Before day one (Arrival at the Banff Centre)

I didn't see one of these at the Banff Centre.  (This is from the Tyrell Museum.)
I didn’t see one of these at the Banff Centre. (This is from the Tyrell Museum.)

9:48 PM.  Quiet.  Dark.  I’m at the Banff Centre, sitting in one of the lounges at Lloyd Hall, by myself, enjoying the quiet before what I’m sure will be craziness starts.

I am a participant in this years incarnation of the Banff Centre Puppet Intensive.

Today was arrival day.  A windy day as I drove up here from Calgary, not too far away. I checked in, met my roommate, did a few of the administrative things such as checking in and getting my ID/ meal card set up, etc.  In the three buildings I’ve been in so far, I’ve gotten lost at least that many times. Good thing the lounge is right across the hall from our room.

It’s pretty quiet around here right now.  It looks like we are the only group residency going on at the moment, although I have a feeling that will change as time goes on.  It’s also only the 2nd of January- holidays are just ending for a lot of people.  I met most of the people in the puppet workshop with me- there are 24 of us, from all over Canada (one from the States), with backgrounds in arts of all kinds: theatre arts (some puppetry, performance, acting, etc), music, and only a couple of other visual artists.  Everyone seems pretty focused on their work and their commitment to their practices,  which take many forms.  We had a discussion about day jobs at dinner- temping, working in art supply stores, Starbucks, corporate fundraising, and one person works in a chocolate factory/ shop.  A few in different types of art admin/ theatre jobs, but those two types seemed most prominent- either career-related, although maybe secondary to their real work, or totally unrelated, but flexible.

Anyway.  Dinner in the Vistas Dining Room, then off to “Orientation,” essentially the overview of the Centre, plus introductions for everybody, and what to expect.  The biggest thing that stuck with me is Peter saying that it was nice to hear what everyone wanted to get out the workshop, but not to be too fixated on that- to be open to learning and possibility, and to let what happens happen.  In my limited experience with residencies, you really do need to be open, open to experience, open to collaboration, open to the unexpected.  That’s where the magic is, or as Peter put it, “it pushes your brain into different crevices than you normally would be in.”

Banff Centre Puppet Intensive!

Pinnochio.... no, I did not make this one.


I will be attending the Puppet Theatre Intensive Workshop at the Banff Centre for the first couple weeks in January! The workshop will be run by Peter and Juanita from the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, based here in Calgary.

A colleague had pointed out the workshop to me, but by the time I had found out about it, it was full.  I applied for the waitlist anyway, and earlier this month found out that there would be a spot available for me, if I could get everything lined up.   I was lucky enough to receive funding from CADA (specifically the Artist Opportunity Grant) to be able to go.  What originally seemed like something resigned to the “it would have been nice” pile, the pieces happened to align properly, and I am able to go.  (I am also currently working as a temp, which means that it’s not a problem to be able to get time off when I need it – I would recommend that to other artists, if you think it might fit what you need.)

Puppet Hostages getting ready to go on a trip.
Puppet hostages getting ready to go on a trip.


Since becoming aware of the Banff Centre during my undergrad, I have wanted to go.  I have known a few other artists who have gone (such as Meagan Boisvert), and it always seems to be such a rich experience for them.  The centre offers themed residencies, as well as self directed residencies, and work studies, in different areas of visual arts as well as other disciplines, such as music, dance, theatre, literary arts, film, sound, photography, and even opera. This particular residency does not seem like the typical structure at the Banff Centre, although there are some similarities.  We will be living, eating and working together rather intensely it sounds like, exploring, building sets and puppets, scripting, directing and manipulating puppets, putting together something of a show.

I am not only excited for the project and experience in general, meeting new people, spending some time in such a wonderful place, and working on what I’m sure will be an interesting project, but also how it might affect my future work. I see definite ties with how this might relate to the IMR and the Morphoids, in animating them, giving them more of a sense of life. Actually, you could maybe say that I have used puppetry with them before- one of the most common methods I used in the documentary to make them move was to use fishing line to pull on their limbs.  Sorry to take the magic out of it (ha ha), but that’s exactly what I used here:  (I might be letting some secrets out here, but I also ran the video backwards, did some stop motion animation, and played with the speed to get the effects that I wanted.)

Pteropod from Jennifer Akkermans on Vimeo.

I’m sure the puppet workshop will also give me some new ways of looking at narrative and storytelling.  I am interested in the construction techniques as well, and think that that might also translate into some of the new work I’m playing with, using automata mechanisms.  (Have I told you much about that?  It might be too soon….)

As usual, I will be blogging about the experience to some degree, although I can’t say how much, because I’m sure we will be very busy!  Stay tuned!

For anyone interested and in the area, there will be a public presentation on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
 in the Margaret Greenham Theatre.  The event is free.