Thursday, May 08, 2008

May Day and a "New Bridge"

This past Sunday (May 4) saw the 34th Annual In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre MayDay Parade and Festival. It’s a renowned event in the Twin Cities, one that draws tens of thousands of spectators and hundreds of participants every year.

It was a beautiful spring day as I made my way to the staging area of the parade. I’ve discovered that this is the best place to get some really good photographs of the people and puppets that embody the parade’s theme as they prepare to carry the message of this theme along Bloomington Ave. to Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis.

The theme of this year’s Mayday parade was “A New Bridge: Infrastructure for the Future Beings.” It was a theme that colorfully and creatively challenged people to consider the August 2, 2007 tragedy of the I-35W bridge collapse as an opportunity to build a sustainable and healthy life for all beings.

“Are we building toward depletion and collapse as consumers and conquerors, or are we building a path to sustainable, reciprocal harmony with the rest of the earth?” asked the creators and organizers of this year’s parade.

Following are images I captured at the parade’s staging area, accompanied by words, phrases, and descriptions from the parade’s program, written by the good folks at the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre.

“Racing Toward Collapse”

The bridge we thought would lead us to prosperity turns out to be the Bridge of Debt, and it is about to tip over! We’re stuck in a rat race on [this] teetering bridge.

This first section of the parade attempts to address a failing of human spirit and an unwillingness to think beyond our current system as the “best of all possible worlds.” Our Bridge of Debt represents a socio-economic system as a manifestation of this failure of spirit, now leading the world toward collapse and ruin.

While the triumph of this system leaves many of us without livelihoods, without health care, without houses, and without a healthy environment, the complimentary culture of consumerism leads many away from a spiritual life as well. In this section we have used the automobile and the rat race to represent the separateness, desperation, and frenzy-to-get-ahead most of us feel as captives of this economy.

A giant craven puppet dangles the carrot to a better life but delivers only wretchedness. Great banners heralding poverty, homelessness, and death follow at the heels of our Bridge of Debt.

- Lead artists Lindsay McCaw, Julian McFaul, and Duane Tougas.

“A Change of Heart”

The world is in crisis and we grieve. Many of our relations in the natural world - the four-leggeds, two-leggeds, the finned, the feathered, and the rooted - are in distress. In our human world, we see signs of alienation and extreme desperation. Spiritual transformation on a massive scale can turn things around. We want to create a sustainable world for all beings.

The Change of Heart section is a testament to the power of the spirit. Embracing our fears and taking them to “Heart” exposes the eternal beat that connects everything. Simply being with how the world is and seeing it as part of ourselves, rather than separate from us, will create a field where healing can occur. . . . The Future Beings - those not yet born - are carried forward as seeds in the young of all species, humans included. Everything we need to change, to shift our direction, is available to us right now in this moment.

- Lead artists Tina Nemetz and Mary Plaster.


This section of the parade celebrates those who creatively and lovingly work in their communities to make the world a better place, who strive to bridge the gaps in our society - those gaps to do with access to basic needs such as health care, housing, food, sanitation, education, and safety.

Why do swallows feature prominently in this section?

The swallow is a remarkably community-oriented bird. Cliff swallows build their mud nests in large groups under bridges, sometimes creating colonies of up to 3,700 homes in one spot. If a swallow discovers a good cache of insects, it emits a special sound that alerts the others in its group to the bounty. Finally, it is not uncommon for a swallow to place some of its eggs in the nest of another - the surrogate parent will then adopt the eggs and raise the fledglings as its own.

Swallows are seen as a harbinger of spring in many northern climates. The town of Mission San Juan Capistrano in California celebrates the arrival of the first swallows each spring by ringing the the church bells and hosting a full day of pageantry, food, and music.

There are many kinds of swallows around the world. We chose to depict barn swallows in the MayDay Parade because of their lovely forked tail and gorgeous blue and orange coloring.

- Lead artists Ramon Cordes and Anne Sawyer-Aitch.

“But Think Ahead . . . ”

Let’s create a bridge to a more sustainable future. It seems we need a kick in the butt to get there. We need ingenuity and inspiration to move forward.

Our future beings, the children and adults embodied as horned animals, prod us past our insufficient excuses and buts . . . “But I recycle . . . But I need to drive to work . . . But solar power is expensive . . .” But really the big But is . . . “But what will we do after fossil fuels?”

We can implement solutions with new mindsets: bicycles as wild horses inspire us to genius level sustainable inventions. The skull mindset reminds us the fossil fuel clock is ticking away, about to fall off track. . .

Let’s wise up with a matured mindset that draws its power from the natural forces like solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and wind. We see ourselves finally starting again to be connected to the elements and powers that are healthier for the whole planet and more plentiful in the long run.

This change of mindset reflects a more vibrant lifestyle starting to live in harmony with our environment, feeding ourselves healthily, living with less impact to our surroundings, living and consuming more locally, learning new basic skills that we need in a world with dwindling and eventually no fossil fuels.

- Lead artists Bart Buch, Kevin Long, and Janaki Ranpura.

“We Are!”

We are part of the glorious, harmonious interconnected living system of the earth. Let us celebrate this and live as a relative with all the beings of the world.

There is a mindset we have that thinks, “Be strong. We will survive.” But the butterfly is not hard. It does not have fangs to ensure its survival. It has no heavy shell in which to hide, no thorns as defense.

We have a mindset that rewards individual achievement (“do your own thing”). But mycelium [the vegetative part of a fungus] shows us a new world can be created when you function together, in tune with environment. Mycelium earth and mushrooms remind us all: there are no separations between humans, animals, and nature - there are no separations between all lives.

- Lead artists Gustavo Boada and Masanari Kawahara.

Following are more images of the 34th Annual MayDay Parade in Minneapolis. Enjoy!

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

MayDay 2008 Poster: Sandy Spieler.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
The Time is Now! (The 2006 May Day Parade)

Recommended Off-site Link:
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre

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