Interview with Faye Dupras as told to Tori Weston.
Please tell us about your background and how you came to Somerville.
In 2011 my husband found employment in Cambridge. When I found out how expense rent was in the Greater-Boston area we started to explore the possibility of buying a home. At the time Somerville was still very affordable, especially Winter Hill where we now live. I am so happy that from all the communities we could have landed in it was Somerville. I love it here. I am originally from Canada and crossed the border in 2001 to pursue an MFA in puppetry arts at UConn. It wasn’t until I landed in Somerville that I could imagine living in the US permanently. It’s the diversity and the celebration and support of community through initiatives like the growing center, Arts at the Armory, and other organizations that care about space for social action and art that made me excited about living here.
What brought you to puppetry?
In the fall of 1996 while cycling down country roads of rural Ontario I happened upon a heritage home featuring a small puppet exhibition. I stopped to look. At the time I had no idea that I was seeing, and touching puppets crafted by many of Canada’s most exciting puppeteers such as Ronnie Burkett, the Powels, and Mermaid Theatre. Standing alone in that cramped stuffy room I had an epiphany, “I want to be a puppeteer!” The art form brought together my love of theater, visual arts, and education. I was lucky, within the month I was apprenticing under the renown puppeteer Noreen Young.
Who or what inspires your work?
Pixar. I want my shows to appeal to people of all ages. And my biggest aspiration is that no matter which subject I’m tackling I’m able to do it in a way that speaks to both children and adults.
Are there any topics or themes that continue to appear in your work?
Yes. I used to create shows for adults and now I create shows for family audiences – regardless of the demographics I always seem to be exploring themes that speak to the inherent nobility of the human soul and the tremendous capacity each of us has to overcome our perceived limitations.
Being the artistic director for Foreign Landscapes Production, how do you balance both the business and creative work?
Ha ha…wonderful question. I really like the business side of things. I see raising funds, assembling production teams and all of the other back-end of the business work as another creative expression, so it can be a fun challenge. The main difficulty is finding enough hours in the day to do it all. When I’m in full swing production mode it’s hard to stay on top of the everyday details of the business. I would love to have an assistant or intent to help. Ideally, a younger person who is more fluid with social media.
I love the mission of Foreign Landscape Productions which is to bring the art of puppetry to diverse populations ..., what has been your biggest accomplishment? What are you still looking to accomplish?
When I lived in Toronto I did a lot of community engaged theater with very diverse, typically underserved, populations. When I came to America I found that the economics of art making were radically different. The model I was used to, of working on arts-based community projects that span over several years with large teams of equitably paid artists, wasn’t possible given the limited funding for this kind of work. Initially, I was discouraged and stepped away from the practice. However, overtime I figured out how to hybrid my production methods to include Somerville community engagement through free interactive puppet workshops at local libraries. Thanks to the generous support of the Somerville Arts Council my last three puppet shows have been created in this way. The support has allowed me the freedom to refine and test new ways of engaging larger groups of people in the creative process.
My biggest accomplishment comes out of this new way of working. I am really proud of my latest project, Cozy Corner. I think the project’s focus on accessibility and the social-emotional development of children is really important. My dream is to expand Cozy Corner from a stage production to other forms of media so it can reach a larger audience.
What projects are you currently working on?
Cozy Corner. I am in love with this project!
In 2016 I started envisioning creating a puppet series that would be attentive to the needs and interests of both the children and the adults in the room. The series would be built on the premise that children are vessels already brimming over with the capacity to reflect humanity’s greatest attributes of love and justice. Each show would be designed to tease out and nurture these qualities through a magical world full of interactive music and an eclectic cast of puppet and human characters. With the help of an exceptional team of artists, Cozy Corner started to take shape in early 2018. By the summer of 2019 we had 8 episodes and I’m currently working on the next two episodes. *This project has a focus on accessibility and is geared towards the social emotional development of children pre-k through Grade 2.
How does one find out about your work?
In 2020 I will be launching a new website that focuses solely on the Cozy Corner project.