[ID: A banner poster. Text reads: RCA Theatre presents Muskrat Dreams: A Love Story. A purple and orange image of two puppets in a bathtub with a person standing behind them.]
Table of Contents
Notes From the Director
Notes From the Playwright
Cast and Creative Team
Coming up Next
Volunteer At The Hall
Muskrat Dreams: A Love Story
AN RCA THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTATION
Written, performed, and produced by Tara Manuel
Directed by Michael Waller
Lighting Design, camera and projection work by Jamie Skidmore
Danny puppets by Michael Rigler
Set pieces by Shel Parsons
Stage Management by Sheldon Downey
Young Nalcor, Shadow pieces, & various Little Legends by Tara Manuel
Little Lorraine puppet by Krista Van Nostrand
Little Legend Puppets by Donna Thistle, Brigit Howe, Alli Johnston, Ian Locke, Rosanne Hicks
RCA respectfully acknowledges that the land on which we currently stand, create, and perform, and gather is the ancestral homelands of the Beothuk, whose culture has now been erased forever. The island we call Newfoundland is the unceded, traditional territory of the Beothuk and the Mi’kmaq. Labrador is the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Innu of Nitassinan, the Inuit of Nunatsiavut, and the Inuit of NunatuKavut. We ask that before you watch the performance tonight, you take a moment to reflect on whose land you are standing on, whose land you were born on, and whose land you currently live on. We ask that you reflect on how that land was taken care of, and how it is taken care of now, and finally who currently walks freely on it. If this reflection makes you uncomfortable we ask that you sit in that feeling and question it. Let it help you work towards reconciliation, something we can only achieve together. Thank you.
Muskrat Dreams: A Love Story is a piece about how the Muskrat Falls project came into being and what it means for the province. Taking guidance from Judge Richard LeBlanc’s Inquiry report as a jumping off point, the piece brings together factual history and absurd puppet interpretations of events and the underlying psychological motivations behind them.
When I read the “Muskrat Falls: A Misguided Project” Commission of Inquiry report in March 2020 – I took notes. I became so enraged that I posted on my social media accounts that the only way I could respond to that report was with puppetry. Then I had to follow through (!), so I put out a call for people to make some simple “Little Legend” doll puppets and a bunch of people responded they would. I started making some Little guys myself and working on the piece. I had an awful lot of learning to do and at many times felt overwhelmed at the technical density of various aspects of the project and wondered how I could make it palatable to an audience. I’m very grateful to all the people who wrote about it, some of them appear as “Little so and so’s” in the show. I started taking political science courses from MUN that same spring as I thought I should have a foundational understanding of the systems in which we exist and that it might help me make sense of what was going on in our province. I’ve continued with that as politics and puppetry seem to make natural bedfellows in my brain. (One might think of it as a right brain/left brain dance.) When creating a puppetry piece, you want to work with the objects as part of the writing process – as they help to inform and guide it. I started working alone on stage behind the red curtain at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture center during the fall of 2020. Michael Waller followed the process, read early drafts and joined me in mid November, helping to shape the piece. I did one live performance on December 3rd, Tom Cochrane recorded it and then over the next 2 days we filmed it. I released it on my Youtube channel in late January 21 and let it live there for a few months. I was delighted to receive many reach – outs from mainly NLers – expats or residents – who wanted to share their reactions and thoughts about the piece and the project. I sent it to United Solo in NYC when they announced their new digital platform and it was selected to screen for 2 years. I was thrilled when RCA invited me out and it’s been a real pleasure reworking the show for this run.
Notes from the Director
This is the second version of this piece. The first was put together during the winter of 2020 and it was performed before an audience of about 30 people- essentially the limit of audience allowed to attend at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre. But it was filmed as well and the film we made has been seen all over the world. The challenge of this piece for me has been how to help organize it in such a way that a huge amount of information can be delivered efficiently without the piece losing its artistic integrity. There are an awful lot of facts to be taken in. But the Muskrat Falls project and its consequences have and will affect everyone in this province on an emotional level as well, whether we are aware of it or not. I think puppets can communicate from a place outside of logic and reasoning and they have a way of speaking directly to that aspect of ourselves.
The predicament we are in is both deadly serious and completely ridiculous. I don’t think we should ignore either aspect. And to that end, the strange lecture/puppet play/streaming event hybrid that we stumbled upon during this terrifying, ridiculous time is, I think, a good way to talk about tackle this dream-like situation in which we find ourselves.
– Michael W.
Cast and Creative Team
[ID: Tara, a white woman with long grey/blonde hair is shot from the chest up. She is wearing a pink sweater and pink lipstick. She is holding a small puppet.]
Tara is the 12th of 14 children and was raised in Steady Brook in western Newfoundland. A graduate of The National Theatre School of Canada, she worked as an actor in numerous theatre, film, and tv productions in Canada, the US, and Europe before returning to western NL in 2000.
Tara has since created and toured two original all ages puppet theatre plays across the province. The latest, The Lady of the Falls, was presented by NL Arts and Culture Centres in 2019. The first was an original shadow puppetry play – St. George and the Dragon – co-created by artist and husband, Michael Rigler – which she toured solo to sixty NL schools from 2010-2015. The original version of her political puppetry show for adults – Muskrat Dreams: A Love Story – was selected to stream on United Solo’s new virtual platform until 2023. Tara has continued her work in schools and will embark on a second virtual puppetry tour in k-6 schools this spring.
Tara is the author of three books, a novel “Filling The Belly” 2003, a collection of linked stories “Walking Through Shadows” 2011, both published by Thistledown Press, and “York Notes on Ethan Frome” 2000, published in the UK and the US by York Press.
Tara was short-listed for the 2015 Memorial University Arts in Education Award from Arts NL, is the 2013 recipient of the Rhonda Payne Theatre Award from ArtsNL, the 2013 recipient of the ACE Overall Artist of the Year from the City of Corner Brook, producer and star of The Tentacle’s Claw, winner of Best Foreign Comedy Feature at The Atlanta Horror Film Festival in 2012, and a recipient of the William and Eva Fox Foundation Fellowship in 1998. Tara is the grateful recipient of multiple grants from ArtsNL and the Canada Council for the Arts. She is the NL director of the Atlantic Canada Puppetry Association – Unima Atlantic. Tara has studied Puppetry with Natacha Belova in Belgium (2016), The New England Puppetry Intensive (2018) with Peter Balkwil and Dave Lane, and with Jim Morrow – AD of Mermaid Theatre Nova Scotia.(2014,15,17)
Apart from her artistic life, Tara is mother to two wonderful sons, works as a behavioral aide to adults with intellectual disabilities, volunteers with Special Olympics Bowling in Corner Brook, and is continuing her studies through distance at MUN.
[ID: Michael, a middle-aged bearded white man sitting in a theatre wearing a brown shirt, jeans and a grey baseball hat.]
Michael Waller is an award winning director. He has been directing, acting and writing theatre for over twenty years. He has worked in theatres all over Canada and the United States. Directing highlights include “Othello” (Dora Mavor Moore Nomination- Outstanding Directing) and “Much Ado About Nothing” for Shakespeare In The Rough; Eric Wolfe’s “Dear Boss” (Dora Mavor Moore Nomination- Outstanding Direction) “Sideshow Of The Damned”, “Grendelmaus” and “The Babysitter” for Eldritch Theatre; Sean Reycraft’s “popsong” (Chalmers Award Winner) for Theatre Direct and Dave Carley’s “Walking On Water”, “Midnight Madness, A View from the Roof” and “Taking Liberties”.
Michael’s work in Newfoundland includes directing “Romeo And Juliet” for Perchance Theatre, Jim Cartwright’s “Two for TNL”, Benjamin Britten’s “Turn Of The Screw” for Opera On The Avalon and Meghan Greeley’s “Kingdom” for White Rooster. Michael has also often worked with Shadowy Souls- specifically on “Lady Of The Falls” (ACC provincial tour and film) and the work-shop production of “ Muskrat Dreams”. Michael is a professor at the MUN theatre department where he has directed many highly acclaimed student productions. Michael has a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and an MFA from University of Ottawa. He is also a graduate from the Birmingham Conservatory at the Stratford Festival.
[ID: Jamie, a white man with grey hair and a white beard, is shot from the shoulders up, wearing a green raincoat over a grey hoody. He also wears a faded grey ball cap and perfectly round spectacles.]
Jamie Skidmore is an award winning artist with over 35 years experience in the theatre. He’s a co-founder of the Isle aux Morts Theatre Festival, and is a founding member of the St. John’s Shorts Festival. He works as a director, designer, puppeteer, producer, and playwright throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as in other parts of Canada, the US, and the UK. In 2006 he served as the Production Manager/Technical Director for the Magnetic North Theatre Festival, Canada’s National Festival of Contemporary Theatre in English.
Recent directing and design credits include Sideshow Absurdica (St. John’s Shorts), The Kraken (various venues), The Brass Button Man (various venues), She Kills Monsters and Moby Dick – Rehearsed (Memorial University), Apes and Grunge is Dead (St. John’s Shorts, 2017); A Fish Tale: A Puppet Lantern Play and Cod Love (Isle aux Morts Theatre Festival, 2017); Sleepers (St. John’s Shorts, 2016); Double Axe Murders (Granite Coast Theatre Festival, 2016); and Our Ancient Family (for NunatuKavut Community Council’s 250th British-Inuit Treaty Ceremony, 2015). He has worked with many prominent NL theatre companies and artists, including RCA Theatre, Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, Perchance Theatre, Grand Bank Regional Theatre, Gordon Pinsent, Andy Jones, Mary Walsh, and more.
[ID: Michael, a white man with short wavy brown hair and grey eyes is shot from the chest up. He is wearing a purple vest over a jean collared shirt.]
Michael Rigler is a visual artist, writer and performer who works with traditional artistic practices and combines them with digital media to create a unique artwork for film, stage and print. He grew up Montreal starting a freelance career in film, photography and illustration while still a teenager. He studied fine arts at Vanier and film and photography, and multimedia at Ryerson University. He worked as a freelance visual artist, photographer and director in Toronto, Berlin and London before moving to Newfoundland where he worked as a journalist, filmmaker and television director. He wrote, directed and edited the award-winning independent horror/comedy The Tentacle’s Claw and was the driving force behind the original web shows: Our Chef, Your Chef and The Big Pink Pussy Show. Rigler designed and built an original shadow puppet show (St. George and the Dragon) along with his wife, puppeteer Tara Manuel, which has toured to over 60 rural communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
For Manuel’s recent production of The Lady of the Falls, he created the shadow puppets, artwork and digital animations used in the show, and the Raven puppet and performed in those roles during the 2021 virtual school tour. He also helped design and run the virtual workshops which accompanied the tour. He created the animated backgrounds and unique nang yai-style shadow puppets (which can be used in felony or behind a screen) for the 2021 DoubleSure stage production of Her Closely.
[ID: Shel, a white man with blonde hair under a ball cap is shot from the knees up. He is wearing blue jeans, an emerald sweater, and glasses. He sits behind a wooden frame and a long haired tortoiseshell cat sits to his right.]
A graphic designer by day, Shel is no stranger to the world of community and professional theatre. He’s been involved in the craft since primary school, where his first time on stage was a solo stand-up prop comedy routine, entitled Forgetful Fred. A member of The Grenfell Players in the late 1980s, while attending Grenfell Campus, his love for the stage was firmly planted. In the ensuing years, he’s worked with various local community and professional theatre troupes, ranging from Bay Theatre, through to Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador, The Stage West Theatre Festival, and, in recent years, The Graham Academy, The Off Broadway Players (OBP), and CB Nuit, among others. With OBP he’s shared in a number of NL Drama Society awards, including a solitary win for Best Set [and Visual] Design, for The Pillowman, in 2019. Most recently, he’s been working with Tara Manuel (Shadowy Souls), providing set and prop pieces for various productions, including The Lady of the Falls, Muskrat Dreams: A Love Story and The Mad House (an upcoming project). Shel is at home on the stage, as he is in working behind the scenes, and sometimes, under it. With nearly 40 years’ experience, he’s covered just about every facet, ranging from performance, through to writing and stage managing, and all points in between. You might say theatre is clearly in his blood. When not working, Shel can often be found at home, either doodling or writing, dreaming of warmer weather, when he can return to the local hiking trails. He shares a home with his family, an aging dog, and a demanding feline rescue.
Thank You From the Playwright
Special Thanks to Geoff Meeker, David Vardy, and Krista Hansen (Manager of the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre).
Special thanks to our sponsors: ArtsNL, Canada Council for the Arts (Digital Originals 2020), and the Arts and Culture Centre artist in residence program.
Thank You to our Accessibility Sponsor!
[ID: A black Hall toque in front of the green, white, and pink Newfoundland republic flag. Text reads: Get you very own Hall Hat! Available at the box office for $20 + tax.]
[ID: Text reads: Seat Campaign Back in the seats again! Ask us how to get your own seat in the historic LSPU Hall’s mainstage theatre. The photo shows the red theatre seats of the Hall.]
[ID: The black and pink RCA Theatre logo. The pink letters R-C-A are inside the black shape of the Hall building.]
Coming Up Next for RCAT!
[ID: Yellow, purple, and black background with the words Live Magazine printed over and over with a spray paint image. Text reads: RCA Theatre presents Live Magazine #LM April 11 8 pm Online Event curated by Eda Kumquat. June 27th 8 pm Online Event Accessibility Lab. April 11 & June 27, 2022 lspuhall.ca]
Updates coming! Check out our socials for details.
Thank you to the LSPU Hall Volunteers!
Volunteers are the backbone of the theatre community. We would truly be lost without them and can not thank them enough for their wonderful work.
Why volunteer at the Hall?
- You get to see live theatre for free!
- Looking for a free date night with your partner? Volunteer together!
- Volunteer with your friends and have a safe night out together.
- Looking to expand your social circle? Join a community of like minded theatre lovers.
- In high school and need volunteer hours? We got you.
Thank you to the LSPU Hall Donors!
Without you, we would not be able to do what we do.
Your generosity makes a difference.
To find out how to donate to the LSPU Hall, visit our Support Us page.
[ID: CAPE logo. Text reads Cultural Artists Plan for Emergencies]
Since its inception in 2005, The Cultural Artists Plan for Emergencies (CAPE) Fund has
become a life line for artists in our community finding themselves in unexpected crisis
situations. Fifty cents from each ticket sold will benefit the CAPE Fund.