People

People

TANYA DAVIES March 1 1999
People

People

TANYA DAVIES March 1 1999

People

TANYA DAVIES

The gift of the puppets

Diane Dupuy, who recalls her public school classmates wrongfully calling her a “retard,” has come a long way from those painful early days. Now 50, Dupuy is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her internationally successful theatre company, the Famous People Players, with a new play, Leave the Porch Light On, that will tour Canada for the next year. In 1974, using a $17,000 federal grant, Dupuy created a celebrity look-alike puppet show and cast mentally challenged young people to operate the life-sized fluorescent props on a black-light stage. “Back then, all I heard was, ‘Not this.’ We had to hide because of our label,” says « Dupuy, about the common reaction to her disabled cast. “Now, 1 we are proud and accepted as we are.” In fact, the troupe has ; grown to 54 members, has entertained audiences around the g world and can count such celebrities as Tom Cruise, Phil gj Collins and Paul Newman as fans and financial supporters. S Growing up in Hamilton, Dupuy was labelled a slow learner £ and was shunned in school. Then her mother, Mary Thornton—who designs all the props and sets for the company— made her a hand puppet and told her to use it to entertain her classmates. It worked—Dupuy was accepted by the other children. Now happily married to Bernard Dupuy, general manager of the Toronto-based theatre, her two grown daughters, Jeannine and Joanne, have also been involved with the company.

Stars such as comedians Andrea Martin, Nathan Lane and Eugene Levy and singer Michael Burgess recorded the dialogue for

Leave the Porch Light On—the first time the company has used celebrity voices for the puppets. ‘We racked our brains on how to make this anniversary special,” says Dupuy, “and finally decided to do this.” The play chronicles Dupuy’s struggles with the theatre and includes real-life stories of cast members. We want to show that it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are,” she says. “All people can make their dreams come true.”

A cross-cultural king of the kimonos

Madonna has started wearing whiteface powder and kimonos because of it. Absolut Vodka created an advertisement around it. And Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg is adapting it for the big screen. ‘It’ is Memoirs of a Geisha, the debut novel by Arthur Golden that was on The New York Times best-seller list for 58 weeks. What makes it a surprise success is the topic—a first-person account of the life of a celebrated geisha—and the fact that it is written by a 42-year-old native of Chattanooga, Tenn. “Writing teachers always tell their students to write about what they know,” he says. “But I

thought it was better to write about what sparks your imagination, and the geisha district in Kyoto, Japan, sparked mine.” Golden’s love of Japan began when he studied Japanese art at Harvard University

and later earned a graduate degree in Japanese history at Columbia University. He then moved to Tokyo and met a young man whose mother was a geisha, an old-fashioned courtesan. “I was fascinated,” says Golden, who then took nine years to research and write his book. “As an American man of the 1990s, I needed to cross three cultural divides—man to woman, American to Japanese and present to past. When I told people what I was writing about, they thought I was crazy.”

Now living in a suburb of Boston with his wife, Trudy, and their two children, Golden is writing his second novel, which has “nothing to do with Japan at all.” He claims he is not worried about how successful his sophomore effort will be, saying, “I have a tough act to follow, but that is a good problem to have— I’ll take it."