It’s not unusual for director Sue Miner to forget she’s working with marionettes instead of real live actors.
It’s an honest mistake because the puppets in the Puppetmongers’ Cinderella in Muddy York are so lifelike .
Miner, who lives in the St. Clair Avenue West and Dufferin Street area, credits the talent of puppeteers and co-artistic directors, the brother and sister team of Ann and David Powell,
“They say I talk to the puppets instead of the puppeteers,” Miner told the Villager. “I just get really involved with the characters. Ann and David, they do everything. They have a really wonderful technique. They make it look effortless.”
Puppetmongers’ Cinderella story is a whimsical take on the classic folk tale that promises to tickle not only children’s funny bones, but adults’ too while providing a history lesson of Toronto.
“I love working with puppets. They can do the smallest thing. It’s astonishing,” said Miner.
The not-for-profit organization’s play takes place in 1834 on the eve of Muddy York becoming the City of Toronto. The story tells the tale of Ella, a native of Muddy York, who seems to be the only one in her family who has made peace with their seamy cabin on the outskirts of civilization. The arrival of Ella’s new stepmother and stepsisters suppresses her self-esteem as her new family attempts to reduce her to servitude.
Just like in Disney’s 1950’s rendition of Cinderella, Ella too is invited to a ball, but in the Puppetmongers’ version, the invitation comes from the Government House, inviting the family to the festivities in honour of the city’s renaming to Toronto.
Miner says she is continually struck by how fun and funny the story is – “and smart”.
“It’ll make you look at Toronto in a whole new way,” Miner said, adding that the dignitaries who attend the ball are named after Toronto streets. “The characters are just so vibrant.”
Miner calls the Puppetmongers’ Ella “a thinking girl”.
“She’s not a victim,” she said. “In the original (Cinderella) story, there were three nights of the ball. In this play, there are three as well. On the first night, Ella and the prince spend the evening talking, on the second, they dance all night. On the third, they just stare at each other. You get a sense that they really do fall in love.”
Miner began her career as an actor. She was one of those kids who always knew she wanted to act and performed in plays throughout school. The Montreal native studied drama at the National Theatre School.
“I started directing by accident and it’s ended up changing my life,” she said. “The fun thing about being an actor, is you get to pretend to live another life. As a director, you get to tell everyone’s life. (Directing) appeals to the bossy side of me.”
Puppetmongers’ Cinderella in Muddy York, twice nominated for a Dora award, takes place at the Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Ave. from Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.
For tickets visit www.artsboxoffice.ca or call 416-504-7529.