The puppets are dreaming

Photo by Mariana Zappet and Emilano Leyva.

Presentation House Theatre (PHT) and Mexico’s famed Marionetas de la Esquina present the Canadian premiere of Amaranta Leyva’s whimsical and enchanting puppet show, Sleeping Beauty Dreams, at Presentation House Theatre from Jan. 25–Feb. 4.

“I want people to see the story, feel the story and think about what the story is giving them,” says Leyva.

Leyva grew up in a world where puppets told the stories –
with a flick of a finger, they danced, played and came to life. Now, as a playwright, she gets to explore the world the puppets come from, create who they are and imagine who they become. Now, the stories the puppets tell are hers.

Amaranta Leyva

Image from Sleeping Beauty Dreams.| Photo by Mariana Zappet and Emilano Leyva.

Born in Mexico, Leyva grew up working with her parents, who just happened to be puppeteers.

“When they were doing plays in the 70s, you did everything by yourself. You made everything,” says Leyva.

Her father Lucio Espindola made the puppets, and her mother, Lourdes Pérez Gay, directed as well as acted in the plays. But “like most kids, I wanted to get away,” Leyva says through laughter.

She got away in university to study playwriting, where her professors told her her work wasn’t what they wanted.

“They wanted stories about adults and adult problems, not the lives of children,” says Leyva. “The stories I was writing had to do with the children’s world, my characters were related to puppetry. What can I do if my teachers don’t like what I write? I had an identity crisis.”

Leyva decided to go back to her family’s company Marionetas de la Esquina where it all started.

“It’s fun. I like it. I enjoy it. I suffer a lot, too. At the end, I always like to write, work, think and talk with children,” says Leyva.

She discovered she could write for children’s theatre in Mexico; however, at the time, children’s plays were mostly made for teaching lessons like “how to brush your teeth.”

Leyva recalls, “It was unthinkable: a person could write something decent or artistic for children too, so I took classes and started this journey.”

Sleeping Beauty Dreams

After the success of Leyva’s play, Emilio and The Enchanted Cow, Leyva was asked to write her own version of a play based on a fairy tale.

“After reading many fairy tales, I chose Sleeping Beauty because it told me something,” says Leyva.

Being a new mom herself, she wrote Sleeping Beauty Dreams by examining her own fears as a parent.

“I was observing my baby and myself, and how I was changing as a person. These crazy fears were getting bigger and bigger so when I read Sleeping Beauty, I wrote about an overprotected kid and the opposite,” says Leyva.

Co-directed by Pérez Gay and Kelly Selody, Sleeping Beauty Dreams is about a princess who, despite her parents forbidding her, wants to explore the world outside her window. It is also about a boy, who wants to break into the castle to be with his mother, a maid. When their two different lives intertwine, they end up helping one another face their fears, gain confidence and discover they are meant for each other.

“I want children to enjoy, feel and to see two different ways of life, ways of thinking. To see a girl and a boy that could be like them. In the end, everyone has fears and love,” says Leyva.

Kim Selody, Co-Director, and Artistic Director of Presentation House Theatre; Shizuka Kai; Lourdes Perez Gay, Co-Director, and founder of Marionetas de la Esquina; Brent Hirose; Randi Edmundson; Linda
Carson; Emiliano Leyva Ramirez, Marionetas de la Esquina; Timothy Gosley.| Photo by Emily Cooper

Bringing the play to Vancouver

Leyva traveled with her team, from Mexico to Canada to train a local cast in Vancouver to perform the play in English.

“It’s been quite the journey coming here. This experience has been very rich. We have learned a lot. Two companies from two countries that are very different get together to do a project and it’s an exchange,” says Leyva. “Doing it this way in Canada, it becomes a new show.”

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