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History of Puppetry
in Canada

Felix Mirbt

The innovative work of puppeteer and stage director Felix Mirbt has left its mark on the world of theatre in Canada, and has greatly influenced the practice of puppetry in this country.

A native of Germany, Mirbt arrived in Canada in 1953 at the invitation of Micheline Legendre. He began by working with a variety of puppet theatre companies, as well as in television, and also worked as a set designer and production director for various theatres. In 1971, he directed Inook and the Sun by author Henry Beissel, and with this play, he began experimenting with the elements which would later characterize his work: full-view manipulation, the use of actor-manipulators and the use of narrators. Throughout his career, Mirbt pursued a rigorous exploration of the puppet as theatrical object, and of the role that the relationship between the actor/puppeteer and the puppet/object plays in the staging and interpretation of theatrical works. In 1974, he began a fruitful collaboration with the National Arts Centre and director Jean Herbiet. This partnership resulted in productions such as Woyzeck by B├╝chner, and The Dreamplay by Strindberg, which established the art of puppetry within contemporary theatre. Mirbt was equally interested in music and, beginning in the 1980s, staged operas and worked on several theatrical productions based on contemporary music. His work brought him national and international recognition as well as several prizes, including a UNIMA Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry, and a first prize for design at the Prague Quadrennial.