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Dance, theatre arts makes connections
By Donal O'Connor

Puppeteer Holle Myers of Playmakers Theatre School had some assistance from a young visitor Saturday during a theatre arts demonstration at the Stratford Festival Discovery Centre. The session was included in the weekend Culture Days festival. (DONAL O'CONNOR, The Beacon Herald)
Puppeteer Holle Myers of Playmakers Theatre School had some assistance from a young visitor Saturday during a theatre arts demonstration at the Stratford Festival Discovery Centre. The session was included in the weekend Culture Days festival. (DONAL O'CONNOR, The Beacon Herald)

Dancers of all ages eagerly participated in a Scottish country dance session held Saturday at the Stratford Festival Discovery Centre, pointing, skipping, whirling and changing partners as instructed.

The demonstration of the social form of Scottish dancing, as distinct from more individualistic highland dancing, was staged by the Stratford Scottish Country Dance Group and was one of numerous opportunities presented in Stratford and Perth County during the weekend under the Culture Days banner.

“It was magnificent,” said group co-ordinator Carol MacDougall. “We had all ages.”

It's good exercise and family fun for people nine to 90, she said.

Within the same building the youthful members of Playmakers Theatre School showed off their theatre skills and several costumes and props, including an assortment of swords and a giant, sinister-looking puppet.

Artistic director Susan Kennedy invited on-lookers to hold a weapon or two to see what that's like but emphasized the importance of safety in stage combat.

Many hours of rehearsal are required to ensure that safety, she said.

Several visitors tried out a fight routine using practise swords and several joined in manipulating the scary puppet made for a production of Macbeth.

Over at Factory163, Peggy Coffey of Alternative Theatre Works found there was lots of public interest in the props for her upcoming production of A Wind in the Willows Christmas.

There was lots to see, including drawings of props and costumes by designer John Pennoyer and the three-dimensional creations from the drawings as realized by students who took part in Off The Wall summer intensive workshops with theatre professionals.

The December show will be the second collaboration with Off The Wall.

“It's been a great opportunity for us to share with the community our process,” said Coffey.

Visitors who have seen the sketches and props can then come to the theatre and see the show staged, she noted.

“It's a great way to bring the public into our world, into the messy part,” Coffey said of the chance for exposure presented through Culture Days.

And it's a fantastic opportunity for Alternative Theatre Works to promote itself as well, she acknowledged.

Hands-on participation for visiting children involved cutting out mice masks designed by Pennoyer – masks that will be worn by a “mice choir” that's included in the show based on the novel by Kenneth Grahame.

Coffey said she even invited three of the children visiting on Sunday to be part of the choir.

“It's a great way to connect,” she said.

Music, art, paper making and book binding were all part of the Culture Days weekend – a free and interactive celebration of arts and culture staged at various locations in Stratford and district.

donal.oconnor@sunmedia.ca

Stratford Beacon Herald

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