New Year, Old Projects

Happy New Year! Every year brings new challenges and, one hopes, new achievements. Last year brought a challenge and an achievement that will be difficult to top: finishing my dissertation. That, dear reader, was both the challenge and the achievement! Although I am fortunate enough to be employed, the challenge of finding more full-time work has yet to be transmuted into an achievement, however.

I realize, of course, that I am not the only one who faces this particular challenge. Indeed, perhaps someone reading this right now just happened to stumble across this blog entry in the midst of combing the Internet for job-search advice!

Perhaps I will return to that topic later, particularly if it happens to generate any discussion here. That said, given that that topic has been dominating my consciousness for some time now, I would actually rather write about something else!

The arrival of a new year often brings with it a desire to change old habits for the better; adopt new, healthier (in various senses) routines; try out new hobbies and activities; and so forth. I have made such resolutions myself in the past: some I actually kept, while others . . . well, let us try to stay positive, at least for the first week of 2016.

After having several related conversations with my performance partner and close friend Grey Muldoon and exchanging a couple of tangentially pertinent e-mails with two local puppet artists (and mentors, I should add), I now find myself a little belatedly making a few interconnected resolutions, all of which revolve around returning to some old concerns. These old concerns, somewhat ironically, either set me on the path to completing the PhD or provided valuable information or inspiration along the way. Sometimes, however, we can let important but not necessarily urgent things slip through our fingers while we are dealing with more urgent matters, which can certainly also be important—and I definitely would argue that wrapping up a dissertation and PhD qualify—but which can preoccupy us on account of their urgency alone.

OPA Conference Panel.06
Canadian puppetry think tank (left to right): Ronnie Burkett, Tom Vandenberg, David Smith, Maureen Adams, Kenneth B. McKay, me, Johan Vandergun, Tim Gosley, David Powell, Mike Artelle.

Just look at that young fella in the middle there. He has no idea what he is getting himself into. That is me (obviously, I hope) at the Celebrate the Puppet conference-festival way back in July 2006. It was co-presented by the Ontario Puppetry Association (OPA) and Puppeteers of America (Great Lakes Region) at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. One of the people in this photograph has already passed away since it was taken: Maureen Adams, seated fourth from the left (and, embarrassingly, the only woman on the panel, although I did also ask Ann Powell of Puppetmongers Theatre, but she was giving her own workshop on storyboarding at Fanshawe at the same time).

The general idea behind the panel was to bring together puppet artists at various stages in their careers in order to explore a number of questions related to Canadian puppetry, with reference to organizations, festivals, performance traditions, trends, innovations, and several other topics. It (and Celebrate the Puppet more generally) was one of the most inspiring events in my life, and it marked the beginning of my involvement in the OPA.

My work with the OPA has continued to this day, but that too is a subject for another post—in fact, perhaps my next one. All I will say here is that I am proud of the events and initiatives that the other board members and I have been able to realize together.

What I am rather less proud of is how I have recently fallen short in other areas with respect to contributing to the vitality of the puppetry community at the municipal, provincial, and national levels. I therefore want to make a deceptively simple New Year’s resolution to resume participating more directly in puppetry happenings. I want to see more shows. I want to collaborate in the creation of more shows! And I want to write more (here and elsewhere) about both of these things.

Grey and I met recently to come up with a design plan for our new website—another WordPress site, the “rough draft” of which will be launched in the next few weeks. In discussing where we have been, the question of where we might go next naturally arose. We are not quite ready to reveal those cards just yet, but I owe Grey a word of thanks here for giving me a thoughtful shove in the right direction by underlining the importance of assembling an honest but celebratory online portfolio that will showcase some of the highlights of what we have managed to accomplish over the past thirteen years (with some significant breaks, mostly due to my PhD work, once again).

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Doodle-planning a new website for Bricoteer Experiments Theatre.

As I noted earlier, I recognize that I am actually making a cluster of New Year’s resolutions, as seeing puppet theatre requires a different kind of energy and a different approach to time management than creating it does, and writing about either is a different kettle of fish again. Fish. That reminds me of a flexibility and manipulation exercise I have not done in some time. But I digress. It so often comes back to fish for Grey and me, for some reason. We should talk about that some more as well.

So, out with the old, and in with the . . . old as well, I suppose, or at least the worthwhile parts of the old. I wish anyone who has taken the time to read this a very Happy New Year, and I hope that you too are able to reconnect with the passions that helped to bring you to where you are today.

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