Archived Content

This archived web page remains online for reference, research and recordkeeping purposes only.
It will not be altered or updated.

History of Puppetry
in Canada

John Conway

John Edwin Conway became interested in puppetry as a child. His hobby developed into a profession and, in the early 1940s, he worked with Muriel Heddle's Royal Canadian Puppet Ballet. After the war, he established the York Puppet Theatre (1948-1952) and toured Western Canada with several productions. In 1952, Conway introduced his puppets Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock during the inaugural broadcast of the CBC's English television network. Costumes for these puppets were created by Suzanne Mess, who became a celebrated designer of costumes for theatre and television. She later worked for the National Ballet of Canada, the Canadian Opera Company and the Stratford Festival. Enjoyed by adults and children alike, Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock became cultural icons during the 1950s, and unofficial mascots of the CBC. The puppets appeared in numerous programs, including Let's See (1952-1953), Uncle Chichimus (1953-1954) and Adventures of Chich (1958-1961). They later appeared on Ottawa's CJOH/CTV station in Cartoonerville (1961-1966). Conway and director Norman Campbell were among the first to develop innovative techniques in the staging and performance of puppets for television. In 2002, Conway was awarded a commemorative medal for his pioneering work in television during Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee.

Adapted from Figuratively Speaking: Puppetry in Ontario by Ken McKay, copyright 1990. Courtesy of the Ontario Puppetry Association and Ken McKay.