Calgary group pulls strings to entertain seniors amid COVID-19 pandemic

Calgary puppeteers craft short shows for seniors amid the COVID-19 pandemic. CAOS

A group of Calgary puppeteers is pulling together to entertain seniors who are staying inside amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Puppet Tales by CAOS” shows were created over the last month by members of the Calgary Animated Object Society and will be debuted at low-income senior facilities over the next few weeks.

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The shows will be performed in the courtyards and outdoor areas at these facilities to respect physical distancing and public health regulations amid the ongoing pandemic.

“This is our way of giving back to the community, offering something fun as a break to the boredom and isolation some seniors have experienced during COVID-19,” CAOS artistic director Xstine Cook said.

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“Seniors are society’s most precious resource and this health crisis has really impacted them. Since the shows are free, and we are respecting health guidelines, the facilities were happy to work with us to present something new for their clients.”

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Puppeteer Ellis Lalonde said at first, CAOS members weren’t sure if they would be able to perform directly to seniors due to health concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus.

With that in mind, the group prepared shows that could be performed and understood both in-person or from farther away such as through a window.

“When we watch puppets interact we are able to see so much and put so much meaning into the things we see, that we hardly need spoken words to clarify that meaning,” Lalonde said.

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For the upcoming shows, Lalonde and fellow puppeteer Toby Duska have created non-verbal versions of four folk tales to accommodate all seniors, no matter their hearing abilities or language barriers.

“It gives us a tremendous advantage when performing for audiences who, for one reason or another, can’t speak or hear the same languages we do,” Lalonde said.

“And to make sure they were understandable even if we had to perform the piece from the opposite side of a window in total silence.”

The duo worked to craft their own puppets as well as receiving puppets from others to get the show up and running as quickly as possible.

The first performance will be taking place at Silvera for Seniors in Shawnessey on Aug. 27.

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