Sunday, May 3, 2009

In the Heart of the Beast MayDay Parade

Today is a high holy holiday for visionary activism in the Twin Cities: it's the festival day for the annual In the Heart of the Beast MayDay Parade and Ceremony. Every year since 1975 (2 weeks after the end of the Vietnam War) In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre has created a parade that travels down Bloomington Avenue (hey – I like that!) into Powderhorn Park in south Minneapolis. There, a ceremony takes place involving huge puppets, humans on stilts, and dramatic enactments on newsworthy and mythic themes. This year the metaphor is "Our Common Treasury," promising to say something about resources and economies of value.

Today is the 35th anniversary of this event, my favorite communal spiritual experience. The parade and festival are so extraordinary in sensory terms, with fantastic puppets, floats, costumes, music, messages and energy, that it is hard to convey their impact in words alone.

The brainchild of Sandy Spieler, In the Heart of the Beast is that exemplary thing: an arts organization that collaborates with other groups, including schools and neighborhoods, to create and truly transform communities, in an inclusive, sustained, genuine and original way. I can only imagine the many lives that have been affected by its artistry and vision. Mine certainly has.

At the end of a long winter in Minnesota, the In the Heart of the Beast May Day parade, ceremony, and festival infuse participants with renewed hope, creativity, and passion. Go to this page to see some of the beautiful posters created by Sandy Spieler over the years, as well as a list of themes of past celebrations. And for those of you in the Twin Cities, please contribute my enthusiasm to the parade!

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