, Melanie Watt, Jeremy Tankard, Catherine Rayner, Brenda Silsbe

First Nation stories
David Bouchard, Michael Kusugak, Susan Avingaq, Danielle Daniel, David Robertson, Rachel & Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley

Canadian scenery
Phyllis Root, Gary Paulsen, Per Henrik Gurth, Cora Taylor

Multicultural authors
Ruth Ohi, Rukhsana Khan, Aubrey Davis

Famous Canadian authors
Robert Munsch, Roch Carrier, Jean Little, Paulette Bougeois, Linda Bailey, Phoebe Gilman Barbara Reid Marie-Louise Gay

Other Canadian authors – less famous but no less interesting!
Lindsay Mattick, Ashley Spires, Annika Dunk Lee, Allan Morgan, François Tardif, Réjean, Edith Fowke

Librarians also had some music suggestions
Raffi, Sharon Lois & Bram, Carmen Campagne, Gordon Lightfoot, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Wade Hemsworth

And the books we chose? Well, here are four of our favourites:

Ernest, by Catherine Rayner
I Want my Hat Back, by Jon Klassen
A Promise is a Promise, by Michael Kusugak
Grumpy Bird, by Jeremy Tankard

We can hardly wait to share these readings at a library near you July 4–19, 2017!

Read all about Snippets of Canada 150 here. It’s part of AOE Arts Council’s Neighbourhood Arts 150.

Visiting School Choirs

Actual photo of actual children
Actual photo of actual children

Last week we dropped in on 13 school choirs – and in December we’ll visit 11 more!  Twenty-four different groups are joining us on stage at Centrepointe and Shenkman between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11. Click here for details.

Some are led by choir-director teachers with lots of experience and musical training, other have come together just for this project, but they all sang with such enthusiasm and joy that they thrilled us to bits.

We like to meet with the kids before the show to share the excitement, practice cues, and of course, answer questions:

Q: What if I forget to wear my choir clothes?

A: That’s okay, as long as you wear clothes.

Q: Can I invite my parents and grandparents and great-grand parents and great-great-grandparents?

A: Only if they’re all still alive.

Q: Is it okay if I bring my pet?

A:  NO!

Snippets of Paper

We thought people might like to see some of the some of the elements from our Snippets of Paper presentation.

Here’s Kathy telling a “fold and tell” story, The Gift:

And here’s how to fold a 16 page alphabet book out of a single sheet of paper:

If you’d like a template for the book, you can download on here.

A Dragon:
We made a paper dragon for the show, and you can make one too. Follow the pdf here.

Paper Dolls:
Of course, we couldn’t do a presentation about without some paper dolls. If you don’t know how to make them, there are instructions here.

We also showed a simple way to make a mask. It helps to have a template to position the eyes, and we have one here.

If you want to go deeper into masks, we have a booklet for you here.

Cut and tell:
Kathy learnt another “cut and tell” story here.




What is Snippets?

Careful with those scissors, kids!
Careful with those scissors, kids!

Snippets is our series of staged readings. Special guests read children’s books while we animate them with “snippets” of puppetry, drama, and music. Thanks to the Community Foundation of Ottawa, we’ve been presenting these events for free at The Irving Greenberg Centre, in partnership with GCTC, since the summer of 2014. Snippets has become so popular that we’re now able to present more than one performance of each one. In 2015, we received a grant from the ARTicipate Foundation to also repeat some of them at the Shenkman Art Centre.  In all, we’ve presented 11 readings, with the following guest artists:

Snippets of Mice and Moles, with GCTC director Eric Coates, August 2014

Snippets of Fairy Tales, with puppeteers Mat Kelly and Vic Thepmontry, September 2014

Snippets of Happy Families, with actors Nicole Milne and Chris Ralph, October 2014

Snippets of Snow, with OYPTS director Kathi Langston January 10, 2015 at GCTC

Snippets of Valentines and Velociraptors with actor Robert Bockstael, at GCTC, February 13 and 14, 2015

Snippets: Free as a Bird, with musician Russell Levia, September 12 at the SAC and September 19, 2015 at GCTC.

Snippets of Knights and Night-Time, with musician Ainsley McNeaney, October 9 and 10 2015, at GCTC and October 11, 2015 at the SAC

Why do we do Snippets?
The staged readings are a lot of fun for us. We love working with new people. We like trying out new books and stories, and sharing old favourites with new audiences. It’s great to be able to show the audience how important and fun it is for families to read books together. But Snippets is also great way for us to shake things up in our work for young people. Our own Rag & Bone shows can take two years from start to finish – writing the script, making the puppets and props, rehearsing with the music, and memorizing everything. We’re very proud of those shows, but sometimes it’s fun to throw something together in a week, and improvise. And it can be really fun to get people up from the audience to participate!

How do we find the books?
At the library, of course! Although some are our own books, or borrowed from friends. It’s usually one book that inspires the theme. The idea for Snippets of Paper came from a book about paper dolls. Then we searched the library website for books about books and paper. We thought of cutting out paper crafts, and folding paper. Our daughter, Rosemary Nolan, loves origami. And our friend Doreen Cowin, of the Child Care Provider’s Resource Network, suggested “Cut and Tell Stories”. Russell Levia, our guest, came up with songs that worked around the theme. And before we knew it, we had a show!

Where do we get all the puppets and props?
From our basement, mostly! We store all the props and puppets for our shows in our garage, but the basement is full of, well, other stuff. Puppets that people have given us. Toys from when our kids were young. Sewing supplies, woodworking supplies, costumes and hats. Also we love to find treasures at second hand stores wherever we travel. (Then we have to find a place for them in the basement . . . and remember where we put them!)

Upcoming Snippets
Snippets of Paper: 1:30 on January 10 at the SAC, and January 22 and 23 at GCTC with guest Russell Levia. Reserve your free tickets here.


Audience comments

Harry and Zoom
Harry and Zoom

Here are some comments from survey cards that people filled out after recent shows!

The Wind in the Willows —March 15, 2015

As much for adults as for children, I enjoyed seeing The Wind in the Willows a second time. (Mother of a 7-year-old fan)

We enjoyed it & loved the musical accompaniment.

Excellent show! We saw Felicity Falls as well. I loved the addition of the music for WitW. Thanks!

I love your shows – so creative and truly geared towards children in a time when all many kids see is animated shows. The live music is wonderful and I particularly like the singing.

I really like how you change your voice for each puppet. I would like to see more of the story like the train chase, Christmas at Mole’s and Toad’s escape from his room. It’s o.k. if the play gets longer. (Callie, age 7)

Wonderful performance. My first time. I love the props, beautiful materials. Music accompaniment is very effective. I had heard of your troupe and was happy to finally attend a performance.

Great puppets! Loved the story & the music. Loved it!

Perfect March Break activity.

The shows are always imaginative and highly entertaining for children and adults. The puppets and sets  are beautifully created and allow the audience to be immersed into the story. We eagerly anticipate more shows!

The Last Polar Bears—January 15, 2015

That was the best theatre play I’ve ever seen in Canada. Thank you so much!

I really enjoyed the show (Clara, 9)

Wonderful show! All the children were engaged the whole time!

Anna liked being dragged across the deck of the ship!

Always wonderful shows! Thank you.

We loved it. Thank you! It inspires children and adults to imagine.


More plays please. We love your plays.

Great show – as always!

The Nightingale—October 26, 2014

We love your shows. Thank you for making them financially accessible for families.

Nightingale was a wonderful story. We liked the music a lot.

I liked the nightingale’s song (Heidi, age 6).

It was good. I especially liked that it was funny. There was pretty music. It was a real story.

Excellent show! Great for children’s imagination.

This was the first play I took my daughters to (5 & 2 years). They loved it. Great experience. Thank you!


Snippets of Snow

Saturday January 10, 1:30 at GCTC – Free!
“Snippets” of puppetry, acting, masks, and music celebrate some of our favourite children’s books, read by special guest Kathi Langston. Actor, director, teacher and Artistic Director of OYP Theatre School, Kathi has studied and performed dance and drama in Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa. She has won many awards, including the Ontario Provincial Leading Women Award, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and Outstanding Female Performer at the 2014 Atlantic Fringe Festival.

Snippets, funded by the Community Foundation of Ottawa, will take place at the Irving Greenberg Centre (home of GCTC, the Great Canadian Theatre Company), 1233 Wellington St W, Ottawa, at the corner of Holland and Wellington in Westboro.
This staged reading is free, but you can reserve tickets online here.

Snippets: Happy Families

from the Victorian card game
from the Victorian card game

Our theme for the August Snippets is Happy Families.

Come and hear stories about families…all sorts of happy families. (No, not all happy families are the same, in spite of the Anna Karenina principle.)

Guests Chris Ralph and Nicole Milne will help us add snippets of puppetry, drama and music to staged readings of some hilarious books.

At GCTC on August 23 at 1:30. Admission is free. Reserve here.


a happy family
Kathy and the kids