BareBones Halloween puppet show returns to full form, now in Minneapolis

A person breathes fire during a puppet show
Performers breath fire during the BareBones puppet show in the Midtown Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis on Saturday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

After a two-year hiatus, a Twin Cities cult classic is back. 

Since 1994, The BareBones Puppet Show has been hosting themed Halloween Extravaganza performances. The annual event took place at Hidden Falls with over 250 puppeteers, artists, musicians, performers and others to help the event come together. 

Since 2020, things have looked a bit different: 2020 and 2021 had alternative formats in response to the murder of George Floyd and then the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Forty artists gathered in 2020 and hosted 30 outdoor pop-up works along Lake Street with the theme of “offerings.” The idea was to hold space for the grief that Minneapolis and more specifically, Black residents, were feeling. 

Last year, BareBones partnered with Latinx organizations for a Gritos de los Ancestros (The Cry of the Ancestors) ceremony and procession, ending the night with a concert and cabaret. 

This year’s show has changed location and is now taking place at the Midtown Greenway with its usual full production. Michelle Elliot, first time co-director, said the key to every production is the emotion that the pupperters display and then evoke from audience members.

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Two people in a big wire frame
Artists Zarra TM and Fletcher Wolfe at the BareBones build space, working on their bear head puppet.
Courtesy of Vidya Neni

“At its core, the shows are about the idea of loss and grief. They take place around Halloween because that is when the veil is the thinnest between the living and the dead. We lean into those feelings … I think you just kind of get a fluid feeling of expressing different physical and emotional reactions to grief and then hopefully, make room for joy at some point.”

A poster with a bear on it
BareBones 2022 Extravaganza, Season of the Bear.
Poster by graphic artist Jake Quatt

This year’s theme is “The Season of the Bear” and explores grief as represented as a big burly bear. Elliot says the show introduces a firmer storyline than previous years.

The switch from Hidden Falls, located in Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, to Midtown Greenway in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis was purposeful.

“Midway Greenway is an area where many BareBone artists and volunteers live and it feels like it's for the community a bit more now because it’s right here in the middle of South Minneapolis. The space and venue will be very different because it’s less isolated now, as well as the lighting. At the heart of everything BareBone does, it’s being a part of the neighborhood and interacting with folks so this, this is really special.”

The BareBones Puppet show is 7 p.m. every night Friday through Monday. Advance sale and online tickets are sold out but fear not – some walk-up tickets are still available before each show. Tickets are $20 each and will be available starting at 6 p.m. before each show. Entry begins at 6:30 p.m. The Saturday performance will have accessibility accommodations of audio description and ASL interpretation.