The Salt Spring Arts Council will move online for its seventh annual Family Day Celebration, a livestreamed but still interactive version of the hit puppet show Some Bunny Loves You by Jesse Thom.
Coming to audiences live from Mahon Hall at 11 a.m. this Monday, Feb. 15, the show will bring kids and parents on a journey “through an imaginative world of some very peculiar bunnies.”
Thom is a puppeteer, author, songwriter and meditation teacher who has been living on Salt Spring with his family for about six years. Some Bunny Loves You features a cast of seven puppets that Thom built and has been touring with for the past four years. They include bunnies like Liza, who sleeps inside a raspberry, and Gilfred, who glides on flying toast. Taking inspiration from kids’ artists and authors whose work appeals to adults, such as Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, parents tend to laugh out loud as much as the kids.
The show is geared to kids aged three to seven, and rather than being scripted it’s largely informed by the young audience members and how they respond to the questions the puppets pose. For the Family Day event, puppeteer Lolo Hendin will operate a designated internet puppet to collect those responses from parents via web chat.
“We’ve never done this before. We’ll see how it goes — I think it will be really fun,” Thom said. “My sense is there will be some surprising and wonderful things in this format that would never have happened in a live show.”
Thom’s approach to puppetry arts is an extension of his studies in clowning. He trained under David MacMurray Smith at his Fantastic Space studio in Vancouver and then with Didier Danthois in Tenerife. As Thom explains, their approach to clowning is very much about embodied expression and flowing with spontaneity and authenticity during performance. Thom describes the experience as akin to meditation in motion, because performers are so present in their bodies.
Puppetry deviates from the form somewhat because it employs exterior forms with fixed personalities. But even though the puppets’ individual characters have gelled over the years since he created them, Thom said their actions are driven by audience participation — and the puppets don’t always react as expected.
“I know their voices and their movements, but how they respond is often a surprise, because it’s improvisation,” Thom explained. “There’s often spontaneity and surprises for me. They have their own energy, and they’re fluid in responding to their own environment.”
“Within the boundaries, a lot can happen. And a lot comes through the puppets that would never come from me,” he added.
Thom has also published a picture book called Some Bunny Loves You (featuring artwork by the Vancouver artist Christache). Anyone who registers for the free Family Day livestream by this Friday, Feb. 12 will be entered to win one of two copies of the book. Find the RSVP form and the livestream link at https://ssartscouncil.com/event/some-bunny-loves-you/.