Unraku was a privately incorporated puppetry collective that created puppet films and puppet theatre, organized puppetry workshops, and produced puppet slams and other events from 2008 – 2013. The company was initially made up of a group of local Toronto artists from diverse artistic backgrounds who had a shared interest in puppetry, but its membership later expanded to include artists from as far away as Quebec and the Southern United States.
The Unraku Puppetry Collective was formed during a series of table top puppetry workshops held in Toronto in early 2008. The company first performed publicly at INTERAction, a monthly multidisciplinary arts event at a small Toronto art gallery in February of that year. After the company's inaugural performance was well received, it led to a series of other performances at festivals and venues in Southern Ontario throughout 2008 and 2009.
The collective opened the Unraku studio – a dedicated 1,600 square foot workshop and rehearsal/performance space – and was formally incorporated as Unraku, Inc. in September 2009. Around the same time the company established its puppet, special effects and prop studio, The Unraku Workshop, and created its ongoing “Unraku School” puppetry workshop series taught by Unraku members and guest artists.
In 2011 Unraku produced One Night Slam, a year long recurring series of “one night only” puppet films and short form puppet theatre events with films and live performances by local, Canadian and international artists at pop up locations around Toronto. The company’s work also toured internationally for the first time, winning a Special Recognition Award at the Yunlin International Puppet Festival in Yunlin County, Taiwan. Unraku continued performing at wide range of local puppet slams, cabarets and other events through 2012 and puppets and set pieces from its projects were included in several local and international puppet exhibits during that time.
Unraku officially went on hiatus in 2013, although many of its members have continued collaborating together in smaller teams on an ad hoc basis. Unraku Studios was established in 2017 as a not-for-profit successor organization and has continued some of the original collective’s projects, in addition to developing new work.
Rabbit Dance at Toronto Puppet Explosion (Comedy Bar, Toronto, June 2012)
The Machine at Feed The Birds Cabaret (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, April 2012)
The Amazing Acro-ba-chicks presented as part of PuppetVision Live at the Yunlin International Puppet Festival (Yunlin Hand Puppet Museum, Yunlin County, Taiwan, October 2011)
Unraku Improv at One Night Slam IV (Ralph Thornton Centre, Toronto, October 2011)
Hire A Ninja at One Night Slam III (Cameron House, Toronto, May 2011)
Dumbell at One Night Slam: Take Two (Wychwood Barns, Toronto, March 2011)
Bohemian Rhapsody and The Amazing Acro-ba-chicks at One Night Slam (Unraku Studio, January 2011)
Rabbit Dance at Feed The Birds Cabaret (Lower Ossington Theatre, Toronto, December 2010)
Bohemian Rhapsody at The Carnegie Hall Show (Bread and Circus, Toronto, December 2010)
Bohemian Rhapsody and Rabbit Dance at CanZine Puppet Slam (The Great Hall, Toronto, September 2010)
The Amazing Acro-ba-chicks at The Junction Arts Festival (Toronto, September 2008)
The Amazing Acro-ba-chicks at The East York Canada Day Festival (Stan Wadlow Park, Toronto, July 2008)
Monster at INTERAction (The Art Within, Toronto, March 2008)
Bohemian Rhapsody at INTERAction (The Art Within, Toronto, February 2008)
Best of Slam, CanZine Puppet Slam
Special Recognition Award, Yunlin International Puppet Festival