Our mission is to create and present intimate and innovative theatre experiences of high artistic quality for school and family audiences. We believe in simple, aesthetically beautiful effects that encourage imagination and new ways of looking at things.
Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre has toured across Canada and the U.S. since 1978. Founders John Nolan and Kathy MacLellan are joined by musicians Russell Levia and Ainsley McNeaney in productions of exceptional creativity and value for young audiences. Over 100 performances a year take the company to schools, libraries, children's festivals and theatres. Kathy has also written for many children's TV shows, including Mr. Dressup, Under the Umbrella Tree, and Theodore Tugboat. John appeared as Jackson on the YTV show Crazy Quilt. Numerous awards include an ACTRA award and a Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry from UNIMA, the international puppetry association.
Russell Levia and Ainsley McNeaney are frequent Rag & Bone collaborators. They bring their considerable musical expertise to our shows.
Russell is a popular Ottawa musician who appears frequently in folk festivals, clubs, and daycare centres. He has been working with Rag & Bone for 20 years. He plays a wide variety of instruments, from guitar and mandolin to accordion and hurdy-gurdy, and has produced four CD’s of his work.
Ainsley, a singer-songwriter based in Montreal, has an honours degree from the University of Toronto in classical percussion performance, and has been singing and playing the piano her whole life. She released her first album, True Story Orchestra, a few years ago on her own record label.
Rag & Bone's current shows include The Nightingale, A Promise is a Promise, Felicity Falls, Zoom at Sea, The Tempest, The Flying Canoe, The Wind in the Willows, The Last Polar Bears, Owl at Home and The Dolls' House.
Past shows include Punch and Judy, The Snow Queen, The Nativity, The Cow Show, The Weaving of a Dream, Macbeth, The Light Princess, Tug of War, A Bauchan in the Family and The Story of Holly & Ivy.
• The company that's known for delightful and intelligent puppet shows for kids of all ages.—Ottawa Citizen
• Magical—London Free Press
• A seemingly endless degree of talent.—Red Lake News
• Marvellous effects created with minimal props…superb use of music —Calgary Herald
• Stunningly imaginative—Winnipeg Free Press
• A definite 10 out of 10!—CBO Morning
• Rag & Bone has earned a reputation for creating fascinating children's entertainment with a minimum of props but an abundance of imagination.—Ottawa Citizen
• Gets imaginations humming. That makes it old-fashioned children's theatre in the very best sense.—Calgary Herald
In our productions we appear in full view of the audience as we work the puppets, and freely move from being narrators to being puppeteers. We play with the puppets in the same way that children play with dolls and toys.
This style of puppetry is called open manipulation. The children have a chance to see how everything works, and the puppeteers have direct contact with the audience, combining puppetry with storytelling and acting. Although it’s a bit unusual in Canada, it’s nothing new: the Japanese Bunraku theatre has been performing with visible puppeteers for centuries.
Here's a site that tells you more about Bunraku...
Our staging is intended to involve the audience imaginatively with the story. Simple props and lengths of fabric indicate scenery, and imagination fills in the details.
Live music is an important part of our shows, weaving throughout the performance. All of our music is especially arranged for our show, often based on classical themes.
We've being doing shows in schools for three decades, and we've taught workshops in classes from JK right up to grade 12, so we understand teachers' concerns. We help to organize the seating, we're careful about scheduling, and we make sure that the school has all the information they need about our show well in advance.
Our integrated arts presentations combine puppetry, theatre, storytelling, dance, music and visual art. The music is performed live on a wide variety of authentic instruments, including dulcimer, Chinese drums, gongs, zither, hornpipe, synthesizer, accordion, rain maker, electric guitar and more! Use a Rag & Bone show as a focal point for discussion of art elements, and as inspiration for your students' own music, dance and drama.
All shows are about 45 minutes long, followed by a question period: they fit into a school timetable. We set up in an hour, and only take an hour to pack up. Our shows are available throughout the year
Our extensive study guides suggest preparation and follow-up activities and discussion topics. A show can be used as a centrepiece for special study units.