It's easy to put together a show featuring the onstage demise of well-known characters from the Bard.
But the Old Trout Puppet Workshop goes a step further with Famous Puppet Death Scenes.
Don't smirk. The respected Calgary-based collective troupe's show sprang from its production of Pinocchio, says collective member Judd Palmer.
"In the original story, far more brutal than the Disney version, Pinocchio kills the cricket in the first 10 minutes. We decided to make the death realistic. It starts with a shock and then is funny because it's so awful.
"Staging that, our favourite moment in the show, we saw how powerful a puppet death scene can be."
The company's collected over 20 episodes from "long-lost" shows, linked by a narrator who's "travelled the world and found them in mouldering crates or in the still-clutching fingers of dead puppet masters."
Okay, so the show is kinda tongue-in-cheek, but it's bound to be theatrical. An early Old Trout show we saw, The Unlikely Birth Of Istvan , had a number of bloodthirsty moments.
The current piece, admits Palmer, returns to the "devil-may-care creativity" of Istvan, with puppets ranging from marionettes to characters devised from found objects.
Why does puppetry fascinate Palmer? Turned on by the work of Ronnie Burkett, he moved from wanting to be an illustrator to wanting to be a puppeteer.
"I realized you could have the same megalomaniacal control over an aesthetic environment in the latter, but you could also make your creations move. With puppetry, you cover all the art forms. You're not trapped merely in what a pencil can do on paper or the action of a finger on a guitar string.
"I acknowledge, though, that working with puppets can make you scatterbrained, schizophrenic and prone to bursts of nonsense."
To prove his point, Palmer mentions a scene from Bipsy And Mumu Go To The Zoo, which he likens to a brutal 70s black-and-white German television show, and the climax of The Ballad Of Edward Grue, a Black Forest fairy tale set in a cupboard.
"You have to construct the unseen bits of the story from a single image, something the TV generation will understand. We've played with finding that fine line of how much you can subtract from a scene and still have its emotions make sense."
Touring the Fringe
Lots of Fringe applicants hope to tour the Canadian circuit, and the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) helps make that dream come true.
CAFF is again sponsoring an application process for companies who've previously participated in a member festival and would like to travel to a minimum of five fests in 2008.
A special lottery draw ? separate from individual Fringe lotteries ? will choose 10 companies (five Canadian, five international) to participate. Those selected will automatically be confirmed in all the festivals they picked.
Be sure to read the application criteria at www.fringetoronto.com or www.fringefestivals.com, where you'll also find the application form. It's a good idea to check out the website of each festival you're interested in playing for individual policies and procedures. Application deadline is October 31 at 5 pm, EST; selected troupes will be notified November 12.
Any questions? Call the Toronto Fringe at 416-966-1062.
Preparing for its annual New Ideas Festival next March, the Alumnae Theatre has put out a call for directors to helm the short fest's works.
Candidates must not be members of Actors Equity or ACTRA. They must be prepared to develop a script through the festival's collaborative and dramaturgical process. The focus is on script development, not production values.
There's a directors' meet-and-greet on October 27 at 7 pm, at the Alumnae (70 Berkeley). Bring a copy of your resumé. To attend, send a letter of intent by October 25 to email@example.com . For more info, see www.alumnaetheatre.com.