Thursday, July 28, 2011

Puppet's Without Barriers -The Pedaler's Wager

It's fun, it's intelligent, it's outdoors, and it's affordable- there are giant puppets!. Best of all, it's ACCESSIBLE!

For the third year in since 2009 I have had the pleasure of being a consultant on the Puppets Without Barriers project presented by Clay & Paper Theatre in Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto Ontario during the summer. I've just returned from my audit of the show, and wanted to let y'all know about it before I go on vacation. It's fantastic! These guys do such a good job. I always feel refreshed after seeing a C&P show.

Clay & Paper present a unique brand of theatre featuring giant puppets, small puppets, humans, bicycles and all manner of bizarre props. Performances are accompanied by original live music, and I guarantee, you'll be singing when you leave. 

This show "celebrates Toronto's public spaces, promotes active living and draws attention to urban environmental issues."  

(Before I proceed, I apologize for the lack of info in the photo descriptions (names, etc).  I will correct this, but this post is hasty, and I cannot identify who is who at the moment!)

I've been going to these shows long before I started working on them. I used to take my kids when they were small. It was a great activity and it was a chance chance for them to experience live theatre. I am always energized by the carnival atmosphere and fun that surrounds these shows.  One can step back in time and be a kid again.  This is the way theatre was meant to be.  The creativity contained in this 1 hour performance is amazing.  AND did I mention?  IT'S ACCESSIBLE!

The River as Goddess
About the Accessibility
This is not an ordinary traditional audio described event where the describer sits in a booth and the audience member listens to AD on a headset.  This is a fun, creative approach - incorporating organic accessibility into the show.  It features an extensive Touch Tour prior to the performance in which the sets, costumes, puppets, props and musical instruments are explained to the blind or vision impaired audience member. They are allowed to touch and ask questions and meet the cast members, who personally conduct the tours. Intricate visual action, gags, and other elements of the show that cannot be organically described in the script are explained beforehand.  So it is a good idea to arrive early by at least 45 minutes so that you can get the most out of it.  You won't be disappointed.  To see the giant puppets and their workings up close is well worth it.  They are amazing.

The show itself is done in the style of an audio play, or radio play.  The carefully written script contains all the information you need to follow the show, as if you were listening to it on an old time radio.  There is a narrator, a sound scheme designed to indicate certain characters and events.  We have dubbed this Integrated Descriptive Dialogue; but it is really a simple technique taken from days of old when this was just how you wrote things for an audience who listened to that magic wooden box.  

Narrator in costume
Not only is the show accessible, but programs are provided in Large Print and Braille.  Drawing on previous work we have also developed a Tool Kit that can be used as a guide to building similar performances. (please not, this is an electronic document that is not properly tagged for accessibility).

It is my sincere hope that this document can one day soon experience remediation repairs, and be treated as a living, evolving collection of ideas and practices that can be added to and used by more organizations as the spread of awareness and legislation takes hold in Ontario.

Another nice thing about this show is that, instead of having the ONE show time during the run to choose from, (usually on a small audience day, Tuesday Wednesday, or Sunday Matinée),  Clay & Paper Theatre’s Puppets Without Barriers program s makes The Pedaler’s Wager accessible to people who are blind and low vision, as well as Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing, with TWO WEEKS worth of specially adapted productions.

But wait. There's more! The Pedaler's Wager is also has ASL (American Sign Language) performances.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to comment on those as I am unavailable to see them.  But I've seen past shows and they are spectacular; adding a layer of a different kind of fascinating performance to an already shiny work.

Lady Grabsome and Barron Boots
Another Cool Aspect
If you happen to be a cycling enthusiast, Weekend mobile matinees require audience members to cycle alongside performers to three different parks, literally following the troupe to the show's conclusion. Perhaps the Trailblazers Tandem Cycling Club might enjoy this.  Although, these shows won't include touch tours!
About The Pedaler's Wager
This original comedy features puppetry, live music, and CYCLOPS: A Cycling Oriented Puppet Squad.

Journey through an epic tale of modernity, as told by a peddler (who pedals) and his troupe who risk their livelihoods to tell this story of societal transformation. When a small family is forced to leave their riverside home, cajoled by developer Baron Boots, his consort Lady Grabsome, their disastrously hungry son Otto, and a smooth-talking PR Department, where will they go? Pushed into the new life of the Future, how will the family survive?

Puppetiers operate giant river puppet
As someone who has worked closely with this company, I can attest to their commitment to accessibility.  They are a very small, underfunded organization, and, for those who do follow my links,  the public documentation and website do not conform to current accessibility standards. However, the progress made in delivering accessible performance and the commitment to maintaining the project far outweigh these short comings.  Very few Arts organizations in Canada can make this claim.  Very few make the effort.

This sort of thing is still all very new here.  It is ironic though that the small, underfunded theatres such as Clay & Paper, Factory Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, and Tarragon Theatre, are the only ones undertaking such efforts.  Come on Stratified, Mirvish, Shaw, etc!

(FYI: with the exception of Tarragon, these websites are either completely inaccessible, or do not follow any accessibility standard, but this is for another post).
 Kudos to Clay & Paper.  I love working with you guys and always look forward to this summer project.  

Live musicians, sax, percussion, trombone.

Written & Directed by David Anderson & Amira Emma Routledge
Design by Amira Emma Routledge
Music Direction by Chris Wilson & Nuno Cristo

The Pedaler’s Wager
 Previews from
July 14 to 17 at 7:00 PM
Show runs from
July 20 to August 14, 2011

All performances start in Dufferin Grove Park (Dufferin south of Bloor)

The Sack Family daughter puppet with her puppetteer.
Stationary Performances
Wednesday through Sunday at 7:00 PM
and Friday at 2:00 PM
Accessible shows: August 3 to August 14, 2011

Wednesday, August 3 at 7 PM
Thursday, August 4 at 7 PM
Friday, August 5 at 2 PM and 7 PM
Saturday, August 6 at 7 PM
Sunday, August 7 at 7 PM

The Pedaler’s Wager blind and low vision adapted performances feature integrated descriptive dialogue and sound cues, as well as guided touch tours of the puppets and props that take place at 6:30 PM, a half-hour before the play starts.

Wednesday, August 10 at 7 PM
Thursday, August 11 at 7 PM
Friday, August 12 at 2 PM and 7 PM
Saturday, August 13 at 7 PM
Sunday, August 14 at 7 PM

Traveling Performances
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 PM
Act 1: Dufferin Grove Park
Act 2: Fred Hamilton Park
Act 3: Trinity Bellwoods Park
BYOB: Bring your own bike!

$10 or Pay-What-You-Can


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