This page of my blog presents a chronological list of my past puppet shows. Over the years I've also worked as a puppeteer on a number of productions that were not my own, which I've listed on the Special Projects page of this blog.
How I became involved in puppetry
I started being active as a puppeteer around the age of nine. At first, I began by doing puppetry skits at home 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 centers, corporate events, and festivals. This continued until 2000's when I was in 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 Canadian Museum of Civilization, which is now called the Canadian Museum of History. I performed a few more shows after that, but focused mainly on selling original hand-made toy puppets as an artisan at regional events including the Puppets Up festival in Almonte, ON.
Below is 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 centers, and regional fairs. Along with Bruno the Dog, these are the first puppets that I built out of store bought 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 1990 to the early 2000's at churches, community centers 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 Phantom's Christmas".
Seen next to me above 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 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. This picture 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 and cluttered looking as this picture is, it gives me warm fuzzies because for me it shows how much my parents love me. My parents are amazing!
The most acclaim Guns N' Puppets had was to be featured on a page in the school year book, which was pretty awesome to see! A few of my buddies helped me make a complete Guns N Puppets music video as a school project, though oddly enough it was set to AC-DC's Thunderstruck. All we had was a VHS camera, a VCR, a CD player, and a TV to do the editing with. It's very rough around the edges, but I'm still very proud of it and amazed that we managed to pull it off. In 2016 I posted the video on YouTube but it was eventually blocked, likely due to the use of found footage (movie clips, etc.) and of course the music.
The Baseball Team This puppet show is from the early 1990s, and features, L to R: Bruno the Dog, Tyler the Bear, Nanny, Mousie Mousie and Gordon the Sea Monster.
I created Gordon the Sea Monster in 1990 and he quickly became my main character.
I've posted more about him on the Gordon the Sea Monster and Me page of this blog.
Pirate Mice The first puppet show that I created for Gordon the Sea Monster in the early 1990's was "The Pirate Mice". Along with Mousie Mousie and her brother Peter Mouse the show featured a pirate named Captain Spatula who became Gordon's nemesis. I had built Captain Spatula in the late 1980s before I made Gordon, so this was the first time that they were paired up together. My mother and I liked thinking of funny pirate expressions for the Captain to say, such as "Blubberin' Blowfish!" or "Sufferin' Seahorse!". When Captain thinks someone is less intelligent than he is or has made a foolish mistake, he calls them a "Bumblin' Barnacle"! Mr. Fishy was originally made for "The Three Billy Goats" puppet show, shown earlier above. Gordon and Fishy teamed up for the first time in "The Pirate Mice" and have been best friends ever since!
Jack and the Beanstalk Mounted in the early 1990's and performed until the late 1990's, and again in 2014. Shown above is Jack's mother, Jack (who was actually one of my main puppet characters named 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 kinda 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.
5th National Puppetry Conference In 1995 I attended the 5th National Puppetry Conference in Waterford Connecticut. The week long event was held at the Eugene O'Neil Theatre Centre. I had previously attended puppetry festivals and various workshops, however this was the first time that I had gathered with other like minded artists with a serious passion for puppetry, in order to create puppetry. It was quite a remarkable experience, and overwhelming in a good way. Gordon the Sea Monster, Mr. Fishy, Tyler the Bear, and Brian the Lion, came along for the trip too. (It was a challenge to get a Lion through customs!) During the conference I began to create another story about Gordon called "The Sea Monster and the King", during which Brian became King Brian the Lion.
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.
Fuzzy Fables: The Sea Monster and the King (Video) During the summer of 1997 some friends helped me to make a 20 minute video titled "Fuzzy Fables: The Sea Monster and the King". This was the story that I had started at the 5th National Puppetry Conference two years earlier. The above photo shows a scene from the video, with Gordon the Sea Monster and King Brian the Lion as the two main characters. Gordon's pal Mr. Fishy also had a key role. Ned the Nasty Troll, who had been in the Three Billy Goats show, returned as the villain.
I've included more about the video production on the Gordon the Sea Monster and Me page of this Blog.
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 showing myself sitting with the puppets was taken in 1997.
By this point I had come to think of my puppets as my children to some extent, they each have such personality to me and a presence in my life. I still think of them that way and probably always will. Some puppeteers don't get sentimental about their puppets, not me. I love all of my puppet characters very much. If there really were a Blue Fairy I'd be a very happy Geppetto! Who wouldn't want to hang out with a friendly Sea Monster all day? That would be awesome!
Artelle Puppets goes online The Internet became main stream in the late 1990's along with having a website, therefore 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 a new website, which has since been redesigned: www.artellepuppets.ca
Beanstalk Opera Throughout 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 anxiety 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. It would have been a really cool show. In addition to Dracula I made a brown vampire bat and several prop pumpkins. 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, and were going to have leading roles. This photo was to be used as a PR photo. Even after all these years I still regret that this show was never completed! It really would have been fun.
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 these puppets, all with detailed soft sculpting, along with their costumes. In 2006 the puppets were featured in a 45 minute show "Heroes Past and Present" that 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.
Superhero Puppets page of this blog.
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. We 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 a camel shadow puppet which my mother designed and made on her own. These shows were a lot of fun to do.
After this I started focusing more on drawing and my comic books, so I haven't performed any shows in quite a while. Creating and presenting a touring puppet show is very time consuming work, so I guess I'm on a bit of an extended break. I still love puppets though, and keep a selection of my own puppet gang on display in my bedroom and around the house where I can see them every day.
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Originally posted online: Feb 2016
Last updated: May 7, 2021
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 all 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. Mikey's original puppet plays retelling these stories, the scripts, 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