Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes

Oct 19, 2006

Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes was formed in 1986, dedicated to returning the puppet to the legitimate stage in theatre for adults. Theatre of Marionettes premiered with Fool’s Edge, a wild Commedia dell’Arte musical which played numerous festivals as well as appearing in the seasons of theatre companies across Canada. Since then, other Theatre of Marionettes productions include the melodrama operetta Virtue Falls, a satirical examination of the Punch and Judy show in The Punch Club and the “epic” gothic thriller Awful Manors.
Tinka’s New Dress, a fable based upon the illegal underground “Daisy” plays of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, premiered in the fall of 1994. It has since played in major regional theatres across Canada and international festivals and venues. Tinka’s New Dress received two Dora Mavor Moore Awards from the Toronto Theatre Alliance, and in June of 1998 swept the Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards (Edmonton) with five wins, including Outstanding Production of a Play and Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role to Ronnie Burkett. Tinka’s New Dress played to new international audiences with a 1998 tour to The Henson Festival of International Puppetry in New York at The Public Theatre (Village Voice OBIE Award Special Citation, 1998/99 and an UNIMA-USA Citation for Excellence in the Art of Puppetry), The Dublin Theatre Festival (Evening Herald Award for Best International Show), the Images Festival in Holland and engagements in Manchester and Amsterdam. Tinka’s New Dress played at London’s Barbican Centre in June and July of 1999 and was retired at the 2002 Melbourne International Arts Festival, where it received The Age Critics’ Award.
Old Friends, Theatre of Marionettes’ first show for children commissioned and co-produced by Manitoba Theatre for Young People, opened in December 1996, played across Canada at major children’s festivals as well as The Awesome Festival in Australia, and runs at Young People’s Theatre in Toronto and Maison Theatre in Montreal. For Old Friends, Ronnie received a 1998 Chalmers Canadian Play Award in Theatre for Young Audiences.
Street of Blood, a “prairie gothic” focusing on Canada’s contaminated blood supply scandal, vampires and the second coming of Christ, opened at Manitoba Theatre Centre in April 1998, followed by a run in Ottawa at The National Arts Centre. In the 1998/99 season Street of Blood played a sold-out five week run at Calgary’s Secret Theatre (sweeping the Betty Mitchell Awards with six wins, including Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role and Outstanding Production), and began 1999 with a run at Theatre Network in Edmonton, breaking all previous box office records for that company. Street of Blood opened the 1999/2000 season at Toronto’s Canadian Stage Company and was held-over twice for an eight week run. Ronnie received his second Chalmers Canadian Play Award for Street of Blood in May 2000. In the fall of 2000, the production played a seven week run in New York City co-presented by The Henson International Festival of Puppetry and New York Theatre Workshop. The production received the company’s second UNIMA-USA Citation for Excellence in the Art of Puppetry and was named Outstanding New York Theatre Production, Broadway and Off-Broadway, at the 2000-2001 GLAAD Media Awards in New York City. In 2002, Street of Blood retired in Glasgow, after a final tour which also included Stockholm, Brighton and Manchester.
Happy is the third part of the “Memory Dress Trilogy” begun with Tinka’s New Dress and Street of Blood. Happy premiered in April 2000 at the DuMaurier World Stage Festival (Harbourfront) in Toronto, followed by a run at Usine C in Montreal and its European premiere at the Festival Theaterformen 2000 in Germany as part of Expo 2000. Happy broke all box office records in the 26 year history of Theatre Network in Edmonton (previously held by Street of Blood) during a five week run in November/December 2000, and received Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards for Outstanding Production of a Play and Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The production also played a sold-out holdover run at the Canadian Stage Company in Toronto, followed by a sold-out run at Manitoba Theatre Centre. In June and July 2001, Happy played a sold-out West End run at London’s Barbican Centre. For the 2001 run at Calgary’s Martha Cohen Theatre, Ronnie received Betty Mitchell Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role and Outstanding Production. In 2003, Happy played in Manchester and Brighton, England, where the show was retired.
Provenance premiered in October 2003 at Theatre Network in Edmonton, and received the Sterling Award for Outstanding New Play. The show also played in Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver, and broke all pre-opening sales records at Toronto’s CanStage. International touring included a sold-out three week engagement at the Melbourne International Arts Festival where it won the Patron’s Award, as well as The Vienna Festival, queerupnorth in Manchester, the BITE Festival at London’s Barbican Centre, Stockholm’s Sodra Teatern, Kampnagel in Hamburg and a sold-out final run at The Brighton Festival.
10 Days on Earth is the tenth production from Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes. It premiered in April 2006 at Toronto’s CanStage where it had a three month run. 10 Days on Earth is currently touring internationally with stops in Auckland, Sydney, Vienna, London, Manchester and Moscow.
“The Memory Dress Trilogy” of Tinka’s New Dress, Street of Blood and Happy have all been individually published by Edmonton’s River Press. Provenance is published by Playwrights Canada Press, who will also publish 10 Days on Earth in 2007.
Ronnie received the 2003 Herbert Whittaker Drama Bench Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Theatre, as well as the 1998 Freedom of Expression Award from Calgary’s Wordfest Writer’s Festival and the 2001 President’s Award from The Puppeteers of America, the highest honor in American puppetry.
Recognized as one of Canada’s foremost theatre artists, Ronnie Burkett has been credited with creating some of the world’s most elaborate and provocative puppetry. Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes has stimulated an unprecedented adult audience for puppet theatre, and continuously performs to great critical and public acclaim on Canada’s major stages and as a guest company at international theatre festivals.