Apr 14, 2023 - Things to Do

Heart of the Beast returns with puppet fashion show, library and renovated theater

An enormous red bird puppet, which is as tall as an average man and at least 10 feet wide.

One of HOBT's puppets and its puppeteers perform in the MayDay Parade. Photo: David Brewster/Star Tribune via Getty Images

After greatly reducing operations during the pandemic, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) reopened this week with a new show, a renovated theater and renewed vision to keep it operating for years to come.

Why it matters: The 50-year-old organization's larger-than-life puppets, popular MayDay Parade and decades of community shows made it a unique part of the Twin Cities arts scene.

  • But when it ended its involvement with the parade and announced it would reduce its puppet collection and sell its home base of Avalon Theatre in 2021, it seemed to be the end of HOBT as we knew it.

What's new: The board spent nearly a year building a strategic plan that keeps HOBT operating in the Avalon and producing shows while changing leadership, including hiring its first producing artistic director.

  • "[HOBT] has historically been a white-led organization, despite our artistry being cross-cultural. Our future involves investing in a BIPOC and queer-centered vision to better reflect the community we live in," Michelle Pett, interim director, told Axios.

Flashback: The board's original plan was to sell the 86-year-old theater that needed major renovations, move to a small storefront, potentially rename the organization and return the puppets to the artists or send them to museums.

Yes, but: After that announcement, local theaters, foundations and arts organizations reached out to offer their help β€” while a combination of tax credits, pandemic grants, PPP loans and fundraising kept them afloat.

  • Plus: Because the Avalon is on Lake Street in Minneapolis, HOBT could receive additional grants dedicated to rebuilding the area, Pett said.

What's next: HOBT will debut a puppet library on April 29, where anyone can check out the large and small creations for parties, school plays, protests and more.

  • The Puppet Fashion Show takes the stage Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30pm. Sliding-scale tickets start at $25.

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