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Friday November 17th 2017

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Seeds Planted 40 Years Ago

Walker Community Church rises again out of the ground at 31st Street and 16th Avenue 40 weeks after it’s devastating fire in 2012. Clarasophia Gust

Walker Community Church rises again out of the ground at 31st Street and 16th Avenue 40 weeks after it’s devastating fire in 2012. Clarasophia Gust

By David O’Fallon 

In this age of disconnection, we seek each other. In our isolation, we hunger for eyes to meet ours. Faced with problems and dangers that are, literally, world-size, we doubt our own strength to change energy into creation rather than consumption, into collaboration rather than competition. Always some spark in each of us believes that we can.

From such sparks came the fire that glows and warms us now as In the Heart of the Beast Theatre.

Wandering back into Minneapolis, 40 years ago, after travels and studies from California to Pennsylvania to Vermont, I brought images and commitments nurtured at Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont and New York.

And a question; Could a theatre belong to a place, a people? Could it be a living part of their search for connection? Many theatres and their performers traveled. A production in New York might tour a dozen states. Theatre in colleges and universities too often looked the same.

These are valuable–but not what I felt I needed. What we needed.

The commitment to place, to a people, to a neighborhood, started in the basement of Walker Church as Powderhorn Puppet Theatre 40 years ago. This became In the Heart of the Beast Theatre.

The “seed” ideas were grown into a garden, into a forest by Sandy Spieler. 40 years later— still in the neighborhood–still walking near Lake and Bloomington. The search for relationships among us and with our water and air, with the living beings that feed us–goes on. And it is immeasurably richer and deeper because of Sandy and the communities and now, generations of artists–of all of us–invited into the work. We have made connections and told the stories that deepen our relationships– year after year. We have more to do–as one once wrote,

“Thank god our time is now.

When wrong comes up to meet us everywhere never to leave us till we have taken the longest stride of soul we have ever taken.” *

Stride on “in the heart of the beast” In the Heart of the Beast Theatre and us with you.

Dr. David O’Fallon is recently President of the Minnesota Humanities Center after a decade as CEO of MacPhail Center for Music and other national and international work.

*Excerpt from “A Sleep of Prisoners,” a poem by Christopher Fry

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