For 12 years, Little Artshram has helped inspire folks to step out on the streets of Traverse City for an annual spring celebration in recognition with Earth Day events nation-wide.
This year our parade theme is “The Great Lakes: Our Living Water” and it may be of interest to spend a little time acknowledging the difference between this people-powered parade and some of the others that take place in the region, like the longtime and well-loved National Cherry Festival. What is it that inspires human beings to dress up as other than human species and take to the streets?
In consideration of the history of parades and spectacles and asking the BIG why and where do parading life-size puppets and masked characters enter into our lives, here’s an exerpt from “VOICING AN OTHER: UTILIZING PUPPETRY AND PAGEANTRY FOR COMMUNITY-BASED SPECTACLE IN AMERICA” by Ethan Koerner:
“They [Puppets] ask that we actively manufacture belief. The puppet relies on the audience’s assistance. Its face never changes or exhibits feeling. It doesn’t glance or transform. Nothing happens without the audience willing it to be so.
And this, it seems to me, is the gift of the puppet: the gentle reminder that belief is an exercise, a willful act of consciousness that we can employ to transform our reality. -Jim Lasko, Artistic Director of Redmoon.
Puppetry in America over the past fifty years has been largely defined by television shows aimed at children’s education or by live performances supporting those television endeavors. Following the examples set forth by Jim Henson, mainstream children’s television has embraced the puppet wholeheartedly, making it a commonplace image in many households.
There exists in America another approach toward puppetry, however. Companies such as Bread and Puppet, based in Vermont, In the Heart of the Beast, based in Minneapolis, and Redmoon Theater, based in Chicago, have embraced a far different aesthetic, choosing instead to focus on community engagement and community-based performance, utilizing grassroots performance models and recycling materials to create massive indoor and outdoor spectacles.
The purpose of the massive spectacles is to build, promote, and/or serve communities, providing a voice for healing, renewal, and transformation. In her book Local Acts: Community-Based performance in the United States Jan Cohen-Cruz points to three trends in the development of contemporary community-based performance: [A]ctivist performance as vigorous support for or opposition to sociopolitical circumstances; grassroots performance to retain and express collective identity grounded in tradition or place; and experimentation characterized by art blurred with life, whose everydayness welcomes broader participation and shapes and expands aesthetic impulses….
And now, for a bit of GT Earth Day parade fun….we wonder if can you identify this Fish-Man?
So shall we begin to allow for a sense of appreciation, awe and wonder to emerge as we begin to design and build our masks and costumes for the 2012 Earth Day Parade on April 28th? We invite folks to consider becoming fish and other Great Lakes inspired species for a day!
According to the revised edition of FISHES OF THE GREAT LAKES REGION, which has illustrations and descriptions of over 200 fish species in the Great Lakes, “…few regions of the world are so richly and diversely endowed with fresh water as is the basin of the incomparable Great Lakes, and in few regions of the temperate world can such a varied representation of freshwater fishes be found…..”
MORE Great Lakes facts to inspire:
Lake Michigan, the second largest Great Lake by volume with just under 1,180 cubic miles of water, is the only Great Lake entirely within the United States. Approximately 118 miles wide and 307 miles long, Lake Michigan has more than 1,600 miles of shoreline. Averaging 279 feet in depth, the lake reaches 925 feet at its deepest point. The lake’s northern tier is in the colder, less developed upper Great Lakes region, while its more temperate southern basin contains the Milwaukee and Chicago metropolitan areas. The drainage basin, approximately twice as large as the 22,300 square miles of surface water, includes portions of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Lake Michigan is hydrologically inseparable from Lake Huron, joined by the wide Straits of Mackinac.
Great Lake name origins:
from Erie tribe, a shortened form of the Iroquoian word erielhonan “long tail”
named by French explorers for inhabitants in the area, Wyandot or “Hurons”
likely from the Ojibwa word mishigami “great water”
Wyandot (Huron) word ontarío “Lake of Shining Waters” (ontara “beautiful”, ontario “beautiful lake”)
English translation of French term “lac supérieur” “upper lake”, referring to its position above Lake Huron. The Ojibwe people called it gitchigumi
Here’s a link for news about our 2012 parade building workshops and activities, with more details to follow: http://www.littleartshram.org/littleablog/?p=537
On Puppets, Parades and our inspirational Living Waters: The Great Lakes