This year marks the annual MayDay Parade's 40th birthday. That's 40 years of towering puppets, raucous floats, and magically crafted masks, all traipsing down Bloomington Avenue and into Powderhorn Park on the first Sunday in May. The annual celebration is a spectacle seemingly designed for people-watching — crust punks grilling goats, hippies in all their Tree of Life Ceremony finery — but with so much to see from the parade itself, this can quickly turn into eyeball overload. The solution: Take in some of the most colorful characters before parade day. During the month of April, the Lake Street home of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre transforms into a giant studio, where staff artists toil side by side with volunteers to bring the parade to life. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the theater runs workshops that are free and open to the public, inviting the curious to come and get their hands dirty, or just watch the parade's many pieces being stitched together. The crowd is a creative mix of toddlers and art students, Powderhorn neighborhood-dwellers and international artists. Some of them will be running around art-directing the biggest floats, some will be throwing paint, and some will just be sifting through plastic tubs filled with newspaper. Whatever you encounter at a given workshop, it's likely to be just as playful, vibrant, and fun to watch as the MayDay Parade itself.