By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
--Pablo, volunteer and contract artist since 1982, current festival coordinator
14. Why Theory
Minnesota has been such a people's state. The first Teamsters union strike was here, during the Depression. We had a socialist governor for years back at the turn of the century. We still have a DFL rather than a Democratic party. Paul Wellstone's from here. And May Day is the ritual form of that. Heart of the Beast brings together the politics and the spirituality of it--that the earth speaks, that we are all connected in the web of life, and that we need to know that connection in order to survive.
To me, May Day exemplifies the very reason for theater. It reaches back to the origins of theater as a community ritual, a spiritual ceremony, a celebration which dances between the mundane and the sublime. In some ways, I believe that we puppeteers are a kind of modern-day papier-mâché shamans who show people a magical spiritual world which is at once profound as the sun and as common as ants.
Sandy's dad was a preacher, and sometimes, way back, I'd think, "Goddammit. This is Sandy's church. And I'm not a disciple." In a sense, though, puppet theater is her church, and she is doing spiritual work here. And it's really working. When you watch her directing those rehearsals, when they're like two, three hundred people, you just can't believe it. And people really feel like they're getting something back.
15. More Prosaically
There's people you never see--you wonder if they're still alive. And then you see them walking around the lake on May Day.
16. Then Again
I know a woman who lives on Tenth Avenue by the park; she's lived there 20 years, and she's never been to the festival. She says it's just a big hippie thing. So she tries to go somewhere else that afternoon.
17. The Kale Tale
One year, there was a transvestite walking the parade route in a G-string, showing a lot of booty--probably in the join-in section. So somebody gets offended, they call the Park Board, and it comes back to me. Now it becomes a policy issue. Luckily [Powderhorn Park recreation supervisor] Corky Wiseman and I have a great relationship and it got resolved. Of course, the next year the kale section show up: naked people dressed in kale. This is potentially a big deal. If somebody gets offended, it would be a second complaint, and some kind of non-nudity clause would have to go into the parade contract. This is not a mainstream event: We have lots of scantily clad people saying outrageous things, from the semi-subtle, like "Kill your television," to "To hell with the military-industrial complex blah blah." So I go to the kale folks ahead of time and say, "As a favor to me, be prepared to put on more kale." They were very cool, and nobody complained.
On the other hand, one year somebody in the join-in section spit on the police reservists. Oddly enough the next year, the police reservists--who were donating their time--were not able to attend the event. So from then on we've had to shell out over $2,000 for off-duty officers. That sucks.
18. The Body of the Beast
I love Heart of the Beast; I don't always like their shows. With people's theater, you want anybody who walks through the door to feel like this is home, a place they can find their creativity. This often means that parts of the work aren't so great. If you're really going to commit yourself to doing community people's theater, you have to drop some of your personal daydreams about being the greatest puppetry artist in the whole world. I don't know that that struggle is solvable.
19. The Wheel of Change Ever-Whirling
When I came in, the theater was sort of at a turning point. It had been around for five years, and up to then it had been more of a collective. Those people were sort of dispersing, and Sandy was the one who held onto it and kept it going. It always felt like the theater was on the brink of blowing to oblivion.
--Steve Epp, Heart of the Beast member,
1980 to 1984
To become part of Heart of the Beast in the late '70s was to have an incredible sense of being in a family. Our work and our fun blended together. And sometimes it was hell, too. I left kinda pissed off. It was sad to leave, in a way, but I felt like to get my own voice out there--or even to discover it--I had to go. Sandy's voice was strong. If I'd been stronger...We were power-struggling like crazy back then. We even had somebody come in and do group process. It was a disaster. But I've found some peace around it. And I'm happy as a clam coming back and taking part.
20. The Money Show
The main conflict at Heart of the Beast has always been money. That's true of the arts in general. But it's partly because of how Heart of the Beast got started: It was a political theater, antiestablishment, and it's very hard to get established in the arts without the establishment.