Puppet/eer as god: the metatheatrics of Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes
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Over the last 20 years, Canadian puppeteer/playwright Ronnie Burkett has garnered an international following for his provocative, text-driven, solo puppet shows. Still, as one of Canada’s foremost theatre artists, he has received very little scholarly recognition for his unique and important work. My thesis seeks to fill this academic void by offering ways to define and explain Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes as metatheatre. I investigate the ways in which Burkett pushes the use of metatheatrics, inherent to puppetry, to bold extremes in his plays in an attempt to render his audiences receptive to honest, felt emotion and, at other times, to draw attention to the ideas being presented by deconstructing ideologies related to the binaries of creator/created, actor/character and subject/object. I turn my focus to the specificity of Burkett’s medium—the puppet and puppeteer, respectively—and examine his performance texts through the lens of puppet, semiotic and reception theories. Doing so allows me to reveal how the many styles of his “living objects” stage a diametric tension between empathy and detachment, life and non-life, and, as such, how his puppet plays offer adult theatregoers both highly emotionally affecting and thought-provoking experiences unlike any other in the modern (puppet) theatre.