'Puppets want to move': Heart of the Beast theater opens puppet library
Tucked into the bustle of brightly colored markets and Mexican restaurants on Lake Street in Minneapolis is an old movie theater that houses a world of imagination.
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater is in the midst of an historic renovation of the old Avalon theater. And part of that is unpacking 50 years worth of puppets for all to see — and also to touch, wear and borrow.
It’s launching a puppet library Saturday. Community members and organizations will be able to check out puppets of all sizes at no cost.
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“People [can] check puppets out for any purpose: a birthday party, a neighborhood party, a wedding, street protests, whatever,” said Interim Executive Director Michelle Pett.
“Right now they're stationary, but puppets want to move and breathe,” said Steve Ackerman, a puppet artist who also manages programming for the theater. “So the hope would be that they would eventually get brought to life by the community and go out into the street. That's the difference between setting this up as a museum [and having] it be more of a library so that they can get out of the theater.”
But many of the pieces, seen in productions and May Day parades for 50 years, probably belong in a museum. They’re displayed throughout the theater like the artwork that they are.
Pett said she isn’t worried about whether the public will damage them. She said the operator of a puppet library in New York told her it hasn’t been a problem there.
“People kind of regard the responsibility for these pieces very greatly, and they treat them kind of as sacred objects,” Pett said. “They protect them to the best of their ability and don't bang them up. But I know we'll have to repair.”
Pett echoed Ackerman’s sentiment. Puppets are meant to be used.
“Puppetry is a folk art and it needs to be connected to individuals in a hands-on way,” she said. “We are hoping people have a transformative experience through the puppetry arts, and the way to do that is not to just be a spectator, but to be part of the animation and part of the creation.”
The library is expected to be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Saturdays of the month.