Erotic anguish and puppet penises in Whitehorse

The Old Trout Puppet troupe didn't want to take any chances. So when it built Don Juan, it also made him a "hideous male version of a chastity belt.

The Old Trout Puppet troupe didn’t want to take any chances.

So when it built Don Juan, it also made him a “hideous male version of a chastity belt.”

The giant puppet is coming to Whitehorse to star in The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan, and the metal, form-fitting belt may have something to do with the title.

The puppet troupe brought the fictional Spanish lover back from hell to teach people a little bit about love.

“Puppets say profound things,” said director Judd Palmer, who’s been hanging out with the little wooden creatures for the last 10 years.

“People relate to puppets,” he said.

“They get our defences down.”

When there’s an actor on stage, “You have the emotions humans have when they’re staring at another human,” said Palmer.

“You might think, ‘Why is this guy lying, he’s not really an evil king?’

“Whereas a puppet is just itself.

“And we create this little spell believing that the thing’s alive, even when we know it’s not.”

But this time around, the puppet troupe has added actors to the mix.

With both puppets and people on stage, things “have gone an interesting direction,” said Palmer.

“The puppets have had to explain why they’re puppets.

“It grounds the whole thing.”

Given the subject matter, and Don Juan’s rather grotesque appendage, it’s “puppetry for adults,” said Palmer.

“It’s a new idea for an incredibly old medium.”

Puppets are the first things humans got around to making, said Palmer.

Long before the wheel, maybe even before fire, our ancestors were making chubby, clay earth goddesses with moving limbs fastened to their bodies with bits of leather.

A few centuries later, during medieval morality plays, this idea of moving figurines was transferred to Virgin Mary statues that moved with hidden mechanics to “freak people out,” said Palmer.

“People would think a miracle was happening.”

In keeping with tradition, Palmer’s troupe always built puppets out of wood because “it’s incredibly old-fashioned and incredibly beautiful.”

But this time around, the troupe was forced to try something new.

The puppets are so big they would have weighed 400 pounds, said Palmer.

So instead of wood, they built them from Shell Shock – a lightweight fiberglass used on movie sets.

The production begins in hell, where Satan has a plan for the notorious womanizer.

As penance, Don Juan is forced to perform the story of his life, wearing his unfortunate chastity belt.

But, like a true lover, he turns that penance on its head and begins championing free love.

“Love is an act of the imagination,” said Palmer, talking about what the puppets taught him.

“It’s not something that happens – it’s something you create.”

The magic of theatre also rests on creation, he said.

“Theatre is a beautiful moment when a bunch of people believe something that is completely absurd together. And it’s that common goal to imagine that I find beautiful.”

The puppet troupe just toured Don Juan during the Olympics and is working on another show.

This one’s about cavemen, and it’s called Ignorance.

“It’s a puppet documentary,” said Palmer.

The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan is at the Yukon Arts Centre tonight through Friday. Performances start at 8 p.m.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read