Bring history to life with shadow puppets in new workshop

Though the logging trucks have long faded from Bowen’s roads, the mining equipment long retired, the Rogers family train long derailed, their shadows linger in Bowen memories. 

Now, two islanders are looking to bring those shadows to the stage, with your help. 

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“Our theatres are cardboard boxes,” explains Liz Nankin, co-creator of Bowen Fables, a free shadow puppet workshop starting Oct. 12. The Los Angeles costume designer-turned Bowener clasps a handful of silhouettes depicting one tragic Bowen incident –– a 1910 powder factory explosion in Tunstall Bay. It’s just one of several Bowen-themed story ideas the islander has for participants of the six-week series of workshops she’s leading with island filmmaker Daniella Sorrentino. Over the course of the workshops, puppeteers-in-the-making will each create a one-to-two-minute shadow puppet film. The films will be set against images from the Museum and Archives. The stories may be factual, based on real events, or completely invented. 

“It is spring boarding, hopefully from the archives,” says Nankin. “But you can come in with your fable because that’s part of the lore. 

“Everyone tells a story. How do you tell a story? How do you share it?” 

“What it is, is an opportunity for the community to come together and create something that has cultural legacy,” says Sorrentino.

“Even in the seven years that I’ve been here, the community of Bowen has changed very, very rapidly,” she says. “I think that having that legacy is important because it allows the community to hold onto something that is distinctly Bowen.”

Though when this idea came about neither woman had extensive experience with shadow puppetry, both are experienced with aesthetics and storytelling. On top of her work as a costume designer for theatre, film and TV, Nankin has trained with a puppeteer in L.A. And Daniella, as a freelance filmmaker, has run a mobile film camp for the past few years. 

Bowen Fables, funded through a municipal grant and crowd-funding, run in partnership with Island Pacific School and Bowen Island Museum and Archives, is open to puppeteers-to-be of all ages (though youth under 12 must be accompanied by an older person). 

“In North America, particularly, there’s not a lot of opportunities for different generations to work together,” says Sorrentino. “People end up getting very compartmentalized.

“We’re hoping to get a really good broad age range out and skill range out to make these community days.”

The three-hour Saturday weekly workshops will cover storytelling, set-building, character development, puppet-making, storyboarding, story editing and more. Once the films are made, Nankin and Sorrentino will hold a public screening.

To register visit: mobilefilmcamp.ca/bowenfables.html.

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