ACT Heritage Library Manuscript Collections

HMSS 0242 Skylark Theatre Records

Scope and Content Notes 

Call Number HMSS 0242
Collection Skylark Theatre Records
Date Range 1982-1993
Quantity 0.18m (1 manuscript box)
Access Conditions open
Copying Conditions with attribution
Related Collections HMSS 0063 Anne Edgeworth; HMSS 0354 Ann Nugent; ACTHL Theatre Ephemera files; Jigsaw archives [ACTHL not yet processed]

Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre was founded in 1984 by Swiss-born nurse and puppeteer Marie-Martine Ferrari, Australian teacher and puppeteer Shelley McDonald and Mexican-American puppet maker Al Martinez to create puppet theatre that brought together actors, puppets of all sizes, masks and electronic props. Ferrari worked for several years as a Community Artist for Blue Folk Community Arts, and from time to time Skylark was augmented by ex-Blue Folk artist Peter Heffernan and others. Skylark collaborated with Jigsaw Theatre Company on several productions, both within schools and for the general public.


In addition to theatre and school productions, Skylark developed smaller shows that were suitable for children’s parties. Members were also available to conduct workshops on puppets and puppet making, mask making, mime, movement and dance, face painting, clowning, and the various underlying crafts such as woodworking, costume and set design, pottery and fabric painting, as well as personal growth and staff development. Themes included environment, racism, death, adoption, self-esteem and the power of imagination, while the short pieces were often based on European fairy tales.


In 1986 the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) funded Skylark’s Inside Out project as a tool to fight drug abuse. The project consisted of two puppet plays, The Inside Story and Tiny Pod and the Silver Wings, with accompanying teachers’ guide. It was so successful that NCADA funded Film Australia videos of the programs so as to reach as many children as possible.


Skylark toured its shows throughout Australia, and were Artists in Residence at the Canberra Theatre in 1988 and the Playhouse in 1989.


Ferrari trained with Theatre de la Lune Rouge in Geneva and the commedia dell’arte company Puppi e Frezede in Florence, and in her earlier work often used the pseudonym Papillon. In 1987 she and Shelley McDonald were the only Australians selected to attend master classes by Jim Henson of the Muppets. She resigned from Skylark in 1993, moved to Melbourne and started a new company Ferrari Puppets with Fabian Billerwell. After seven years touring round Australia they moved to Queanbeyan in 2001, working with The Canberra Institute of Technology teaching puppet, mask and muppet-making to adults. In 2005 they moved to Railton, Tasmania and created a new company Theatre of the Sun.


Marie-Martine Ferrari died in Railton, Tasmania on 30 March 2013 and is survived by her husband Fabian Billerwell.


The collection consists of the archives of Skylark Theatre and some other material relating to the early activities of Ferrari and McDonald. It includes mainly scripts and production notes, teachers’ guides, publicity material, newscuttings and reviews, photographs, some organisational records, awards and a videotape. 

Box List

Box No. Description Quantity Date Range

Predecessor and early Skylark activities
Activities by Ferrari (often under the pseudonym Papillon), McDonald and others, including:

  • Punchinello Family Theatre Company: a program by Blue Folk as a permanent theatre attraction at Canberry Fair; includes program, newscuttings, poster 1982-1983
  • O’Connel Education Centre mask and drama for teachers; letter of appreciation to Ferrari 1983; Integration through Creativity, Melba Primary School
  • application for funding for a school-based program in collaboration with Skylark, report 1984
  • Goodnight Children, Capital 7 television; production notes and scripts for 6 short programs, 1984
  • Skylark first birthday; includes newscuttings, 1985
  • School of Art, mask making in the Leather Department; semester 1 program and teaching notes, 1985
  • Accord Theatre of Art and COBRA (Cultural Organisation of Black Resources Artists) presentation Forest of Gods at Tau Community Centre; includes poster, program, flyer, 11 colour photographs of cast in mask make-up, circa 1985
  • The Enchanted Island Spectacular; Australia Day program on Black Mountain Peninsula; newscuttings, 1985
1 folder

Blue Folk Community Arts Association

  • publicity material and teaching notes for face painting, mask making and puppetry
  • Cry of the Curlew production, including poster, publicity material, 4 black and white photographs of completed masks, newscuttings
  • Sunny and the Blackbird production, including invitational flyer and newscuttings
1 folder

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

Yodi and the Yabby: holograph script, program, publicity photograph, newscuttings

1 folder


Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

The Mysterious Egg and Stranger from Arkeb, in conjunction with Jigsaw: script for Stranger from Arkeb, programs, publicity material, newscuttings

1 folder


Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Skylark puppeteers with Jigsaw actors for Jigsaw’s tenth birthday show; includes full and part scripts, promotional material, operations schedule for Alexander Theatre production

1 folder

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

Inside Out, puppet and mask productions under the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse, as both live theatre and videos. Documents concerning the overall concept and NCADA include background information, teaching ideas, correspondence, reviews, newscuttings and a history of Skylark and its members.
The components of the program are:

  • Tiny Pod and Silver Wings for preschool children; includes film production script, ideas for teachers
  • The Inside Story for primary school children; includes several versions of the script, teachers’ guide, correspondence including arrangements for a presentation in Vienna, reviews, posters, publicity material, NTSC video recording
1 folder, 1 video cassette 1986-1987

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

Quest of the Dragon: includes various scripts and production notes, posters, extract from unknown publication with colour photograph of the production

1 folder 1988

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

Salty Seagull Takes Off: includes script, teachers’ notes, correspondence, publicity material, black and white photograph of the marquee at Canberra Theatre Centre advertising the show

1 folder  1989 

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

Charlotte’s Web: there were two productions, in 1989 and 1992.

  • 1989 - script, production notes, touring notes, publicity material, newscuttings
  • 1992 – two scripts, report on production, publicity material, posters, newscuttings, reviews 
2 folders  1989; 1992 

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

Scat Cat! A Resource Guide for Teachers: 2 copies of publication, photocopied review from Muse 

1 folder  1990 

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

Hands On Hands Up; a Source Book for Young Puppet Makers, by Skylark Theatre Company 

1 book 1990 

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

Hip Hip Hippo: script, program, publicity material, opening night invitations, newscuttings, reviews 

1 folder  1991 

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

The Winter Tree: script, workbook, program, newscutting 

1 folder  1991 

Productions as Skylark Puppet and Mask Theatre

The Sounds of the Seasons by David Atfield – script
It’s in Your Best Interests; video concept for the Australian Taxation Office, Brian Voce including correspondence, newscuttings relating to 1991 activities 

1 folder  1991-1992