Thursday, April 25, 2013

the mask of the moon

Last week the impossible happened: I was accepted into the Eugene O'Neill National Puppetry Conference, a dream I've had for 17 years. 

This week the impossible happened again: in less than 24 hours friends and strangers from all over the country (and world!) donated to my tuition fundraising campaign, making it possible for me to go. And, blowing my mind even more, in another half day they exceeded my goal, allowing me to pay for all the other associated expenses. 

Last week, I was pretty sure I would not get to the O'Neill. I had a short deadline and three days of blog post material to appeal for donations to my cause. I knew I had generous friends, but to the degree and speed with which they were ready to help.... I still can't get over it. 

I now have the most wonderful work ahead- putting together thank you gifts and love letters. And I'm going to continue with the Puppet Appeal blog posts as planned, so these incredible supporters can know what they are a part of.

Thank you to EVERYONE who donated, shared, linked, tweeted, cheered. Everyone's gracious help, small and large, is equally and immensely appreciated. Every moment of my being at the O'Neill this June is going to mean so much more, knowing how much you wanted me to be there. 

With all my love and gratitude for years to come: thank you, thank you, thank you. 



(From the "Mini-Manifesto" portion of the NPC application:)

When I am not puppeteering or making, my hands feel empty and ache with asking to hold. For some, the spirit lives in the mind, and this age of disembodied words and digital signals satisfies them. For others like myself, the spirit lives in the hands, and it is through the tangible that the world is understood and navigated. I puppeteer to keep that way of being and learning, for myself and those to come, though I haven’t always been aware that’s what I was doing.

Last May at the American Museum of Natural History, exhausted by long rehearsals, anxious if I’d prepared my young performers enough, wondering if I deserved to be there, I stepped out of the chaos of the last tech of my show Luna's Sea and into the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians-- dark, empty, and silent in the hours after closing. Alone in dim light with those ancient objects, from a wall full of strange faces one face in particular stared at me with inquisitive humor, much like the Moon puppet I had made for the head dancer of my oceanic show. Trepidatiously approaching through a thick air of something very old and alive I wasn't sure was welcoming or warning, I saw it was labeled: Shaman’s Mask of the Moon, and it said this:

These masks were worn by shamans when they danced in various rites. A shaman is a person who can control and use supernatural powers. The shaman had a special mask for each of his spirits which he used when appealing to that spirit. There were many occasions for ceremonies, among them births, funerals, and memorials. Tlingit shamans cured the sick, brought good weather, and caused large runs of fish.

In that moment I understood that what we were doing was more than a show, that it was part of thousands of years of an ongoing human activity, and that puppetry kept resurfacing in my life because of my corresponding need for visual art, movement, and ritual combined.

I had experimented with all kinds of art forms that I succeeded in. I had tried all kinds of athletics that thrilled me. I had sought all kinds of spiritual practices that I felt fulfilled by. But only in the meeting of object, physical exertion, and precise intention is where I experience a deep artistic, embodied, sacred satisfaction that feels like it expands beyond my self. 

Only through puppetry have I seen my work stir others the way I have been stirred by grand unseen things. It took me a long time to understand that consciously, and understand that puppets are a major force and source of my life.

My day jobs have been in traditional theater, but it has never felt for me as right and true as puppet theater. Perhaps because I was raised with puppets and the sense that life is in all inanimate objects. But I think it's that a character created by an actor, no matter how transformed, is still linked to that actor. 

While an object, made with care and moved with intention, has a chance to connect to something beyond the personal, to characters beyond human, to the vast space of myth and collective dreams, to the audience’s own souls. 

And it can be done in the smallest and humblest of places, making it accessible to everyone. This is so extraordinary!

Despite all the struggle and worry, Luna's Sea played at the AMNH for four shows last May to great audience response and reviews. It ended too quickly! The amazing and fiercely dedicated cast and crew dispersed, the puppets and set were packed into a neat space in my basement. There are discussions with local theater companies about re-launching it as a community theater show, and as another smaller professional show for another science museum, including a possible sequel. It might take some time, but it feels like there is more in store for Luna and the Moon. It's my hope that the Puppetry Conference is going to help me figure that out, among many other things. But, I'll save that for part 3!

1 comment:

Rima Staines said...

So so pleased for you Linda! Hooray!
And what you do is so inspiring, I for one am glad to return the favour a little :)

Thank you for continuing to reignite my love for puppetry and reminding me that it is shamanic work. That moon mask is beautiful and powerful.
Wishing you so much joy and inspiration on your forthcoming journey :)
Rima x