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Art for Art’s Sake with Entangled Puppetry

Tyler and Tangle McClaron offer puppetry and theatre workshops, live and virtual performances, custom puppet and costume commissions and creative education solutions.

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The couple moved to the Bow Valley over a decade ago and now live in Canmore with their four-year-old son Captain and their two-year-old daughter Fable. The children live a charmed life, sharing their home with imaginative, fluffy characters.

“Fable loves the bunny,” Tyler said. “She wants to hug it every time it comes out, which can make rehearsals a little difficult! Captain interacts well with the Troll; they both like to eat new things and sing raucous songs! We affectionately refer to our kids as ‘future family band members’.”

They prefer to make almost all of the puppets that they work with.

“We draw on natural influences and comprising diverse materials,” Tyler said. “Everything from foam and fabric to driftwood and old milk jugs. Almost anything can be considered a puppet, which allows for a lot of fun in discovering the items we want to use on stage.”

Some favourites include the Whale (an 8-foot long driftwood and found object piece), Ducky (a muppet-style, earthy princess), and the Canmore Bunny.

“We have many hand puppets (puppets that are manipulated with one’s hands), as well as multiple hand-and-rod puppets (manipulated with hands and rods),” Tyler said. “Occasionally we will use string puppets, or marionettes, but they can be tricky to store. The ones that we’ve had wound up much like our namesake: entangled in a box waiting for animation.”

The couple both have vocal training in musical theatre, which they employ frequently in their shows.

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“We have found a certain magic in allowing our faces to be seen as we create the voices and sounds of various puppets. It’s amazing to see the willing suspension of disbelief as audience members get lost in the interactions of the puppets,” Tangle said. “I can remember one occasion on Main Street when a child vehemently stared a puppet in the eye and told it, ‘You’re not really talking! She’s doing it for you!’ pointing to me. They knew I was speaking for the puppet but still engaged it in conversation. It was a beautiful confusion.”

Entangled Puppetry took part in the Walk for Dog Guides for two years. They have also performed at Town of Canmore events, Banff Canada Day and New Years celebrations, community fundraisers, artsPlace concerts, and as part of the Canmore Folk Music Festival.”

The couple likes to share a message through their puppets.

“We strive to tell stories that highlight the natural world, while also exploring our place within it as human beings,” Tyler said. “We hope to build on an audience’s sense of wonder and imagination while taking them on an unexpected journey filled with emotion. All of this armed only with a handful of fabric and our voices. Theatre workshops generally focus on themes of teamwork and empathy.”

They say they are always excited to bring theatre, music and puppetry into classrooms, especially in the Bow Valley.

“With a focus on group-based, interactive learning, we have offered in-school performances, facilitated workshops and virtual sessions for preschoolers to adults,” Tangle said. “Tyler loves to put his Education Degree into practice, and has even pulled out his second-language skills while working with local French students. Teachers should contact us to work out specifics.”

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Because much of their work is based on live, in-person events, they had some understandable changes to their work during the pandemic.

“We had a contract creating an interpretive swan costume for the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, which Tangle could thankfully complete in solitude in our basement,” Tyler said. “Last year we received a grant from the National Arts Centre to help us move towards building an online show, Hullaballo! With that momentum, we then created a six-part live stream series called Sunday Morning Sofa Songs.”

ArtsPlace reached out to Tangle and helped to facilitate shifting her live music programs to an online format, which continues to see success and just finished its fourth session, he said.

“This shift necessitated the purchase of some more equipment for our home studio, and a good amount of prep time to get it all working,” Tangle said. “And now, as some restrictions begin to open up again, Tyler is looking forward to the return of in-person theatre this year.”

Tangle also works with Alberta Parks where she shares the official title of Education and Interpretation Team Lead in Kananaskis Country with her job-share partner. She is also gaining popularity as ‘Miss Tangle’ while leading music programs in person and online for local youth. Currently the primary house-spouse, Tyler has been focusing on freelance opportunities within the local Theatre community. He is currently directing a production of Minotaur with the Canmore Summer Theatre Festival and will be leading a series of workshops with Bow Valley Connections Centre beginning in July.

Please check out Entangled Puppetry on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube and on their website at entangledpuppetry.com.

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