Pinocchio Takes Center Stage at GPAC

The Canadian theater company, Tout a Trac, brings their colorful production of Pinocchio to the Germantown Performing Arts Center on Friday, November 22. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15+. We recently spoke with Hugo Belanger, the artistic director of the company, while he his troupe was performing in Nashville. The company is based in the city of Montreal, Canada. He wrote and directed the show.

Your creation of Pinocchio is wonderfully developed and very dramatic, using actors who wear masks, an intricate set, songs, and hand-carved puppets. People are familiar with the Disney version of Pinocchio. How does your production differ?

The story of Pinocchio was actually written by an Italian author, Carlo Collodi, in the 1880s, and the novel is not the same as Disney’s version. Of course, we’ve created our own version. We find ways people can recognize Pinocchio yet see a new one. In the novel, only two pages are dedicated to Pinocchio’s nose growing, yet you can’t go without that! I also thought about the fact that this story comes on the heels of the Industrial Revolution, and Geppetto, a woodcarver, isn’t doing so well financially, he is being left behind as people become more reliant on machines. Yet, it’s interesting to think about this boy, this piece of wood, who dreams of becoming human in a world which wants less to be human.

Photo credits: (above & below) Mimosa Arts, Nashville

Ultimately, I discovered that Pinocchio is really about the challenges we face growing up to become an adult. So Pinocchio's life is a journey, where he must face down bad guys like the Fireater and the fox. The fox is like the cool kid who wants to entice another to do something bad. This tale asks 'what kind of adult do you want to be?' It's about learning values.

How long does it take to put a show like this together?

Each show takes about a year to produce. I work with set designer Patrece Charboneau as well as a costume designer to create each character’s look. Pinocchio is a bit unfinished because he is just a boy. Part of the challenge was how to animate this puppet and pose the question for the audience, 'Who is real, the puppet or the puppeteer?' And then, a character like the puppet master who has a big beard because he’s a bad guy and when he gets mad, his beard begins to burn like a volcano. The kids love that.

How big is the cast?

There are four cast members, with each actor playing multiple roles. Since Tout a Trac isn’t an acting troupe per se, I audition and hire actors for each show. In all, there are about 10 actors who come back and perform each season. We only do two children's shows a year. This season, it was Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland. These shows are good for everyone. Kids make a great audience, they are open-minded and can relate to Pinocchio, in that he wants to be grown up, but he also wants his mommy at times.

I understand your children are ages 5 and 2. How has becoming a father colored you?

Now that I am a father, I am thankful for my own parents and what they did for me.

For tickets, go to or call 751-7500.

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