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History of Puppetry
in Canada

Leo and Dora Velleman

In 1950, Leo and Dora Velleman moved to Toronto, where they began a 30-year career of live and television puppet performances. As professional photographers, they had originally used puppets to hold children's attention, but eventually abandoned photography altogether. Their company, Canadian Puppet Festivals, frequently toured Canada and Europe and was featured at Expo 67. They also worked in American and Canadian television. Rejecting the traditional marionette, their work involved the imaginative use of lathe-turned wood and polyfoam, and stressed the use of hand and rod puppets. The operators, often dressed in black, appeared onstage with the puppets. Canadian Puppet Festivals trained many apprentices over the years, and Leo and Dora were employed as puppetry instructors by the Ontario Ministry of Education and community colleges. They moved to Nova Scotia in 1975 to form the Leading Wind Puppet Theatre, and received a UNIMA Citation for Excellence in the Art of Puppetry in 1977.

Adapted from Figuratively Speaking : Puppetry in Ontario by Ken McKay, copyright 1990. Courtesy of the Ontario Puppetry Association and Ken McKay.