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Calgary set to host Festivals of Animated Objects

Think of it as a celebration of all things imaginative:  the 18-day Festival of Animated Objects is a chance for visitors to watch talented performers and learn about the art of puppetry.

“We are an incubator,” said Cosmo Christoffersen, the festival’s managing producer. “We want to take emerging local talent and foster that and produce that work but we also strive to present national and international work so it shows the public and artists here the excellent puppetry that’s going on all over the world.”

Christoffersen says the event started in 2002 and it’s never a problem getting talented people to come to Calgary.

“I think performers like it here,” Christoffersen said. “We’ve got such a hub for talent here that it’s really exciting to share your work with people who are interested in those same art forms.

“Even though it’s a niche scene, it’s very beloved,” they added. “Of the people who like puppetry and mask in the city, they really love it!”

VARIETY OF SHOWS

Throughout the 18 days of the festival there will be various performances geared towards children, families and adults-only shows.

“I think people are realizing it’s not just for kids, it’s not just like something you’d watch on Sesame Street,” said Christoffersen. “Although that’s great too but it really is something that whether you’re two or 100 (years old), you’re gonna find something that you love and I think there’s just these different, cool ways to explore all different ideas.”

Elaine Weryshko is the co-director and educational director with the Canadian Academy of Mask and Puppetry (CAMP) and says Calgarians are in for a treat with this year’s lineup.

“I think there probably was a time where there was too much puppetry, but now there’s not enough,” she said. “I think it really reinvents not only the imagination in people but it calls to your inner child, your inner person that doesn’t need to understand everything so literally and doesn’t need to have film realistic techniques — you are willing to see this wild imagination and it’s really beautiful.”

UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

Weryshko says puppetry is a universal language because she’s attended events where not everyone speaks English but can understand anger or happiness gestures.

“Puppetry comes from every single culture, every single history of the entire world,” she said. “So you can go to anywhere in this world and there is a puppetry festival that celebrates its own brand of puppetry or its own people doing puppetry.”

And she says the art form is making a comeback of sorts across the globe.

“The reason I think it’s actually coming back is because of digital media,” Weryshko said. “I think we’re really saturated with CGI, I think we look at our cell phones all the time and the minute that you see a puppet show done well, it is magic — it is beyond anything that you can comprehend, because you haven’t seen it very often.”

BRAZILIAN PUPPET MASTER

Organizers invited Nina Vogel from Brazil who is a multidisciplinary artist. It’s Vogels first time in Calgary and she’s looking forward to performing.

“I always say that art is just an excuse to connect with people,” she said.

“It’s a universal language,” she added. “You can really make this connection even in one on one shows — or I can perform to 3,000 people with a symphony orchestra but the connection is what moves me really.”

While Vogel is a performer, she also creates her own puppets, costumes and props for her solo shows. She remembers finding colourful fabric at her grandmother’s house when she was young and how it inspired her.

“Rio de Janeiro is where we have the Carnival, and we call it the biggest show on earth, it’s like whoa,” she said. “My grandma used to go to Rio and bring back suitcases filled with fabrics, so this is where my eyes sparkled because I can remember Grandma opening the suitcases and we were like, Oh wow, magic!”

Vogel will be hosting workshops as well where she’ll share some of her creative skills with participants.

“They can expect more than just creating a costume because this is like creating your whole universe and a universe that only you can create,” she said. “So I’m really willing to provoke and to get to know the artist’s flame and what really inspires them.”

AFFORDABLE

Festival events will be hosted all over Calgary and organizers focused on making them affordable.

“All of our workshops are pay what you can,” said Christoffersen. “So if you are coming with four kids, you can pay $0, you can pay $100, it’s really for everybody and we want to make sure that everyone can access it.”

The Festival of Animated Objects takes place March 8-24, 2024. Learn more about it here

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