Looking Back: Puppet Power 2002-2013

Martin Robinson, Sesame International, says, “If you can make a difference in the world – how can you not do it?”

WP Puppet Power The Fearless Face of Puppetry 2013 on Sunday, Mar. 10, 2013. — Jenn Sieppert

In 2001 WP Puppet Theatre faced this very challenge and, as a result, launched PUPPET POWER.

PUPPET POWER is a conference series on Applied Puppetry – the power of puppetry beyondperformance. The power of puppetry used to examine the social issues of our time. The power of puppetry put in the hands of the people. (Or the hands of the people put into puppets!)

Like Joseph.
He made a wooden spoon puppet representing his mother, when all the other kids made puppets of themselves. Joseph is one of a busy family of six children. He wishes he could have more of his Mum’s attention.

Like Donna.
She stepped out of her fear to grow as an artist and as a person.

Like Barb.
Who guided 60 grade two students to make over 100 puppets, all with their own individual personalities, and produce movies such as “Nicolas Makes Fun of John” and “No Standing on Chairs in the Lunchroom”.

WP Puppet Power The Fearless Face of Puppetry 2013 on Sunday, Mar. 10, 2013. — Jenn Sieppert

PUPPET POWER, a two-day, biennial, international conference, is a friendly blend of keynotes, hands on workshops, peer mentoring, exhibits, and panels, as well as professional puppet shows to model best practices in the art of puppetry.

The hundred or so people who attend from Calgary and around the world include teachers, therapists, social workers, and activists – people who use puppets as part of their job. Artists attend who might want to expand their practice. Thought leaders and idea generators attend because the conference is unique and fun. The convergence of ideas and unusual ‘puppet people’ spark creative, entrepreneurial ideas.

For our first conference in 2001 Matthew Bernier spoke about puppets used in therapeutic interventions.

Highlights of the next five conferences included:

2002: Puppets as a Therapeutic Medium saw Mickey Aronoff present “A Soul in the Palm of your Hand” as the keynote.

2003: Embracing Multiculturalism featured an exhibit of Kathy Foley’s puppets, a performance by Puppetmongers and a workshop by Chinese Theatre Works.

2005: Puppets Promote Literacy had Judith O’Hare present The Literacy Connection as keynote.

2007: Puppets as Agents of Social Change featured Gary Friedman speaking on Puppets in Apartheid and a giant puppet parade in which the puppets themselves presented a Manifesto based on the UN Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

2013: The Fearless Face of Puppetry had Martin Robinson as our keynote and master class presenter, and Trish Leeper talked about the impactful “Tale of Teeka”.

In 2013 we added “Puppet Portfolios”, a presentation style of fast-paced and concise talks to include more viewpoints, both international via video, and live.

We also added a “Rapid Idea Generation” panel session with the goal of modeling how to work in collaboration with charities and orgnaizations to create a puppetry-based project or messaging program.  One of the results of the 2015 RIG was WP Puppet Theatre’s currently running project on mental wellness called “View from the Inside“.

Students participate in making jointed shadow puppets during Lynn Jefferies master class during WP Puppet Theatre's Puppet Power The Fearless Face of Puppetry on Sunday, Mar. 10, 2013. — Jenn Sieppert

Over the years PUPPET POWER has galvanized our participants and they’ve said:

“It was great to get out of the box of regular items and use other items. Workshop was too short! I had so much fun.” 

The motivation in this conference was great and gave me a green light to put in practice the dormant ideas in my head. “ 

“I expected to get Ideas, Inspiration and networking and YES that’s what I got. Empowered is how I feel. “

PUPPET POWER 2016: CONNECTING GENERATIONS runs May 28 – 29, 2016 and examines the compelling strength of puppetry in advocating, educating and celebrating community connections across generations.

In this time of historic demographic shift we need to mobilize the social capital of our elders, empower adults, engage our youth and let our children safely be children. We need to build resiliency to face the challenges in all our lives by strengthening our community bonds and dancing with complexity.

We need to build bridges across generations, not just within generations. Puppets are among the best bridge builders because they are a fun and accessible way to create thought-provoking experience and conversation.

PUPPET POWER 2016 presenters include Karrie Marshall of Creativity in Care (Scotland), Eric Bass of Sandglass Theater (USA), Sharon Bayly , lead artist of Arts and Health Project: Healthy Aging Through the Arts (Vancouver), Marla Limousin (Courtney, BC) speaking of uniting an Inuit community through puppetry, and Ian McFarlane and Geneviève Paré of Mudfoot Theatre (Calgary).> click to learn more about our presenters

> click to register for the conference


Puppet Power 2013

Our most recent conference, Puppet Power 2013 was a huge success! Held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, close to one hundred participants enjoyed workshops, peer mentoring and panel discussions for two days in March under the theme, “The Fearless Face of Puppetry.”

Highlight Sessions 

The Rapid Idea Generation Session – RIG (Pilot Initiative)
Puppet Portfolios – Powered By Pecha Kucha  (Pilot Initiative)

Conference Speakers & Discussionists

Martin P. Robinson (Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, Little Shop of Horrors)
Trish Leeper (Fraggle Rock, Theatre Beyond Words, Theatre Les Deux Mondes)
Lynn Jeffries (Cornerstone Theatre Company, The Ditty Bops)
Dina Kaplan & Rochi Dan (Puppeteers Without Borders)
Catherine Hahn (Bread the Puppet Theatre, Brisbane’s Expo ’88, Caravan Farm Theatre)
Jane Heather (University of Alberta)
Wendy Passmore-Godfrey (WP Puppet Theatre)
Pam Atkinson

“I was surprised by the diverse disciples – health and social issues, involved in puppetry and its impact on the public.”  and “the Conference was a great opportunity to practice and enhance puppetry skills and knowledge.” – 2013 Puppet Power Conference Attendees

Learn More

Relive the weekend’s events in our Photo Gallery!