From about the age of nine I've been active as a puppeteer. At first, I began by doing puppetry skits using store bought puppets, having them lip synch to songs. Then in my early teens I started making my own puppets. In 1987 I began performing original puppet shows in the Ottawa area at locations such as libraries, churches, community centres, corporate events, and festivals. This continued through to my mid 30's.
At this point my attention shifted away from performing to researching puppetry, and for a few years I worked at the Museum of Civilization. Though I'm still active in puppetry I've performed fewer live puppet shows in recent years, focusing instead on selling original hand-made toy puppets as an artisan at regional events including the Puppets Up festival in Almonte, ON. Here's a look at the different puppet shows that I've created over the years....
The above photo was taken in 1987 when I was 14. I'm surrounded by some of my very first puppet creations. The puppet next to my head on the left side of the image is Rob the Slob, my first ever puppet character. The white bird-like puppet that I'm holding is a Pterodactyl that I really enjoyed. I brought that puppet with me everywhere. Eventually I made new versions of both characters.
My father Robert (who is not a slob) built me a puppet theatre and eventually I started doing puppet shows around the city. My mother helped with scheduling the shows, making the scenery, and assisted with performing some characters. It didn't take long before she was bitten by the puppet bug too. My father also helped by operating the sound equipment and constructing any additional staging that we needed. Our first couple of shows were quite rough and amateurish, so I've skipped over them on this list. We kept at it of course, and got quite better! Our first truly professional show was "The Three Billy Goats"...
The Three Billy Goats: This puppet show was performed in the late 1980's to the mid 1990's at libraries, community centres, and regional fairs. Along with Bruno the Dog, these are the first puppets that I built out of fake fur fabric. Ramsey the Ram (top left) was the first puppet that I made out of carved sponge. The other puppets shown above are Nanny Goat and Billy Goat with Ned the Nasty Troll.
A Christmas Wish: This was performed from around 1990to the early 2000's at churches, community centres and corporation events. This was the second of three Christmas shows. The first was "The Phantom's Christmas" in the late 1980's which featured my first puppet character named Rob the Slob, then came "The Christmas Wish", and last we did "The Case of the Snowman Toppler" which featured a full cast including Tyler the Bear, Mousie Mousie, Bruno the Dog and Gordon the Sea Monster.
A Space Oddity: During the 1990-91 school year when I was in grade ten my Drama teacher Mr. Jim Ryan (who had an uncanny resemblance to Jim Henson) allowed me to mount a puppet show with my fellow drama students. It was called "A Space Oddity" and presented an original story that I wrote about Rob the Slob, my very first puppet character which I'm holding in the above photo. This is the second version of Rob that I made, and the first puppet that I made with new, store bought fleece fabric, rather than recycling fabric from old clothes. Previously, Rob appeared in "The Chocolate Chip Cookie Boy" and "The Phantoms Christmas". Seen next to me here is Georgie the Monster, a costume performed by my friend Bronwyn and voiced by Mr. Ryan! My classmates and I built a special puppet theatre as a class project (seen above in the background) and rehearsed the show on our lunch breaks and after school. We sold tickets and presented the show in March 1991 for a few evenings at the school. Later we did a special performance during school hours for kids from a visiting school. This project was a lot of fun to do and everyone did an excellent job.
Here I am after the show with my brother Steven who did the voices for two of the main characters.
Here is a rare photo showing where my puppets lived in between puppet shows, in our basement. It was taken during the late 1980s or early 1990's during my teenage years. By this point my puppets had physically taken over parts of the house. I'm truly blessed to have parents who not only encouraged my creativity, they also condoned having sections of their house look like this! They put up with having puppets ever encroaching on their living space just so that I could explore my passion for puppetry. As funny as this picture is, it brings tears of happiness to my eyes because for me it shows how much my parents love me. My parents are amazing!
Jack and the Beanstalk: Mounted around 1990 and performed until the late 1990's, and again in 2014. Shown above is Jack's mother, Jack (Jeremy), and the Harp, as the giant comes down the beanstalk. I staged the puppets like this just for the photo, so this isn't exactly how the live show was presented. My mother Peggy made and painted all of the scenery, as well as Jack's beanstalk chopping axe. Above and below are some publicity photos for the Jack and the Beanstalk show.
I love this publicity photo with Jeremy and I climbing the beanstalk! It's so silly!!! :)
The Fisherman and the Golden Fish: This show was created in the mid 1990's and featured Mr. Fishy as the golden fish. Above is Vera the fisherman's bossy wife. Later I made Vera a witch costume, so she is now Vera the Witch.
The moment that I had arrived at the Eugene O'Neil Centre Jane Henson walked by me and went inside. I had no idea that she would be there. It took some measure of control not to geek-out right on the spot! During the conference she graciously signed my copy of Jim Henson the Works. Later she gave me a copy of The Art of the Muppets, which she had brought with her to the conference to use during her presentation about Jim Henson. Amazing! At the end of the week all the puppeteers presented the skits that they had created during the conference. I didn't realize that I was supposed to get tickets for my parents to attend. When Ms. Henson found out that I couldn't get tickets because they were sold out, she was appalled and leaned right through the ticket booth window opening to discuss the situation with the attendant. A moment later everything had been taken care of and I had two tickets on the house, courtesy of Jane Henson!
As part of the evenings presentation I performed Gordon the Sea Monster and Tyler the Bear in two scenes from what would later become "The Sea Monster and the King". Two other puppeteers (Pam and Art) helped out with performing King Brian and Mr. Fishy, as well as Gordon's right hand. It was quite an honour to perform Gordon the Sea Monster with Ms. Henson in the audience.
This group photo was taken on the last day of the conference. In addition to Jane Henson (seated far left next to the post) I met Heather Henson (front row, far right in pink shirt), George Latshaw (back row, far right in striped shirt) Annie Evans (seated in front of Jane Henson, in blue shirt), and Bart Roccoberton (back row centre with beard). I'm sitting in front of Mr. Roccoberton with the purple shirt. After the conference, Annie Evens, a writer for Sesame Street, kindly invited me to visit the Sesame Street studio in New York where I met Martin P. Robinson (puppeteer for Telly Monster and Snuffleupagus) and Pam Arciero (puppeteer for Grundgetta Grouch). While in New York, I also visited Jim Henson Productions and the Muppet Workshop where I saw Kermit the Frog himself!
I've included more about the video production on the "Gordon the Sea Monster and Me" page at this link: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/gordon-sea-monster-and-me.html
The Sea Monster and the King (Puppet Show): After the above video was finished I reworked the story into a live touring show, with help from my friend Jay performing King Brian. I used the scenery from "The Three Billy Goats" show and turned it into a castle with a jaw bridge. The above group photo of me with the puppets in 1997 is one of the few that I have showing any of the set from the live version of this story.
Artelle Puppets goes online: The Internet became main stream in the late 1990's along with having a website, therefor I launched my first puppetry website in 1997. At this point Gordon the Sea Monster and a variety of my other puppets made their online debut! Back then I was calling my puppet business Artellephant Productions, which also became the name for the website. (Art-elephant... get it? Artelle-phant.... Art-elle-phant! Never mind, nobody else got it either!) Each time I made new puppets over the years, such as Pythor the Barbarian and Canadian Crusader (shown later on below), they were added to the site too. In 2011 I rebranded my company as Artelle Puppets and launched the current website: www.artellepuppets.ca
Beanstalk Opera: During the late 1990s and early 2000s my mother Peggy and I created several skits for the Ottawa Puppetry Club's annual variety show. I co-founded the organization with some local puppeteers and served as president on several occasions. One of my favourite variety skits was called Beanstalk Opera, and featured Gus the Giant in an operatic version of Jack and the Beanstalk, all told in 3 minutes with gibberish. We had a piano player create some music for us, to which Gus (who I performed) sang "Fe Fi Fo Fum" in a silly way. During this his wife, played by Vera the Witch (performed by my mother), hummed to indicate her worrying about Gus coming home to find Jack. As the skit required three puppeteers we had a puppeteer from the puppet club help us out by performing Jeremy, who was once again dressed in his original Jack costume.
Halloween Show: Sometime in 2000 or 2001 I made a puppet of Dracula for a Halloween show that was unfortunately never completed. In addition to Dracula I made a brown vampire bat and several prop pumpkins for the show. Of course, Vera the Witch joined the cast too. My mother Peggy had previously made a large pumpkin puppet and a skeleton, which I think are awesome. This photo was to be used as a PR photo for the show.
Heroes Past and Present: In 2000 I developed an original style of table-top hand puppetry as I had wanted to make superhero characters with normal human proportioning, rather than the traditional cartoon-like hand puppet shape. Over the next five years I built roughly 20 of them, with detailed soft sculpting, and in 2006 I mounted a 45 minute show "Heroes Past and Present". The show premiered at the Puppets Up Festival in August that same year. My mother Peggy and I are shown above before the premier performance, posing Athena and Perseus. My father Robert was our sound technician. In 2008 "Heroes Past and Present" received a Commendation for Design in Puppetry Theatre from the Arlyn Award Society: http://www.arlynaward.org/certificates.html
A scene from "Heroes Past and Present" in which the three heroes from different time periods finally meet each other. Shown above is Canadian Crusader, Perseus, and Pythor the Barbarian. I've included more information about this production and my superhero puppets on a separate page of this blog at this link: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/mike-artelles-puppets-heroes-past-and.html
Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa: In 2008 I revised the Perseus story from "Heroes Past and Present" to be it's own 45 minute show, adding in some scenes. In addition to other locations, we performed this show at the Canadian Museum of Civilization while they were hosting an exhibit about Greek culture, complete with ancient Greek artifacts!
Shadow Puppet Shows for the Lumier Festival: My mother Peggy adores shadow puppets. In 2011 and 2012 we performed some shadow puppet shows at the Lumier Festival and also did shadow puppet making workshops each year. I helped draw some of the characters and shapes that would be needed for the puppets used in our show, but they were all built by my mother. She has a certain technique for attaching the rods and making the puppet figures jointed so that they can move. These two photos were taken by the Lumier Festival's photographer. The photo above is from 2012 and shows a behind the scenes look as we perform our shadow puppet show. Below is the view from the audience in 2011 as my mother answers questions following the performance. I'm behind the screen operating the camel shadow puppet which she designed and made on her own. These shows were a lot of fun to do.
That's about all of my original live shows. I'm sure someday I'll eventually get back at it and do more. As mentioned at the top of this page, over the years I've also worked as a puppeteer on a number of projects that were not my own which I've listed on the "Special Projects" page of this blog, at this link: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/mike-artelles-puppets-special-projects.html
Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog!
Originally Posted Online: Feb 2016
Most Recent Update: Dec 2016
Please contact me through my website at www.artellepuppets.ca
The contents of this blog page are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2016 as detailed below. Use of any material from this blog page for any purpose requires advance permission from the copyright holder, Mike Artelle. Contact information can be found at: www.artellepuppets.ca
Larger Sized Puppet Characters
Gordon the Sea Monster, Captain Spatula, Tyler the Bear, Bruno the Dog, Jeremy, Guns N' Puppets, Axle Grease, Virgule, Lewis Brown, Morris Laborious, Ned the Nasty Troll, Ramsey the Ram, Mr. Fishy, Rob the Slob, Mr. Noodlehead, Mousie Mousie, Abe the Abominable Snow Monster, Victor the Skunk, Georgie the Monster, Peter Mouse, Nanny, Gus the Giant, Vera the Witch, King Brian the Lion, puppet designs, character names, likenesses, and puppets are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2016
Pterodactyl puppet, Perseus puppet, Roman Guard puppet, Hermes puppet, Athena puppet, Medusa puppet, Dracula puppet, Vampire Bat puppet, Frog puppet, Fox puppet, Gingerbread Man puppet, puppet designs, likenesses, and puppets are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2016
Original Puppet Shows and Stories
The Christmas Wish, The Phantoms Christmas, The Case of the Snowman Toppler, The Pirate Mice, A Space Oddity, Guns N Puppets, Beanstalk Opera, The Sea Monster and the King, stories, characters and scripts are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2016
Puppet Shows based on stories in the Public Domain
The Three Billy Goats, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Fisherman and the Golden Fish, The Gingerbread Man, are based on stories in the public domain. The original puppet plays based on these stories, scripts retelling these stories, additional original characters, all original character designs, and puppets are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2016
Pumpkin puppet and Skeleton puppet, designs and puppets TM and © Peggy Artelle, 2000, used with permission
All remaining puppets, text, stories, photographs, and art presented on this blog page are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2016