ABOUT THE TROUTS
The Old Trout Puppet Workshop was founded on a ranch in southern Alberta back in the strange winter of 1999. We were a small gang of old buddies, with a fondness for beards and wood and wool and other old-fashioned and pleasant things; the world was uneasy with the threat of Y2K, and we felt an urge to huddle together for mutual protection, and to dedicate ourselves to something fragile, ridiculous, and gentle, out on the edge of the world. So we learned to carve puppets, and paid our rent through wholesome labour; we collected eggs, fed the pigs, cooked big stews, and premiered our first show to a bunkhouse full of cowboys and Hutterites.
For the record, the Hutterites were more impressed than the cowboys. We took that show into Calgary to the legendary alt-theatre festival known as the High Performance Rodeo, and people clapped; in that moment, an insatiable craving for applause was born in us, and the warm contentment of our ranch camaraderie turned into mean and craven Ambition.
We've been labouring under the lash of that evil spirit for almost twenty years now, during which time a great deal has changed. We moved to the city, for instance, and now operate out of a workshop next to the train tracks in industrial Calgary. It's a thriving operation that has grown much larger than the original hairy few. Dozens(ish) of people are employed at various points in the year for various projects. We've got a nascent apprenticeship program, technical and administrative wings, and a shwack of productions either in development or on the actual road at this exact moment.
We've toured our productions across Canada and into the United States and Europe. We've mounted nine mainstage shows, most of which are lurking in crates at the workshop, ready to deploy: The Unlikely Birth of Istvan, The Tooth Fairy, Beowulf, The Last Supper of Antonin Carême, Pinocchio, Famous Puppet Death Scenes, The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan, Ignorance, and most recently, Jabberwocky.
But that’s not all: we also make sculptures, films, children’s books, music, and paintings. Recently we’ve taken to designing shows as well: Twelfth Night for the National Arts Centre and Theatre Calgary, and Hansel & Gretel for Vancouver Opera. We run workshops year round and deeply harrowing puppetry intensives in Banff and New England every year or so. And we also run a puppet festival here in our hometown called the Festival of Animated Objects.
The taloned grip of Ambition has been fierce upon us. Where are we going? Will we ever understand what hollow ghosts we've become? Can we ever retrieve our innocence, now that it is lost?
Where the name comes from:
On the Palmer Ranch, where the Old Trouts first gathered, there's a swimming hole much beloved by the people of the area. In that swimming hole, it is said, there lives an ancient fish, who will answer any question you ask it, if you can swim deep enough to find it. Our company is named after that noble creature, even though truth be told we never did manage to find it.
When we decided on the name we were also under the mistaken impression that “old trout” is a term of endearment in Newfoundland, but it turns out it’s not, actually. Apparenly a Newfoundlander might call a child a ‘trout,’ but not an ‘old trout’ particularly. If anybody uses the term ‘old trout’ it’s the English, for whom the term is a sort of unkind description of an elderly woman. Or so we think. We’ve been wrong before. Probably easiest if we just stick to the story about the fish at the bottom of the swimming hole and forget the ethnic connotation angle entirely, since none of us are from Newfoundland or England.
Mostly we just liked the sound of the word “trout.” Go ahead, say it. Cool, right?