one of the founders of Wise Fool New Mexico, learned the power of puppets 21 years ago in San Francisco. She and some activist friends were at an anarchist café, complaining that their political protests at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (a nuclear-weapons research facility) were not attracting any attention. As she recalled in a recent interview, “We decided to change our strategy and do ‘ art action,’ using giant puppets someone had learned how to make in Minneapolis.” In a workshop on the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets, they set to work on their “puppet intervention.” The day after the procession was staged in downtown Livermore, the puppets made the front pages of Bay Area newspapers.
On Saturday, May 1, a new generation of puppets hits the streets of Santa Fe in Ignite!: Raising Truth in the Streets, a procession that culminates with a “pageant” or puppet theater piece. The event commemorates International Workers’ Day and the 10th anniversary of Wise Fool New Mexico, and it is a celebration of the group’s political roots. Known locally for its annual Circus Luminous productions and public stilt-walking as much as for its activism, Wise Fool runs dozens of workshops across the state for children and adults (with an emphasis on empowering girls) using circus arts, theater, and puppetry.
One of the figures being created at a recent community “puppet build” at the Wise Fool studios, a warehouse space off Agua Fría Street, was referred to as “Corporate Greed.” It had a huge head with bloodshot eyes, bushy white eyebrows, and a moveable jaw with jagged teeth. The finished puppet will be 20 feet tall, Christian said, complete with long arms bearing labels like “apathy,” “denial,” and “war.” According to the storyboard posted on the walls of the studio, Corporate Greed “devours people and animals from the awesome world, turns some people into henchmen who then imprison and wall-off awesome people from each other, give trash to kids ...”
Jolly Dalai Lama: one of the “puppet build” sessions at Wise Fool Studios, in preparation for Ignite!: Raising Truth in the Streets