Canadian company. The Mermaid Theatre was founded in 1972 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, by Tom Miller (Detroit, Michigan, USA, 1943), Evelyn Garbary (Wales, Great Britain, 1911 – Nova Scotia, Canada, 1994) and Sara Lee Lewis (Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1937). The first production was a modest rod and glove puppet piece based on Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose with large, Muppet-style characters. Tom Miller, the company’s first designer, urged his colleagues to consider experimenting with masks and large body characters. The Mermaid’s shows soon featured eight-foot (2.5 metre) characters sculpted from Polyfoam that incorporated complex choreography in combination with original scripts and commissioned scores. Between 1974 and 1980, Mermaid took part in the Nova Scotia International Puppet Festival held at Acadia University.
Mermaid Theatre has been touring its unique brand of storytelling throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico, the Netherlands, Great Britain, South East Asia and Australia. In an average year, Mermaid Theatre performances are seen by 200,000 spectators. The company often presents work by Canadian authors, frequently on Canadian subjects. Another company specialty is fine theatrical visualizations of classic and modern children’s literature and illustration, which appeal to educators, parents, and very young audiences.
Mermaid’s early focus was to present material about the indigenous cultures of Canada. The Trickster (1978) was inspired by Native American Micmac tales; it was performed at the 1980 UNIMA 13th World Puppetry Festival in Washington, DC. After The Navigator (1980), performers’ hoods were removed and the relationship between puppet and puppeteer changed dramatically with humans and puppets interacting within the same world. The company earned five UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence for shows, including Just So Stories (1986) and Peter and the Wolf (1989). In 1987, Mermaid moved to Windsor, Nova Scotia, and there are now plans for a permanent home. Jim Morrow (b.1956), originally from Newfoundland, joined the company in 1978 and became Artistic Director in 1991.
Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s productions include When Dinosaurs Dined by Moonlight, Guess How Much I Love You, Noah and the Woolly Mammoth, Puss in Boots, Wee Gillis, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Favorites (Little Cloud, The Mixed-Up Chameleon), and Very Eric Carle.
- Canadian Theatre Review. No 95. Guelph (ON): University of Toronto Press, Summer 1998.