With the goal of developing puppetry, bringing together and exchanging contemporary practices between puppeteers from various backgrounds, Casteliers, the Montreal Arts Council (Conseil des arts de Montréal-CAM) and Aura of Puppets partnered in late 2022 to offer a creative cross-residency for professional puppeteers. The selected Montréal artist, Sophie Deslauriers stayed in Finland in the city of Turku in November-December 2023, in return, Montréal will host a Finnish puppeteer during spring 2024.
The cross-residency offers artists in residence the time and space to reflect upon and work on developing their practice and encourage sharing of practices between Montréal- and Turku-based puppeteers, their international colleagues, and the many arts and culture stakeholders. The residency also aims to foster international collaborations and co-productions as well as increase awareness among international puppeteers of the dynamic puppetry arts scene in Montréal and across Québec and in Turku and across Finland.
Interview with Sophie Deslauriers
How was your stay in Turku? Did you find the length to be suitable for the residency period?
It was great to stay in Turku for a month, I think it is a nice lenght; I had enough time to work but it was not too long, not too short, I felt it was the good amount of time. The place was perfect work with construction and my performance in the studio, the environment gathered everything I needed and it was nice to share with people coming to work on their own project so I was not totally on my own.
The residency took place simultaneously with the Turku International Puppetry Festival (8 to 11 November 2023). How was the festival experience for you?
When I arrived, I was lucky enough to be invited to the 14th edition of the TIP-Fest and was able to attend all the performances. The festival gave me the opportunity to meet locals and internationals artists, as well as a dozen producers and presenters from Finland, Sweden, Germany and Korea. The side events during the festival like sauna and the closing party were also very nice to have the chance to connect more with the people.
You also took part in the masterclass of devised dramaturgy led by Sodja Zupanc-Lotker a week prior to TIP-Fest. How did you find the masterclass?
Yes, I also attended the masterclass, and it was a great time. I learned a lot and it was super interesting. I realized that dramaturgy in puppetry is always something we struggle with as puppeteers and it was nice to share our visions with other artists.
But for me, it was another chance to meet people from the place and to make connections. Most of the persons who came to help during the residency, I have met them during the workshop or the festival.
Did you get chances to talk to Finnish puppeteers and share experiences? The scene in Turku specifically is very dynamic with a lot of professionals in the city. How did you find the community in comparison with Montréal (or Quebec area)?
During the residency, I was accompanied by Ishmael Falke, puppeteer and artistic director of TIP-Fest with whom I had weekly meetings to discuss my process. During my stay, I also had the chance to share certain stages of my work with Finnish puppeteers I’d met at the festival, such as Pia Kalenius, Laura Hallantie and Roosa Halme.
I felt it is a very dynamic scene of puppet art in Turku and a big community that is very active and passionate. As an organization, Aura of Puppets seems to be a place that gathers the people together and helps the community a lot to do their individual professional life and support them in their projects. Maybe more than any institution in Montréal.
However, it is quite similar in the capacity of gathering and creating events to permit all the puppeteers to meet and share.
What was the project you worked with or experienced in the Turku period?
I started on my own creative project, Bird’s night (working title). I had a studio (rehearsal room) at my disposal, and I could also use a space dedicated to production. I had access to the tools I needed to build the elements I needed for my project.
It was the really beginning of this project that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I wanted to create a series of manipulated paintings about a child who became a bird.
The first week was a week of setting up and research. I made the elements I needed, and I was able to link the objects I already had and look for the ones I was missing. Then, I start creating in the space. I went back and forth between the studio and the workshop. At the same time, I worked on my dramaturgy.
Finally, the third week was devoted to technique and presentation: Installation of the lights with the help of Aura of Puppets artists, sounds, photos, and videos of the installation for documentation, rehearsals for the presentation.
On Thursday 30 November 2023, there was a public presentation followed by a discussion. It was an opportunity to talk about my work, as well as discuss the proposal and the creative process with a dozen Finnish puppeteers. The exchanges were generous and constructive.
Anything else you would like to add?
For me, this residency was an opportunity to meet new people, but also to renew certain contacts, and to discuss our visions of the profession and of puppet theater creation. I really enjoyed observing different artistic approaches during the festival, with a view to enriching my practice.
Sometimes I felt a little bit lonely when I needed something but in the end my requests were always fulfilled. I think the loneliness was also hard sometimes in the work and I would suggest meeting more often with the mentor, now it was once per week, but I would have preferred more.
What’s more, Aura of Puppet is a great place to create, and all the conditions were right for me to be able to create and work in a welcoming environment, where discussions were easy, and my requests were always met. I’m extremely grateful for having had a privileged moment away from my daily routine, during which I was able to dedicate myself entirely to my project.