Children’s theatre was important to me, not only for my children, but I felt that the children of Ottawa should be exposed to their own theatre. There were few venues for children’s theatre in Ottawa in the mid 60s. Noreen Young Puppets performed regularly at Le Hibou on Bank Street and then on Sussex Drive. Occasionally, Noreen would bring in guest performers such as Fred Little, Rich Little’s brother. Bob Delmer and Noreen’s brother, Stephen Brathwaite, were also part of the Noreen Young Puppets.
Noreen was a wonderful person to work with, always in good humour, very professional, and a very imaginative puppet maker. All the puppets were made in silicon from the scary ones to the very funny ones.
I met Noreen at the CBC when I was studio director of a children’s show called “Jack in the Box,” featuring Jack Pearce. Every weekend we would tape shows in various schools in the Ottawa Valley. It was lots of fun. Noreen had a puppet segment in the show. Later she developed her own television show, called “Hi Diddle Day” and “Under the Umbrella Tree.” When I became producer later on I actually produced some of her shows for a few months. The television crew affectionately named her puppets the “rubber people.”
Noreen’s workload on television was increasing all the time. She was also involved in a late night satirical television show where her “political” characters were quite hilarious. She had a particularly wonderful John Diefenbaker. Eventually, she was just too busy with the television shows to perform at Le Hibou.
So, I started a group called “Little Owl Children’s Theatre,” some plays were directed by George Bloom, others by myself. We even had a children’s puppet theatre using puppets made of felt. (None of us had Noreen’s silicone puppet expertise.) Luba Goy and Ed Hanna were regular performers along with Gail Luther and John Hodgson who performed folk songs. Even evening performers contributed. I recall that one time while the Jim Kweskin Jug Band was performing at Le Hibou, Jim Kweskin agreed to do a solo Saturday afternoon concert of his children’s songs.