“I like to question the definition of what is a puppet,” Desrosiers said, during an early-afternoon interview just before the first of four shows she performed Saturday at Le Chenail Cultural Centre over the November 21 weekend.
“A puppet, to me,” she said, “can be any object, any material, anything that you can manipulate to give a sense of emotion, an impression of life. I always try to go further and find new ways of manipulating things, and telling stories. I want to tell stories with these images, because it’s a more universal way of speaking.”
The 45-year-old Montréal performance artist smiles when asked how she got involved in puppetry. “It’s a long story,” she said, and then chuckled. “I decided to be a puppeteer when I was 29. Before that I was a set designer for the Théâtre de la Dame de Coeur.”
Théâtre de la Dame de Coeur is Montréal’s renowned puppet theatre troupe whose larger-than-life creations have amused and amazed audiences, both young and old. Desrosier’s set design work for the company most often involved sculpting and painting some of the heads and hands of the huge parade puppets or designing the costumes for them or for some of the marionettes used in the stage productions.
Her original reason for learning puppetry herself was so she could be better at her job as a set designer for the theatre company.
“I decided to learn how to manipulate puppets so that I could make better puppets for the puppeteers,” she said.
Soon after she began her training in puppetry, Desrosiers decided she wanted to switch from her behind-the-scenes work as a set designer to being “behind the scenes” as an actual puppeteer.
“It is a really complete art,” she said, about puppetry. “So I decided to make it my own (personal) language.”
Les bois dormants
Desrosiers’ performance at Le Chenail was part of a modified Festival des petits sourires, the annual autumn celebration of art and culture at the centre with a focus on family entertainment. She presented an excerpt from her theatre piece, Les bois dormants, which tells the story of a mother and father caribou who have a baby caribou who does not quite look like all the other caribou.
Their child is born without antlers and grows up different from all the other young caribou because he lacks antlers. The mother and father caribou love their child but try to convince him to wear a pair of imitation antlers so that he will fit in with the other caribou. In the end they learn to accept him for who he is, a caribou who does not have antlers but as everyone discovers in the end, he does have wings!
Desrosiers enjoys using her unusual and fantastic puppets to tell her unusual and wonderful stories for a wide-ranging and appreciative audience.
“I can do puppet shows for children, for adults,” she said. “I can tell stories or I can do a show without a (real) story. I can always find so many things to with puppetry.”