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Calgary puppet theatre group set to perform at world’s largest festival

WATCH ABOVE: Members of The Old Trout Puppet Workshop in Calgary are feverishly rehearsing a production that will be on display in Edinburgh, U.K. later this year. Joel Senick explains why you wouldn't mistake their show for “The Muppets.”

A group of Calgary puppeteers are spending hours rehearsing a production that will be featured at the world’s largest arts festival later this year.

‘Famous Puppet Death Scenes’ will be performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop. The group is about to travel for separate performances in Europe, so this is the last chance they have to prepare before the festival in August.

“We got to nail it down and focus, focus, focus,” Nick Di Gaetano, one of the performers, said in a recent interview.

“It’s no room for mistakes.”

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The goal of the production is to cure the audience’s fear of death by displaying a number of fatal puppet scenes. Peter Balkwill, the workshop’s co-founder, said adult-themed puppet productions have carved out a place in the Calgary art scene over the years and less people are confused by the genre.

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“They understand the power of the puppet and its ability to address and evoke huge epic themes that humans can’t do quite do in the same way,” Balkwill said.

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Balkwill and a group of friends started The Old Trout Puppet Workshop back in the winter of 1999. Di Gaetano, who is from Ontario, said the group has helped make Calgary a hub for puppetry over the years.

“There’s always been a wildness about Calgary theatre where it’s been unafraid to do things that more straight theatres would be reluctant to do,” Di Gaetano said.

“The rules here don’t always apply, and I think that’s really wonderful and freeing.”