Take the Walk with Little Amal

April 5, 2023 by Kimberley Yates

Puppets are magic.  When you see a puppet perform, you are not watching a mechanical structure being manipulated – that would be dull.  You are seeing an inanimate object coming to life, behaving in response to the environment around it. The task of the puppeteer, like the task of the actor, is to convince us that what we are seeing is real, that although we can see the supports, we exist in the same space with it as a living, conscious being.  This is magical. It's intense work.  When I participated in the puppetry workshop in Cape Town last year, I experienced the ways that puppeteers concentrate their focus to move energy into inanimate objects; to animate them.

This June, JHI and the University of Toronto will welcome two of the world’s foremost puppeteers and one of their most famous puppets.  Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, co-founders of the Handspring Puppet Theatre Company will be honoured for their lifetime achievements with honorary doctorates on Thursday 8 June, and Little Amal, the 12-foot tall Syrian orphan who walked from Lebanon to London to raise awareness of the plight of refugees, will be at the University of Toronto in the afternoon, from 2-3 pm. She’ll be exploring the south-east corner of the campus, from Convocation Hall to Sick Kids Hospital, and everyone is invited. As a refugee, Amal has adapted to a lot of new places, and we’re looking forward to welcoming her to the U of T. You can watch some of Amal’s previous explorations in New York, Amsterdam and Brighton.

On the morning of Wednesday 7 June, JHI will convene a panel discussion with Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler at the Innis Town Hall, and they’ll show us some of their work in more detail.  If you are a puppeteer, a scholar or fan of puppetry, or just want to learn more, you are welcome to attend this free event.  We’ll post the registration page to our website on April 11.

A huge thank you goes to Luminato Toronto, who will bring Little Amal to Toronto for a series of performances from June 7-11 at locations all around the GTA, to Professor Lawrence Switzky, whose expertise has been invaluable in visualizing this event, to Red Pepper Spectacle Arts and to performers from the Faculty of Music, who will be joining us as we walk with Amal. We hope to see you there!