Disruptive dolls shake up Longest Night

The newest members of the Longest Night community don’t know how to pose for pictures. The woolly grey elephant with the burlap ears kept…

The newest members of the Longest Night community don’t know how to pose for pictures.

The woolly grey elephant with the burlap ears kept flapping around, just as the shutter snapped.

And the small, round bird with the prickly hair and flowered beak got caught up in the backdrop, ruining another shot.

The patchwork critters are part of La Photo, a four-and-a-half-minute stop-action animation by Fabienne Tessier.

It was created for this year’s Longest Night.

Tessier took 1,600 photos to make the short.

Knitting and sewing up each doll took about three days.

Besides the elephant and several birds, including a gangly flamingo-type creation with a flowered-sheet body, there’s a cock-eyed fellow with a crooked grin and a body like an amoeba.

He’s the photographer.

His old-knit camera, with its accordion-felt nozzle and wooly tripod legs, is just one of the props Tessier whipped up at the last minute, along with a small, braided rug.

It all started when Longest Night’s director Brian Fidler saw a 13-second animation Tessier made fooling around with iMovie on her Mac.

“I’m not a technology person,” she said.

Fidler liked it and wanted to show it during Wood Street’s production, True Stories.

But Tessier felt goofy showing such a short animation.

“If someone blinked, they might miss it,” she said.

She ended up making a three-minute stop-action film using paper props and birds.

It was a hit.

That’s when Fidler suggested Tessier join the Longest Night bunch.

Over beers in a local bar, Tessier met with Fidler and local musician Kim Barlow to discuss the project.

“I had no idea what to do and I have a full-time job,” she said.

Tessier had her dolls with her and dumped them out on the table.

Fidler thought they looked like a little community, she said.

He wanted them in the show.

Tessier didn’t have any ideas for a plot.

But it turns out she didn’t really need one.

The film is about the characters attempting to have their picture taken.

“There’s no real punch, it’s just the characters fooling around,” she said.

Each tiny movement the characters made was a photo, said Tessier.

It took a long time.

There were some pretty late nights, she added.

Tessier taped the wooly tripod to the floor of her bedroom, drove nails into a piece of painted chipboard to hang the dolls in place using fishing twine and shut the door to keep out Finnigan — the dog.

Everything had to stay put to keep the continuity.

Tessier hadn’t heard the piece with music yet.

Barlow is creating the score and the Longest Night ensemble will be playing it live during the screening.

This year’s Longest Night will also be featuring Vancouver-based performer Tanya Marquardt.

The “theatre and dance maker” does everything from choreography and writing to artistic directing and producing.

In May, Marquardt performed with Longest Night’s artistic director, Dave Haddock in Mitch Miyagawa’s Carnaval.

She also directed the Guild’s fall production of Dark of the Moon.

Haddock asked her to join the Longest Night community.

Marquardt will be performing a monologue and a dance collaboration with Vancouver acoustic-roots musician Jesse Zubot, who’s also part of the Longest Night bunch.

Marquardt’s monologue was originally performed in a bathroom for only one other person.

“It’s sort of confessions from a young girl,” she said.

“But I’m not a young girl so it’s confessions from me.”

When she first performed the piece, strangers who Marquardt learned were interested in it would get a phone call.

“I’d ask them to meet me on a street corner and then we’d go to a bathroom,” she said.

Marquardt has altered the piece a little to make it work on the larger stage.

It’s always a challenge to make the show new, said Fidler, who was Longest Night’s artistic director for the past three years.

Every year there’s a new theme, he said.

“It helps guide the individual pieces and tie it all together.”

Fidler wants to leave the audience guessing — let them figure out the theme for themselves.

“Rather than have them looking for it in every piece, I rather have them feel the deeper continuity of the show,” he said.

This is Fidler’s first year wearing only one hat.

“It’s a nice shift,” he said.

“I didn’t have to spend all this time writing grants and doing the selection process.”

Working with a big cast can be challenging, he added.

“It takes a lot of diplomacy.

“People freak out and get anxious — you have to let things slide off you.”

Longest Night is running December 21st and 22nd at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Shows start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $18/$23 and are available at the arts centre box office and Arts Underground.