Concordia student Jesse Stong will be creating puppet shows for five days straight
Concordia student Jesse Stong is bringing his extreme puppetry show, <3 Puppets (pronounced Love Puppets), to the Mainline Gallery from Oct 19 to 23. For five days, Stong will be living in the gallery and creating performances using puppets. The gallery itself is only open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., however, curious viewers are free to take photos and watch him through the gallery windows after the gallery closes for the night at 11 p.m.
Surrounded by his puppets, his goal is to be constantly creating and exploring his relationship with them—something that he said he hasn’t had time for over the past few years. “These five days are the first in 10 years that I will have to myself to just play with puppets,” he said. “I want to just be able to play with them like I did when I was a kid.”
Stong’s love of puppets first ignited when he was given a puppet at the age of seven. “It was a gorilla puppet,” he said, “At that point I was in love with Jane Goodall.” Stong added that he just got her autograph about two weeks ago.
Puppets soon became a large part of Stong’s life. He was a shy child but he said he found his confidence with puppets. “If I had a puppet with me, it’s like it wasn’t me onstage,” he said. It’s these memories that Stong wants to reflect on during his time at the Mainline Gallery. Stong wants the performance to be filled with spontaneous creations and come from a genuine, un-rehearsed place.
Therefore, Stong said he hasn’t been preparing for the performance—he’s just been focusing on what practical things he will need, like Tylenol, ice buckets and slings to soothe his arms from the strenuous effort of lifting the puppets all day.
“I don’t want to predict what I’m going to do, so I’m trying not to think about it,” he said. “Maybe I’ll run out of ideas before it’s over, but I want it to keep surprising me.”
Stong said he wants this to be an educational experience for the viewers who will get to observe the creations and a puppeteers love of puppets, as well as the unpredictable outcome along with him. The performance is part of his master’s thesis in art education.
Stong has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Ryerson, as well as a degree in playwriting from the National Theatre School in Montreal. He has created playwriting workshops for the Quebec government and wrote a play, Waterweight, which is currently on tour with Geordie Productions. The play presents the topic of body issues to elementary school audiences in Ontario and Quebec.
For more information about <3 Puppets, checkout the Facebook page or swing by the Mainline Gallery this weekend from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. There will be a cash bar on Saturday night, and if you want to watch Stong end the performance—which he said may involve him simply collapsing into a heap—you can stop by Sunday night at 11 p.m.
Check out The Concordian’s exclusive video of the performance below.