Maybe we are not alone

Yukon skies could be busier than usual next week as extraterrestrial visitors zoom in on the Yukon Arts Centre.

The annual Longest Night celebration is taking a playful look at alien life forms through film, story and music.

Among the close encounters will be three distinct takes on the theme “we are not alone” by puppeteers Brian Fidler, Celia McBride and Moira Sauer.

Fidler’s inspiration came while watching B movies recently.

“I was watching a lot of sci-fi movies from the ’50s,” he says. “The ones where you can see the strings attached to the rocket, using models to create the alien world.”

Fidler decided to make his own B movie, using small-scale finger puppets and props such as a tinfoil asteroid belt.

“It’s real high budget,” he laughs. “We’ve spared no expense.”

It’s not exactly a 3-D movie, but there are three dimensions to what the audience can expect.

Besides seeing Fidler and Music Arts and Drama (MAD) student Shawn Kitchen operate the puppets and props, they can watch filmmaker Edward Westerhuis recording the action.

They can also see the movie itself, Attack of the Slime-a-tron, projected in real time.

When artistic director Daniel Janke invited Fidler to participate, he didn’t mention Sauer and McBride would also be doing puppet performances and mentoring young Yukoners as part of the agreement.

Fidler hasn’t heard what the others have in mind, but he’s sure neither will be creating a B movie onstage.

“Moira spent time in New York City making and operating really large-scale puppets. I’m at the exact opposite of the spectrum. I operate very small stuff,” he explains. “I don’t know what Celia’s doing.”

McBride is also in the dark about Fidler’s plans, but has an inkling of what Sauer will be doing.

“Moira has told me her idea, and it’s epic, as only Moira can be,” she says.

Her own performance involves an encounter of a very close kind. Cheek-to-cheek close, in fact.

“I like to push myself as a performer, and I love to dance,” she says. “So I’m going to dance with a giant puppet.”

Her initial idea was to call her piece 10 Dances With Alien, with choreographic help from MAD student Nicole Murdoch and original music by Longest Night veteran Andrea McColeman.

It has since been scaled back to just Dances With Alien.

Her dance partner is seven-foot Vim, the work of 19-year-old Sophie Fuldauer. McBride demonstrates a few tango turns with the fledgling puppet-maker’s cardboard mock-up.

It was only after McBride shared her idea that Fuldauer mentioned a 1967 video of ventriloquist Shari Lewis (of Lamb Chop fame) doing a similar act with a giant Fred Astaire puppet.

“In my mind, it was totally original,” McBride says. “I didn’t get the idea from anywhere but my imagination, and there it is living on YouTube, 40 years old. So, we are all one.”

And not alone, apparently.

Longest Night also offers a presentation by self-described UFOlogist Jerome Stueart on significant UFO sightings on and off the planet.

The film Christmas On Mars will play in the lobby before and after the show.

As always, music will be a central element of the winter solstice event, which debuted in 1996.

This year’s headliner is singer-songwriter Mary Margaret O’Hara, best known for her 1988 pop/rock album Miss America. Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee joins the Longest Night Ensemble to round out the evening’s musical fare.

Longest Night runs December 20 and 21 at the Yukon Arts Centre, starting at 8 pm.

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