I am but a little one-man band made into an orchestra by the many hands who have lifted me up.”

-Ronnie Burkett

Ronnie Burkett

2024 Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award (Stages (formerly Theatre))

Puppeteer, playwright, designer and performer

Recognized as one of Canada’s foremost theatre artists, Ronnie Burkett has been credited with reinventing the art of puppetry. Provocative, topical, compassionate and entertaining, his work has revitalized puppet theatre, consistently attracting adult audiences who are enthralled by the colourful characters populating his miniature world of big ideas. His productions have been commissioned and presented by major theatres and festivals, and have earned critical and public acclaim across Canada and around the world. He has also shared his knowledge and experience with hundreds of aspiring artists through masterclasses, workshops and lectures.
Mr. Burkett was born in 1957 in Lethbridge, Alberta, and grew up in Medicine Hat. He discovered puppetry at the age of seven, and began touring his own shows around Alberta at 14. He apprenticed in New York with Bil Baird, who famously produced and performed “The Lonely Goatherd” puppetry scene in the movie The Sound of Music.
He formed his own company, Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes, in 1986, and began creating innovative theatrical marionette plays for adults, with themes and characters that would come to embody archetypes of the human condition. “It’s the only way I can shrink our confusing, maddening world to a manageable size so I can examine it and try to understand it,” he says.
The diversity and depth of his shows reveal his impressive range as a writer, performer and craftsperson. For each production, he draws on a remarkable variety of skills: writing, acting, singing, stand-up, improv, sleight of hand, painting and carpentry. His meticulously constructed marionettes are works of art in themselves. Working solo and appearing onstage throughout each performance, he manipulates and voices every character, from irascible pensioners and faded showgirls to guileless children, talking dogs, and everything in between. His repertoire comprises over a dozen original shows, including the most recent Wonderful Joe, which premiered in spring 2024.
Ronnie Burkett is an Officer of the Order of Canada and the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award, the Herbert Whittaker Drama Bench Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Theatre, two Chalmers Canadian Play Awards, and the Siminovitch Prize (Design), among others.